December 21, 2014

Expert talks about storm proofing homes

More than one hundred Iowa homes were damaged and at least 14 were destroyed in last weekend’s tornadoes and severe storms. Julie Rochman, president of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, offers some advice for Iowans who have to rebuild. Rochman says science shows we can make homes more resistant to strong winds, hail and flying debris.

“In the middle of the country, the building codes really do not incorporate provisions that will make your home really safe from really high winds,” Rochman says. “The main thing you want to make sure of, if you’re building a new home or looking at how to make your current home safer, you need your roof to be held on by more than gravity. Strapping the roof to the walls, the walls to each other and the walls to the foundation to create a continuous path of safety.”

While we can’t prevent tornadoes, she says we can reduce the level of damage and loss of life from these horrific storms. “First, it’s important to understand that even the best engineering can be overwhelmed by an EF4 or EF5 tornado,” she says. “When it comes to EF-zeros, ones and twos, we really can eliminate that kind of damage that comes from debris in a storm, breaking windows, the gusty winds tearing off a piece or all of the roof, those types of things can be prevented.”

When rebuilding, she says it’s a good idea to look at the cost benefits of making the structure more wind-resistant, adding, it doesn’t cost that much more. Rochman, a Nebraska native, says storm shelters serve an important purpose. “It used to be that everybody had a safe place, a basement or a root cellar, someplace they could go that was windowless and away from the wind,” she says.

“Now, unfortunately, fewer people have those types of places. We do recommend if someone wants to be particularly safe, there are storm shelters that are certified by the National Storm Shelter Association and there are FEMA grants that help people offset the cost of those.”

A federal report finds the number of tornadoes rose dramatically over the past year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there were 379 preliminary tornado reports in the first quarter of 2012 compared to 154 twisters during the same period last year. The 20-year average for the first quarter is 144.