Home renovations to protect your family from disaster

By: Matt Grocoff , Contributing Writer
In: Home Improvement Tips

The Resilient Design Institute says "resilience is the capacity to bounce back after a disturbance or interruption of some sort." With a rising incidence of extreme weather events, there is a new conversation about making our homes stronger, safer and better protected.

For years we've all become accustomed to safety standards for cars. But, we're only now becoming attuned to safety in the construction and renovation of our homes.

Building disaster-resilient homes and renovating to "code-plus" standards is growing in popularity. If your builder tells you that their company meets all code standards, what they are really saying is that they are building you the worst possible house that the law allows.

Your family deserves better.

Disasters can happen anywhere. But, if you live in a disaster-prone area, here are a few disaster-resilient home renovations to consider.

Tornadoes: FEMA safe room

FEMA recommends that homeowners who live in areas that have extreme wind events should consider building residential safe rooms. A safe room is a "small, specially designed ('hardened') room, such as a bathroom or closet, or other space within the house that is intended to provide a place of refuge only for the people who live in the house."

A safe room can provide "near-absolute" protection during extreme storms, including hurricanes and tornadoes. FEMA has established very strict, but simple guidelines for designing and building safe rooms.You can learn more about them on the FEMA website.

category F5 tornado

Photo credit: Justin1569 at en.wikipedia

Hurricanes: roof to wall connectors

When re-roofing or repairing an existing roof, talk to a contractor about installing a high-wind-rated roof that is secured with hurricane straps or clips. Strapping is simple and affordable. It adds a layer of protection from wind shearing your roof or entire house from its foundation.

According to the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), losses related to thunderstorm damage have increased 500 percent since 1980. So, hurricane strapping may be wise even if you're not in a hurricane-prone area.

Wildfire: create a fire-resistant zone

If you live in a western region like California or Colorado, you are already familiar with the devastation caused by wildfires. According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), 38 states are at risk for wildfires. Some areas already require removing brush from around your home and property every year.

Wildfires are increasingly threatening drought-stricken communities across the country. More than 67,000 wildfires burned more than 9.2 million acres throughout the country in 2012, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. IBHS has created a checklist to help determine what parts of a home and the surrounding property may be most vulnerable during a wildfire. You can get a free copy of the IBHS Regional Wildfire Retrofit Guide from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

For more information on renovating for resilience, read my article: Hurricane Sandy and the case for updating your home.