Louisiana program helps protect houses better against hurricanes and storm damage while lowering insurance premiums











Disaster Smart, a leader in the development and implementation of solutions to mitigate hurricane and windstorm damage, has been selected to provide the FORTIFIED Evaluation services for the MyStrongHome pilot sites in Alabama, South Carolina, and Louisiana.

This is a program that advances loans to homeowners to harden their homes to reduce property losses and uses the resulting insurance savings to pay off the loan. The mitigation retrofits are based on  the FORTIFIED Home programs advanced building standards and certification to Bronze Silver or Gold designation. FORTIFIED Homes can qualify for premium credits in many coastal states. Adopting a strategy of preparedness requires that hardening our communities become a primary factor in any economic development plan. A FORTIFIED Home designation requires the homeowner to engage the services of a FORTIFIED Evaluator before during and after improvements are being made. The Certificates are issued by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). FOr more information and to see if you are eligible for a MyStrongHome mitigation loan visit www.mystronghome.net


Instead of Selling “Resilience,” Try Offering Homeowners a New Roof



A retrofitted home in Mobile, Alabama (Credit: MyStrongHome)

As a native of Mobile, Alabama, Jerryln London has lived through her share of hurricanes, including some memorable ones: Camille in ’65, Frederick in ’79 and Katrina in ’05.

“I refer to life before and after Katrina,” she says. “[After], the cost of living on the coast became so expensive.”

In its wake, the cost of homeowner’s insurance in hurricane-prone locales climbed. In some places, hurricane coverage can now be as much as three-quarters the cost of an entire policy. In 2014, London paid $1,258 a year for wind damage coverage alone.

Not anymore. In Spring 2015, her home was retrofitted through MyStrongHome, a program that helps homeowners affordably stormproof their houses to better withstand extreme weather. Instead of paying for construction up front, homeowners pay back retrofitting costs with the money they save on insurance after the house is less risky to insure.

The program’s director and founder, Margot Brandenburg, got the idea when she worked at the Rockefeller Foundation and staffed a commission on increasing New York State’s resiliency after Hurricane Sandy. She felt too few investment opportunities existed for the private sector to contribute to disaster resilience. (MyStrongHome is currently a nonprofit, but will become a private company.)

A friend who had worked with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority advised her: “You need long nails.”

“There are fairly low-tech things you can do to a home that will make it dramatically more capable to withstand a hurricane,” says Brandenburg. “If you’re pricing your insurance correctly, you should get enough savings on your insurance bill to pay for the installation.”

Brandenburg cites home solar company Solar City as another example of MyStrongHome’s approach. Despite the promise of long-term savings and environmental benefits of solar panels, installing a system can be a pain, and upfront costs dissuade homeowners. Both MyStrongHome and Solar City seek to offer end-to-end solutions that allow homeowners to pay back installation costs over time using savings.

Last spring, MyStrongHome retrofitted 30 homes in Louisiana, South Carolina and Alabama — including London’s — as part of a pilot program. Official launch is set for early 2016. Homeowners in vulnerable coastal areas, with houses in good condition for renovation, are eligible to apply.

If they meet qualifications, MyStrongHome will take the process from there: scheduling a home inspection, hiring the contractors, and working with their insurance partner, SageSure, to secure insurance credits based on the expected reduction in hurricane losses. The program is targeting homes that could see 50 to 75 percent reductions in modeled losses from wind and hurricanes after renovation.

Homes are retrofitted to the standards of Fortified, a three-tiered certification programdeveloped by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. At the bronze tier of certification, roofs are strengthened and often replaced altogether.

“People with old roofs are paying the most [for insurance] on average, and have the greatest potential to save,” says Brandenburg.

The program, however, won’t be able to help homeowners achieve the highest level of certification. During the pilot, MyStrongHome experimented with retrofitting homes to higher levels — which include stormproofing windows, doors and more — but found it wasn’t cost effective.

