Lessons Learned From Hurricanes Passed on to Owners Set to Rebuild

September 16, 2004

State and federal disaster recovery officials are urging owners who are rebuilding after hurricanes Charley and Frances to consider taking steps now to minimize damage in future storms.

“There is no better time than when rebuilding to incorporate construction changes that will make a property less vulnerable to wind or water,” Bill Carwile, federal coordinating officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said.

Investing in mitigation, as these protective measures are known, also can reportedly lower property insurance premiums.

“We want to make sure that people living in areas prone to storms, such as hurricanes, floods, or tornadoes, know how they can make their properties better able to withstand the ravages of another disaster,” State Coordinating Officer Craig Fugate, director of Emergency Management at the Florida Department of Community Affairs, added.

Construction experts recommend the following steps when building and rebuilding:

* Hurricane clips: Small metal clips that secure a roof frame to the top of a structure’s walls. They are inexpensive and widely used in areas where hurricanes often strike.

* Masonry ties: Metal strips that help secure brick walls to a wooden structure. The ties are most effective when spaced no farther apart than 16 inches horizontally and two feet vertically.

* Plywood sheathing: While impact tests show that pressed wood is as strong as plywood, experts nonetheless recommend plywood for roof decking and sheathing for extra protection against storm damage. (Specifically, use plywood that is no less than 7/16 – inch thick. The preferred thickness is 5/8 – inch.)

* Fastening: To secure 4×8-foot plywood sheathing to walls or roofs, fasteners should be driven at intervals no greater than 4 inches around the perimeter of the board and 6 inches in the middle lines. Use screws instead of nails to attach the sheathing.

* Garage Doors: High winds can buckle a weak door, creating entry for wind that can easily lift an unclipped roof. Consider a heavy-gauge dual-sheet garage door.

Structures need to be tied to their foundations with correctly installed anchor bolts of the proper dimensions. In structures with concrete block foundations, the bolts should be at least 15 inches into the foundation in order to reach the second course of blocks and to prevent the bolts from being pulled out in strong winds.

If the concrete is poured, bolts a minimum of 1/2 inch in diameter should be set at least seven inches into the concrete and topped with a washer and a nut. Officials also recommend using 2×6-inch wall studding that is more rigid than the usual 2×4-inch lumber and provides the added benefit of greater space for wall insulation.

FEMA can provide property owners with detailed information on raising furnaces, electrical panel boxes and appliances to keep water from damaging them.

Other flood mitigation steps include:

* Installing backflow valves on septic tank and sewage lines.
* Flood proofing exterior walls.
* Building small levees or floodwalls to keep water away from a structure.
* Anchoring mobile homes, fuel tanks and gas bottles to prevent them from floating away
* Building with the bottom floor above base-flood elevation

Officials emphasize that these measures will help make a home more resistant to disasters and enhance survival odds, but they will not guarantee safety in a direct hit from storms as severe as hurricanes Charley and Frances.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.