During Disaster Safety and Mitigation Week (May 13-19) - which is part of National Building Safety Month - the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety is touting the importance of state enactment and enforcement of modern building codes.
"Severe weather events cause billions of dollars in property damage and economic losses every year," said Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO. "The supplementary disaster aid is designed to incentivize states to do the right thing by adopting and enforcing strong building codes, which would help their citizens, businesses and communities during the recovery process following a disaster."
"We know that modern building codes would significantly improve our nation's safety and resilience over time, which ultimately will reduce taxpayer costs from natural disasters," Rochman added.
Last week, the federal Safe Building Code Incentive Act was introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1878) and Senate (S. 924). The SBCIA provides qualifying states with an additional 4 percent of funding available for post-disaster assistance if they utilize nationally recognized model building codes. Specifically, states would need to adopt and enforce the international residential code from either of the most recent two updates (2012 or 2009).
Twelve states currently would qualify for the additional 4 percent in disaster aid under SBCIA: California, New Jersey, District of Columbia, New Mexico, Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, Utah, Maryland, Virginia, Michigan and Washington. A number of other states could qualify with relatively minor changes to their building code systems.
The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies commissioned a recent study to specifically examine the impact of the SBCIA and states adopting and enforcing statewide building codes. The study, which focused on hurricane and wind damages, revealed that, since 1988, $125 billion in FEMA grant funds have been issued related to natural disasters. If buildings exposed to these disasters had been built to model codes, the study found that disaster aid could have been reduced by nearly 20 percent, or $13 billion.
During post-disaster field investigations, including one conducted following Hurricane Charley, which struck Florida in 2004, IBHS found that homes built to modern codes with increased wind resistance were 40 percent less likely to be damaged and the repair costs were 60 percent lower.
"By encouraging the adoption and enforcement of strong building codes through measures like the SBCIA, lawmakers can save lives, promote long-term fiscal stability, reduce public sector response and recovery costs, protect the environment, and create a more resilient society," Rochman said.