“We must take precautions well in advance of mighty storms. And, believe it or not, the State of Alabama is on the forefront of home mitigation in America, as we lead the charge of home safety and illustrate to our nation how to build and strengthen homes when it comes to protecting them from powerful storms.”
Hurricane Matthew turned east just as the Category 4 Hurricane was about to wreck havoc along the Eastern Florida shoreline and bring about vast damage to homes and municipalities alike. The damage was avoided this time due to the grace of Mother Nature, but as a population we can not always depend on being saved by a low pressure system.
We must take precautions well in advance of mighty storms. And, believe it or not, the State of Alabama is on the forefront of home mitigation in America, as we lead the charge of home safety and illustrate to our nation how to build and strengthen homes when it comes to protecting them from powerful storms.
The IBHS (Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety) has been working on strengthening home safety for years, and a couple of years ago reached a general consensus: home destruction does not happen from the foundation up, but rather from the roof top down. Having a strong and storm resistant roof was paramount to protecting the home and structure, so the scientists at the institute went to work. They developed three different levels in which to certify the ways in which homes could now be mitigated against damage, and would now be considered “Fortified”: Bronze, Silver, and Gold.
The Bronze designation simply certifies that your home has met the minimum standards for the program. In order to earn that label, a structure must have a roof that has insulation and a sheath underneath the shingles, screw-like nails in place, and roof vents must have high wind-rated material, as well as a couple of other benchmarks. This designation allows you to save around 20% on your insurance, in addition to knowing your structure is more sound and safe in the event of natural storms.
The Silver level builds on top of the bronze label, so in order for you to obtain a silver label, the bronze criteria must first be met. Silver dictates that all openings must be constructed of impact resistant materials, such as glass windows and doors, along with end walls and attached structures (think carports/porches) having roof and foundation connections. This protects your structure in a more sound way than bronze, and allows for around 30% in insurance savings.
Gold is the final label that is offered by the Fortification Program, and it dictates that the structure must have a continuous load path from the roof to the wall, the wall to the floor, and the floor to the foundation, in addition to the levels of Bronze and Silver being met. Gold Fortification is not available when you “retrofit” your home, unlike Bronze and Silver, but D R Horton, Truland, and even a modular home builder, Gulf Coast Modular Homes, and other quality builders are building up to these new codes, strengthening their homes and providing home owners with tremendous savings on their home owners insurance. Sometimes upwards of 50%.
Alabama leads the nation in Fortified Homes being both built to Gold and retrofitted to Bronze or Silver, as this state has sought to face the challenges of catastrophic losses associated with natural disasters. There is a $5.5 million grant in place for 2016, and that grant will rise to $10 million in 2017 to retrofit your home to Bronze Fortification. It is based on your annual income and is only applicable in Baldwin and Mobile Counties. There will be a minimum of 1000 families selected in 2016, and that figure should double by next year.
The process for applying is pretty simple, as there is a registration website (https://strengthenalabamahomes.com/), where you confirm your email. Then, you create a profile and select an evaluator (every contractor must be Certified in Fortified Homes to become an evaluator). The evaluator comes to your home for an initial evaluation, then you get three bids, the bids are then submitted to the grant program, and you may qualify for the grant and the savings.
In addition to the multiple million dollar grants for the next two years, Alabama is leading the charge in other ways. Fortified new homes are being built at a nation-leading pace. Orange Beach is the only municipality in America where if you build your new structure to a Gold Fortified Certification, the city refunds the permit fees, which often run several thousand dollars, generally equaling out the small cost of fortification in the first place. Recently, the University of Alabama conducted an economic study of the monetary benefits of retrofitting homes to Bronze or Silver levels, and found that those homes had a resale value of more than 7% their counterparts, so the initial costs of retrofitting were more than offset with resale value and insurance savings. (http://aciir.culverhouse.ua.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/FORTIFIEDReport_V2-1.pdf)
Often times, we do not think about insurance, as we just add it up to another bill. But, being current and knowledgeable on this issue will not only save you money, but could save your home. For more information, please visithttp://www.smarthomeamerica.org/dont-goof
or contact your qualified insurance agent for applicable programs.