building and rehab practices: overview
Goal: Make Homes More Resistant to Natural Disasters
Policy: Promote "Smarter and Safer" Building and Rehabilitation Practices

What are "smarter and safer" construction practices and home improvements?

"Smarter and safer" construction practices and home improvements incorporate building techniques and structures that make a home more resistant to disasters. These practices include: increasing the structural integrity of roof attachments, creating water barriers and seals to prevent property flooding, safe room construction, elevation of electrical systems, and the addition of storm windows and shutters. [1]

How can state and local governments and organizations promote and support "smarter and safer" construction and improvements?

State and local governments, nonprofit organizations and other entities can provide support and guidance to both builders and households to promote "smarter and safer" measures. Key steps include funding training, licensing and incentive programs to encourage builders, contractors and property managers to incorporate these practices into new construction, rehabilitation and upgrades that help reduce property damage and loss of human life resulting from natural disasters. It is also important to provide funding, incentives and training directly to homeowners for home upgrades that make their homes safer.

What areas can benefit most from these "smarter and safer" measures"?

Natural disasters of one form or another occur in all parts of the country, particularly storm-related disasters. Still, efforts to make home more resilient to these disasters likely have the greatest benefit where these storm-related disasters are most frequent and severe. Most storm-related natural disasters occur in areas of known high risk such as barrier islands, other coastal areas and flood plains. Because of this, the regions most at-risk are the southeast Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and parts of the Great Plains and Midwest.

What are the current and future risks of damage to these disaster-prone areas?

Because of changes in population and national wealth density over the last several decades, more people and infrastructure have become concentrated in disaster-prone areas, increasing the potential for loss of life and property. [2] In 2006, 34.9 million people were seriously threatened by Atlantic hurricanes, compared with 10.2 million people in 1950. Also, the frequency of major storms has been relatively high in recent years. In 2008 alone, there were 16 named tropical storms - eight of which were hurricanes - 1,700 tornadoes, widespread flooding due to winter storms, spring melts, tropical storms and other severe weather events. [3]

Additionally, climate change has increased the level and expanded the areas of risk by affecting weather patterns. This will likely change the nature of storms in the future and increase the potential for property damage, injuries and loss of lives. Storms are expected to become more intense, in terms of wind speeds and precipitation, increasing the potential for wind damage and flooding. In addition, existing storm -related hazards will be further aggravated by other effects of climate change. For example, due to rising sea levels, there will be a greater potential for floods, even if storm characteristics and patterns remain the same. There is also the threat of increased rainfall for inland areas, increasing flood risks there. [4]

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U.S. Vulnerability to Natural Hazards. [PDF] Prepared for the 2009 Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus. By van der Vink et al. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University and New York, NY: IRIS.
[4] Interview with Craig Tillman, president of WeatherPredict Consulting Inc.