How Families and Communities Can Prepare for Natural Disasters

Natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency. However, studies show that advance planning can keep individuals healthier and safer and support faster recovery for communities.

Building Safety Month, an international campaign to raise awareness about building safety celebrated every May, is a great reminder that one of the most effective ways to prepare is by enforcing up-to-date building codes.

Studies show that adopting the International Residential and Building Codes generates a national benefit of $11 for every $1 invested, while proper code enforcement decreases losses following disasters by up to 25 percent. When states and local jurisdictions apply the latest codes and they’re diligently enforced, they’re also more likely to qualify for federal pre-disaster mitigation funding and additional post-disaster recovery assistance.

However, only 31 percent of hazard-prone jurisdictions in the U.S. have adopted the latest two editions of hazard-resistant building codes. Fortunately, newly expanded Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants will fund code adoption, administration and enforcement pre- and post-disaster, providing new resources for American communities.

Contact your elected officials, building department, or permitting office to learn how you can support adoption and enforcement of modern building codes and standards in your community. Additionally, you can help protect your family with these disaster safety and mitigation tips from the International Code Council, a nonprofit association that provides a wide range of solutions in support of safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures, especially as hurricane season is fast approaching:

• Install tested and code-approved shutters for protection from windborne debris if you live in a high wind or hurricane prone area. If this isn’t possible, consider temporarily protecting doors and windows by mounting exterior grade, 7/16-inch minimum thickness plywood and fastening it into place.

• Consider building or retrofitting a storm safe room in your home. During the planning stages with the contractor, be sure to confirm they are building to the most recent codes and standards, such as the ICC/NSSA 500 Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters, to provide the highest level of protection for your family.

• In flood-prone areas, consider raising your home up to 10 feet above the base flood elevation. According to the National Institute of Building Sciences, an elevation retrofit yields a benefit of $6 for every $1 spent.

• In wildfire-prone areas, remove dead grass, leaves, twigs and branches within 30 feet of a building. Be sure to remove dry leaf and pine litter from roofs, rain gutters, decks and walkways. See the Code Council’s International Wildland-Urban Interface Code for detailed requirements.

• When designing, remodeling or constructing a home, keep dangers posed by natural disasters local to your region top-of-mind. For instance, those in hurricane or flooding-prone areas can construct break-away walls and flood openings to prevent pressure buildup. Those in wildfire-prone areas should be sure to use fire-resistant materials for landscaping and construction.

• Purchase property insurance customized to cover threats specific to your region, including flooding. Just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to your home and standard homeowners and renters insurance policies don’t typically cover flood damage.

More tips as well as information about the Code Council’s work to assist devastated communities with post-disaster building plan reviews, inspections and permit operations can be found at

While natural disasters are beyond our control, building to modern codes can mitigate their impact, supporting safer, more resilient communities. (StatePoint)