NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 7, 2005

As survivors of this year's hurricanes begin to rebuild, it is important that public officials and private citizens heed one vital lesson: strong building codes and aggressive code enforcement save lives and reduce property damage when hurricanes hit, says James Witt, former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director.

The hurricanes that battered Florida in 2004 provide both statistical and anecdotal evidence that building codes work, says Witt:

  • After Hurricane Andrew rampaged across South Florida in 1992 and caused an estimated $35 billion in damages, homes were re-built using new building codes.
  • Last year, many of the homes from the time of Andrew stood virtually unscathed even after the barrage of Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.
  • A preliminary review of the area hit by Hurricane Katrina has concluded that wood-frame houses that survived the storm's 130-mile-per-hour gusts held up in part because of attention to standards in the construction process.
  • Further findings show that stronger building foundations, "hurricane clips" to secure the roof to the structure's frame and storm grade windows effectively protected both lives and property.

Moreover, Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) has suggested that Congress should establish a national fund to help areas recover from natural disasters, as long as states strengthen their building codes.

As communities finish rebuilding and begin preparing for the 2006 hurricane season, they should follow the advice of those in the construction and standards industries and rebuild smarter, stronger and, most important, to code, says Witt.

Source: James Lee Witt, "Strong building codes protect life and property," Miami Herald, November 4, 2005.


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