“As a public policy goal you’d like everyone to be as protected as they can be,” says Brandenburg, “but we’re constrained by the universe of measures that can pay for themselves over time.”

After retrofitting, homeowners send a monthly check to MyStrongHome, which passes on a new, lower payment to the insurance company and keeps the difference to pay down the construction bill. After that’s paid off, homeowners pocket the savings.

“MyStrongHome is one of a kind,” writes SageSure CEO Terrence McLean in an email. “We have not seen anyone attempt to combine all aspects of the mitigation process into a seamless solution.”

Right now, says Brandenburg, home stormproofing isn’t well reflected in insurance premiums. She’d like to see pricing more adequately take into account actual risks to homes and what people have done to fortify them, in the same way that adding a locked gate to an outdoor pool reduces insurance premiums. “That creates the right incentives for people to make those investments,” she says.

After working with MyStrongHome, Jerryln London’s insurance premium went from $1,258 per year to $827. And the cost of her new roof, which earned her a bronze certification, was a little over $4,000.

“In my opinion it’s a no-brainer,” she says. “Because you get your house repaired, you’re going to spend the same amount of money you were paying before, and after it’s paid off then you will see the reduction. And it also gives you peace of mind because you know your house can sustain a certain amount of wind.”

Ultimately, resilience and sustainability goals aside, that peace of mind is an important element of MyStrongHome.

Brandenburg says she was surprised when a marketing test with people in the program’s target audience revealed that “resilience had a negative connotation.”

“People heard ‘resilience’ and basically heard policymakers telling them to suck it up,” she says.

But a new roof?

“Something I had underappreciated from the beginning was how much variability and distrust there is … in home upgrade,” says Brandenburg. “Having a really high-quality roofer come in and do the work quickly and professionally and on time, it was really valued by people.”

Hurricane Alex: Strongest Atlantic Winter Hurricane on Record

Update [Wednesday January 13, 2016 at 5 pm AST]

Sub-Tropical Storm Alex has formed in the East Atlantic.  As discussed below, Alex is only the second-known storm to form during the month of January in the 174-year database (1842-present).

Previous Discussion about Alex and Winter Tropical Storm Stats

At 2 pm EST on January 12, the National Hurricane Center raised the probability of tropical cyclone formation within the next 48 hours in the East Atlantic to 50%.  Although this system will not affect the United States, it is certainly very interesting for this time of year.



FORTIFIED-Wise Training Coming to Coastal Alabama in April

FORTIFIED-Wise Training Coming to Coastal Alabama

Did you know Alabama and Mississippi are leading the nation in FORTIFIED designated homes? Come join realtors, builders, insurance agents, roofers, and many other professionals for FORTIFIED-Wise™ training in Spanish Fort, AL this April to learn about the FORTIFIED Home™ building standards program that is already strengthening coastal communities.

Learn More!
Demand for this program is growing significantly in the region, leaving a need for people with knowledge about the program to assist those in building, buying, or finding out more about FORTIFIED. In addition, laws and regulations providing insurance incentives to lower the cost of a home’s property insurance wind premium are available for using FORTIFIED building standards in specific areas within Alabama and Mississippi.


What is FORTIFIED-Wise Training?

The NEW FORTIFIED-Wise training course covers the critical aspects of the FORTIFIED Home program. This one-day session:

– provides participants with a solid understanding of the FORTIFIED Home building principles, construction practices, and verification requirements.

– is a prerequisite for all contractors who want to participate in the Strengthen Alabama Homes mitigation program (must obtain FORTIFIED-Wise Professional accreditation).

– offers attendees CE credits through the International Code Council, American Institute of Architects, or through the Alabama State Department of Insurance.
Be a part of the national standard for resilient construction. Find more details about the FORTIFIED-Wise course and how to register for the Spanish Fort, AL training on April 14 using the following link:

Registration Details: fortified.archtest.com