Guest opinion: You can hurricane-proof your home affordably

September 17, 2021

Leslie Chapman-Henderson Special to The News-Press

This month, we’ve kept a close eye on the weather radar as several systems moved across the Atlantic. As these storms strengthened and neared our coast, we are reminded of the very real threat of Hurricane Season and the importance of remaining prepared.

Hurricane preparedness is more than packing a first aid kit and some canned goods in the cupboard. It goes beyond the generator in the shed and purchasing a few extra gallons of water. True preparedness means hardening your home from all that Mother Nature can throw your way. 

In 2018, Hurricane Michael’s Category 5 winds ravaged Florida’s panhandle, and its lasting destruction can still be seen today. One memorable image that surfaced in the days following was an aerial photo taken in Panama City of five homes built by Habitat for Humanity in nearly perfect condition among a sea of homes devastated by Michael’s wrath. These homes teach us an important lesson: safe, strong homes can also be affordable. 

The non-profit Federal Alliance for Safe Home (FLASH) found inspiration from this instance and launched the Strong Homes program – an initiative centered around a vision that everyone deserves a durable, resilient, energy-efficient, affordable, and modern home.  The Strong Homes program demonstrated that homes can be upgraded according to standards that go beyond building codes to resist anything that Mother Nature brings in an affordable way. 

FLASH’s mission is to promote life safety, property protection and resiliency, by empowering the community with knowledge and resources for strengthening homes and safeguarding families from natural and man-made disasters.

There are many ways in which a home can be affordably strengthened to withstand the force of Mother Nature. Here in Florida, we are prone to high wind speeds and strong storms, so upgrading to impact-resistant windows and doors is particularly important for protection against hurricane-blown, wind-borne debris. Some of these home safety upgrades might also increase the home’s efficiency and potentially save the homeowner money on energy bills. Upgrading or replacing a roof with wind-resistant shingles is another way to protect a home from the devastating effects of a hurricane.  Strengthening your home can also be as simple as adding additional nails to hold down the roof deck.

While the cost of hurricane damage is indisputable, home upgrades will help homeowners weather upcoming storms, and these resiliency measures might also make a home more energy-efficient, lead to discounts on property insurance, and may even qualify for certain tax credits.

Although these improvements often seem costly or out of reach to the homeowner, programs like PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) were designed to offer affordable long-term solutions for upgrades that increase the safety, resiliency, and energy-efficiency of a home to provide a sense of security for families and their loved ones. 

NOAA predicts “another above-normal Atlantic Hurricane Season” for 2021, but it only takes one storm to disrupt your life. Make sure your home is prepared to withstand the effects of the next storm that heads your way.

Leslie Chapman-Henderson is the president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), the country’s leading consumer advocate for strengthening homes and safeguarding families from natural and manmade disasters. FLASH was founded in 1998 and brings together more than 100 diverse partners that share a vision of making America a more disaster-resilient nation.