786 Coastal Alabama & FORTIFIED Home: A Windstorm Resilience Success Story

Tuesday, 14 January 2020
Hall B (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Virginia G. Silvis, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, Richburg, SC; and I. M. Giammanco and F. Malik

In the United States, we typically hear about the cycle of destruction, loss and, displacement that often accompanies severe weather. It is clear that a more proactive approach must be taken to increase the resiliency of communities facing severe wind hazards. One way to improve community resiliency is through stronger building practices, which can dramatically lessen the damage sustained by a structure as well as accelerating the timeline for communities to return to normalcy after a disaster event.

A real-world success story has been unfolding across Mobile and Baldwin Counties in Alabama. This region has been successful in reducing their exposure to wind hazards through a combination of awareness, property insurance incentives, and ultimately code adoption of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s (IBHS) FORTIFIED Roof and FORTIFIED Home enhanced building standard. The FORTIFIED program is designed with three different levels of protection: Roof, Silver, and Gold which can enable adoption at all price points. After the damage in Southern Alabama from the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, many private insurance companies were considering leaving the local market unless something was done to bend down the coastal risk exposure. Policy makers, the home building industry, and insurers came together to address the need to become more resilient. The state insurance commissioner and a state legislator, acting as policy entrepreneurs, helped pass Alabama Act 2009-500, which encouraged stronger building practices through an insurance discount for homes built to the FORTIFIED standard. Since 2010, FORTIFIED designations have grown in Baldwin and Mobile county, and now have eclipsed over 11,000 new homes built to one of the FORTIFIED designation levels (70% at the Gold Level). In 2018, the provisions of the FORTFIED standard were adopted into the local building code in these two counties. This success has led to a measurable increase in FORTFIED Home values (7% increase) relative to other homes. The designation level is also now included on all MLS Real-estate listings in the region. The timeline of events has provided a roadmap to resilience success. The combination of awareness and incentives has led the state legislature to expand the program to the entire state, which could help accelerate the timeline for communities to recover after tornado and other windstorms This also provides one potential model for other states to follow to combat the rising toll severe weather takes on our society.

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