Tampa, Florida -- If there was one lesson we learned from Hurricane Andrew 20 years ago, it's that construction codes were woefully inadequate at the time.
Andrew left 175,000 people homeless in Miami-Dade County where they had arguably the toughest building codes in the country. Now all of Florida has tougher standards and an organization headquartered in Tampa is working to make sure the standards are tough enough.
The Institute for Business and Home Safety is headquartered at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI.) Three years ago, IBHS build a $40,000,000 lab in South Carolina to test construction practices.
Inside a huge building, they're able to build smaller, realistic buildings--like houses--then subject them to the equivalent of category one, two or even three hurricane-strength winds.
In one test, IBHS had two homes that looked identical except that one was what the organization calls "fortified." It had straps installed to hold down the roof and special nails that hold tighter than regular staples. Five minutes after being hit with 95-to-100 mph winds, the non-fortified home collapsed.
"For $3000 less, in every sing case of those tests that we ran," said IBHS president and CEO Julie Rochman, "The house that was not fortified was totally destroyed. The same fortified house was used in all of the tests and it came through beautifully. Again, a $3000 difference. That should be a no-brainer."
Tests like that can only help strengthen codes. But it's important to remember those codes are only for new construction. Florida has a lot of existing homes that need protection, too.
"We're trying to emphasize to people--go back, if you live in an older home, and have it evaluated by a professional who can tell you where your vulnerabilities are," said Rochman. "Is it your windows? Is it your roof? Is it your garage door? There are things you can do, in many cases relatively low-cost things you can do, to take care and strengthen those vulnerabilities."
Click here to download free information from the IBHS on fortifying your home.