Reducing the Impact of Disasters Through Education
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Reducing Damage in Future Storms


In the weeks and months following a disaster, as you plan repairs to your home or office, consider using techniques that will make the building more resistant to floods, heavy rain and high winds. The following resources are provided by FEMA, the Institute for Business and Home Safety (an association of insurance companies), the Corps of Engineers, and others not directly associated with a land-grant university.

Hurricane resistant construction

  • Homebuilders Guide to Coastal Construction - FEMA produced this series of 31 fact sheets to provide technical guidance and recommendations concerning the construction of coastal residential buildings. The fact sheets present information aimed at improving the performance of buildings subject to flood and wind forces in coastal environments. Photographs and drawings illustrate National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) regulatory requirements, the proper siting of coastal buildings, and recommended design and construction practices for building components, including structural connections, the building envelope, and utilities. (FEMA 499)
  • Local Officials Guide for Coastal Construction - Developed to assist building officials in understanding the connection between National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) guidelines, the International Building Code, and the International Residential Code. Additionally, flood and wind provisions of both ASCE 7-05 and ASCE 24-05 are presented and discussed. The guide also explores building performance and real-life success and failures following recent storm events and recommends design and construction “best practices” where appropriate. (FEMA P-762)
  • Coastal Construction Manual Third Edition - The manual provides a comprehensive approach to sensible development in coastal areas based on guidance from over 200 experts in building science, coastal hazard mitigation, and building codes and regulatory requirements. (FEMA 55  FEMA 55CD)
  • Recommended Residential Construction for the Gulf Coast: Building on Strong and Safe Foundations - provides recommended designs and guidance for rebuilding homes destroyed by hurricanes in the Gulf Coast. The manual also provides guidance in designing and building less vulnerable new homes that reduce the risk to life and property. (FEMA 550)

Flood resistant construction

  • FEMA Technical Bulletins - Contains a Key Word/Subject Index that identifies topics contained in the Technical Bulletins regarding the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
  • Floodproofing collection of the Corps of Engineers, National NonStructural/Floodproofing Committee (an https, no password required).  Includes testing of materials, floodproofing techniques, how to evaluate floodproofing options, reviews of local floodproofing programs and other resources.

Wind resistant construction

Programs that rate, recognize or reward hazard resistant construction

Building Performance - Research Leads to Improvement 

Engineers and others involved in hazard mitigation make a practice of studying buildings after an event, to determine why buildings fail - so designs can be improved.  For example, in the early days following Hurricane Charley, teams from the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS; an insurance industry association) began researching and collecting property loss information as well as providing building safety communications through the news media, member companies and directly to the public.

Some of the initial observations included:

  • Homes built under the new Florida Building Code (since 2002) generally withstood the storm better than neighboring homes built prior to the new standards. However, the fact that strong winds persisted across the state underscored the need for maintaining strong code requirements throughout the interior of the state.

  • New manufactured homes built to the most recent standards also held up better than the older homes. However, add-on structures like carports, laundry rooms or porches often failed, causing damage to the home.

More recently, IBHS released a study of building performance in Hurricane Ike. The results are published in the publication, Hurricane Ike: Nature's Force vs Structural Strength. The extensive research behind the publication, in IBHS's assessment, advances loss mitigation objectives in several critical ways, including: 

  • providing a detailed, real-world performance evaluation of superior construction techniques when tested by a truly extreme weather event;
  • setting the course for rigorous laboratory testing to explore and resolve remaining issues with specific building materials and systems;
  • proving the importance of enacting and enforcing strong, appropriate building codes – and proper elevation requirements in storm surgeprone areas; and, 
  • showcasing the leading edge of construction and real estate markets, i.e., developers choosing to design buildings to the highest standard, because they understand the favorable cost/benefit ratio and want to meet consumer demand for safety and durability.

Post-disaster assessments of building performance are also conducted by FEMA's Mitigation Assessment Teams (MATs), formerly called Building Performance Assessment Teams (BPATs). The MAT Program is an award-winning program combining resources from a Federal, State, Local, and Private-Sector Partnership to study building performance as part of FEMA's national mitigation effort. The first widely publicized BPAT Report was for Hurricane Andrew.

BPAT reports on natural disasters include: Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Iniki, Hurricane Opal, Hurricane Fran, Hurricane Georges in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Georges in the Gulf Coast, Midwest Tornadoes of May 3, 1999. More recently, the MAT teams have produced reports for Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Ike (2008).

The collection of B-PAT and MAT reports, and the associated Recovery Advisories, is maintained at .  The Institute for Business and Home Saftey routinely conducts studies to help identify loss sources and offer solutions. It provides that information on its Report and Studies index. 

The Corps of Engineers, National Nonstructural/Floodproofing Committee publishes its resources on a security-enabled web site: . Most browsers will require you to deliberately bypass the security block. Among the publications of the committee is the 1998 "Floodproofing Successes and Failures", which documents the perfomance of various non-structural measures.


Last Updated:10/8/2009 9:14 AM

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