Survey Says Panhandle Homeowners Want Wind-Borne Debris Protection

September 13, 2005

A large majority of homeowners in the Florida Panhandle, where a special exemption to the state’s building code allows homes to be built without wind-borne debris protection, say they want the same construction standards afforded other residents in similarly exposed
areas of the state, according to a new survey.

The current Florida Building Code allows wind-borne debris regions from Franklin County westward through Escambia County to be limited to just one mile from the coast even though the regions would be between five and 20 miles inland under pure implementation of ASCE 7-98, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ standard currently used in the code to determine wind-borne debris regions statewide.

The survey, sponsored by the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), polled homeowners in the exempted area and found:

* 72% want the state to require home builders in the Florida Panhandle to construct homes with wind-borne debris protection (hurricane shutters, screens, panels or impact-resistant windows and doors).

* 74% thought the Panhandle either had the same code as other Florida coastal areas or did not know there was a difference.

* Once survey respondents were told the building code did not require
wind-borne debris protection inland of the one-mile carve-out area, 64% said the Panhandle requirements should be uniform with other coastal areas.

IBHS engineers who surveyed damage after Hurricane Charley last year say protecting a home’s windows and doors from wind-borne debris is the best way to reduce the risk of significant damage.

When Charley’s local gust wind speeds ranged between 112-134 m.p.h., they found one-third of buildings without window protection suffered at least one broken window, allowing wind and water to enter. The increased internal pressures can double the loads on
structural connections, and water can damage the building’s interior.

According to IBHS Vice President of Engineering Tim Reinhold, “Nearly every case I have witnessed where an entire roof was blown off a house also involved failure of a window on the windward face of the building.”

The telephone survey polled 600 Florida single-family homeowners in the exempted area of the Panhandle.

IBHS will release the survey results Tuesday at the Florida Panhandle Wind-borne Debris Region Workshop held by the Florida Building Commission.

The 2005 Florida Legislature debated whether to revise the definition of
the wind-borne debris region for the Panhandle and determined further study was warranted. It directed the Commission to review wind-borne debris damage caused by Hurricane Ivan, and in consultation with building officials from the impacted areas, develop a recommendation for consideration by the 2006 Legislature.

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