Inside the Storm: Fighting back against severe weather

Inside the Storm: Fighting back against severe weather


It’s no secret that Mother Nature can be powerful and destructive, leaving behind a costly path of damage in her aftermath. Data shows that the number and cost of severe weather disasters is increasing in the U.S.  In 2017 alone, there were sixteen, billion-dollar weather disasters, with a record cumulative cost of over 300 billion dollars.

We know we cannot stop severe weather, but we could help lessen the financial blow by building stronger, more resilient buildings. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety is doing just that. “We wanted to put buildings and pieces of buildings in a very realistic wind field, and turn on a hurricane, turn on a wind/rain storm, turn on a wildfire ember storm, make hail, and see what really happens, so we can close the gap between predictive performance in the real world and actual performance in the real world,” explains the President of IBHS, Julie Rochman.

That’s right. In this lab, they conduct research on full size buildings made out of aged materials. The goal is to gain insight into how the roofing, siding and the heart of structure will hold up during the real thing. Rochman says her team created their own design and construction standard based on their research. It is called The Fortified Program.  It requires contractors to connect all aspects of the home. The shingles and linings to the roof, roof to the walls, and walls to the base. It is mainly used for homes in the path of hurricanes, but IBHS is looking to bring it more inland. 

Rochman believes the need for stronger buildings in the Midwest is imperative because, “Wind is wind. It’s going to try to tear a building apart by pushing on it from the outside, and if a window gets broken or a door blows in, you’re going to pressurize it from the inside and it becomes like a balloon”. Research done by IBHS has proved that building with ring shank nails, which have small grooves instead of being smooth, can double the strength of any connection. In the Midwest, roofs are held on by little more than gravity, but using straps to connect the roof to the house can strengthen the connection.

In the Midwest, building codes tend to focus less on potential weather damage. Nathan Kain, the Vice President of HomeWorks construction in South Bend, agrees, stating, “Indiana, we’re pretty basic. There are some tornadoes that go through, but we’re pretty standard”. That means if strong wind, hail, heavy rain or a tornado does cross your path, the damage will be costly. Investing in certain materials that can make a home stronger, can bring down insurance rates and help save money in the long run.

Kain says that HomeWorks works to build strong homes for their customers. “Based on their requests and needs, if they feel they live in an area, or they just want peace of mind at night, absolutely we can cater/trim that estimate to whatever the needs are”.

As the research proves, those upgrades may end up bringing much more than piece of mind, if and when severe weather hits.  

For more information go to Insurance Institute of Business and Home Safety website. There are building and contruction tips, and videos and explanations of their extensive research

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