I want to live in a resilient community and I’m sure you do as well. I live in the Northeast, and to me, resiliency means the roads are promptly plowed after it snows and electricity is quickly restored after a storm.
I attended the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) annual meeting earlier this month and was reminded of the importance of “pre-disaster mitigation.” It’s a rather intimidating term and sounds like someone else’s responsibility. Local governments are making significant investments in this area, as evidenced by the Resilient Cities Initiative.
But pre-disaster mitigation is also something we as individuals can practice. Take your home, for example. It’s probably your biggest purchase and more than just a source of pride. It’s an investment, so you care for it. You replace the gutters and the water heater and repair the garage doors and furnace when necessary. Maintaining our property is one of the things we can control. Creating a stronger, safer home is something we can control. Ensuring your roof can withstand strong winds and keep water out may not be considered improving the "curb appeal" yet you will have the peace of mind knowing the next time you face an extreme weather event, your home is safer and more resilient.
That’s why Swiss Re supports and works with organizations that are pushing resilience from talk to action, like IBHS. Following two decades of extensive research, they developed the FORTIFIED Home™ program to promote construction of homes that are resilient to natural disasters.
And it works. After Hurricane Ike in 2008 the only houses that remained on the Bolivar Peninsula on the Texas Gulf Coast were IBHS FORTIFIED homes. Disasters can cause injury and death yet they also can cause major disruption to your life. Living in a more resilient home may be the difference between the disruption of making small repairs verses living in temporary housing for months while your home is rebuilt.
If you need more incentive, a study at the University of Alabama looked at data on homes sold in the last 12 years in coastal counties, comparing those that were fortified to those that were not. It found fortified homes have an average value of 7% more. The study’s authors also noted “the additional cost of building or retrofitting frequently is less than 7% of home value, so benefit outweighs the cost.”
Of course there are other benefits. Homeowners can qualify for insurance premium discounts, reduce the costs of rebuilding and avoid having to look for temporary housing following a disaster.
The mortgage industry is providing additional momentum. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Agriculture and Veterans Administration, which collectively administer more than 20 percent of single-family home financing, are urging their lenders to recommend FORTIFIED standards for homes in the most vulnerable areas of the US.
We often talk about the effectiveness of public-private partnerships in making our world more resilient. And I want to add another “p” word: personal. Resilience starts and ends at home.
**The picture in this blog was taken after Hurricane Ike in 2008. The only houses that remained on the
Bolivar Peninsula on the Texas Gulf Coast were IBHS FORTIFIED homes.**
Category: Climate/natural disasters: Disaster risk, Earthquakes, Resilience