At the end of September, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety recognized three south Mississippi home builders for building stronger, more disaster-resistant homes, and also recognized six homes in south Alabama for similar architectural feats as well. The homes were part of Resilience Star, a federal pilot program created to acknowledge residential homes which have been built or retrofitted to better withstand natural disasters.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security began the Resilience Star pilot project in January with the goal of encouraging home builders to create IBHS fortified homes with design features that have been proven to withstand natural disasters, such as high impact windows, gable braces, and sealed roof decks.
Such a program will help protect these natural disaster-prone states’ economies. According to an analysis from RealtyTrac, Alabama and Mississippi have the highest risk of being affected by a natural disaster — be it a tornado, earthquake or hurricane. For example, Alabama’s Jefferson and Tuscaloosa counties are seven times more likely than the average U.S. county to get hit with a tornado. The last big tornado to rip through — a multi-vortex — hit in 2011, causing 64 fatalities and $2.4 billion in damage.
Even minor damage can rack up thousands of dollars in repairs. Depending on the size, materials, and labor costs, a roof replacement can run anywhere between $2,000 to $12,000.
Naturally, high risk also means high insurance premiums, further increasing the cost of natural disasters. According Habitat for Humanity’s Ryan Rupp, “Being in Bay St. Louis, we have a pretty high insurance rate.”
Luckily, the new Resilience Star standard will not only make homes more safe and secure, but will also reduce insurance costs. According to Rupp, the second home that the area’s Habitat For Humanity chapter built was set to the Resilience Star standards, and consequentially saw a 30% reduction on insurance.
According to IBHS CEO and President Julie Rochman, there are only 1,000 fortified homes across the nation. However, she expects a lot more will be constructed over the next few years, as more and more people become aware that there’s a national standard of resiliency.
“We are going to become more resilient nationally,” said Rochman. “It’s the right thing to do economically, politically and socially because of what’s happening here on the Gulf Coast. Everyone is looking at Mississippi and Alabama because they’re the models, leaders and visionaries.”