Life on the Gulf Coast is filled with days of emerald waters, white sands, warm weather, and bright sunshine. We know we have it pretty good here and it isn’t until June 1 every year that we start to think about the cost of this Sunshine State sublime: the possibility of a hurricane. After an incredibly active tropical season in 2017, we are preparing for a 2018 season that the Weather Company expects to include “12 named storms during the season, including five hurricanes and two major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher intensity. “ For many of us, this kind of forecast delivers more than facts and data; it delivers uncertainty and fear. Being Floridians who have experienced the wrath of a high-intensity hurricane and love our homes and families like you do, we identified some of the common unanswered questions about hurricane season preparedness and how your built environment can offer protection from the storm.
Backstory: Florida Building Code
The Florida Building Code was enacted by the Florida Legislature in 1998 and became effective in 2002. The state’s wake-up call was the devastating Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Here is how the Florida Building Commission describes the motivation to make the change to a state-wide standard:
“When Hurricane Andrew tore apart South Florida, it exposed more than the interiors of thousands of homes and businesses. The storm also revealed a serious statewide problem: our antiquated system of locally-administered building codes and building code compliance and enforcement.
Thousands of homes and other structures simply didn't stand up to the storm as well as they should have, and the effects quickly rippled out from South Florida to the rest of the state.
Andrew broke all records for insurance losses, and was the direct cause of Florida's worst insurance crisis in history. Insurers suddenly realized that all of their worst-case predictions were grossly understated - Florida was seriously underinsured and overexposed. “
Around that same time, and also eager to make a difference in the health, safety, and welfare of his fellow Floridians, DAG Architects founding Principal Charlie Clary was the first architect to be elected to the Florida State Senate in 1996 and served until late 2006, when he met the requirements for term limits. By using his thorough understanding of the design of structures and the steps that can be taken to harden a building, Charlie was instrumental in the revision and unification of the Florida Building Code.
Protection: The Built Environment
For most of us, our homes and the buildings we work in are our most valuable assets both economically and emotionally but since we cannot control nature or the menacing threat of destruction, the only solution is to build safer and sturdier homes and buildings. By incorporating specific products and techniques into building design, storm-related damage can be greatly reduced. DAG Architects naturally incorporates techniques of hardening and storm protection into every project and we remain thankful to the Florida Building Code for the resources available as we work to protect the users of our designs. Below, we have an image of a DAG Architects residential project on the Emerald Coast diagrammed to show some of the protective elements included.
What are the best ways to prepare for the worst-case scenario?
Protect Your Home
Even if you and your family are evacuating, you must take some time to prepare your home and the area around it. Dangerous winds can cause patio furniture and belongings kept outdoors to become dangerous projectiles so make sure to gather and store any outside items safely. Other measures of precaution are to board up large windows and doors, clean the rain gutters so that water can flow properly, and move everything to the highest level of the house possible. If you are leaving town, make sure to unplug your appliances and turn off the gas and water. The infographic below from SurvivalMastery.com has some great tips for protecting your house. I would have never thought to take a video inventory of the interior and exterior to have for insurance purposes!
Have an Evacuation Plan
The moment that local authorities issue a mandatory evacuation is not the time to start planning the road trip. Pandemonium will have likely already ensued and if you are not sure about where to go and how to get there, you could end up in a bad situation. Now is the time to come up with a plan for your destination and the safest route to get there. This is a great reason to go visit some family out of town!
Make A Communication Plan
Thanks to technology and the countless resources for information and updates at our fingertips, we are better able to stay informed and aware as storms develop and their path is estimated. It is important to remember though, those methods of information gathering may change or become unavailable after a storm has hit your area. Make sure that your family has an emergency communication plan by collecting and making a paper copy of the contact information of your family and other important people / offices such as doctors, medical facilities, service providers, and schools. Make sure that everyone in your family has a copy of this sheet and that they all understand what to do if you all were to be separated with no cell phones or electricity.
Gather Supplies Ahead of Time
If you live in a hurricane-prone area now, you have likely experienced the long gas lines and grocery shelf cleanout that comes with the announcement of a hurricane. Prepare your supplies before that announcement happens and you will be one step ahead of the stress that engulfs a community in a disaster situation. Make a hurricane prep kit that contains a collection of supplies like a first-aid kit, flashlights, bottled water, and canned goods (and a can opener) for riding out a storm at home. Try to plan for any special needs that may need attention like medications, baby formula, diapers, and pet foods. For a “Build A Kit” checklist from Ready.gov: https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit
Know the Facts!
Don't find yourself depending on a myth when it comes to the safety of yourself and your family during a hurricane. Here are a few we wanted to debunk for you!
For more information about how DAG Architects can help to make your home or business hardened enough to keep you safe in a storm,
2018 Forecast: https://weather.com/storms/hurricane/news/2018-05-17-2018-hurricane-season-forecast-the-weather-company-ibm-may
Myths Debunked: http://wlrn.org/post/taping-my-windows-will-save-me-and-other-hurricane-prep-myths-debunked
Make an emergency plan: https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan
How to prepare for a Hurricane: https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1494007144395-b0e215ae1ba6ac1b556f084e190e5862/FEMA_2017_Hurricane_HTP_FINAL.pdf
Make a communication plan: https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1440520833367 b485ed4517c86bc824061197319f4999/Family_Comm_Plan_508_20150820.pdf
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