Steps Can be Taken to Minimize Future Storm Damage

September 21, 2005

State and federal disaster recovery officials are urging property owners in Alabama who are rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to take steps now to minimize damage in future storms. Such “hazard mitigation,” rebuilding to make structures more disaster resistant, can also enhance property value and save money on insurance premiums.

“There’s no better time to do this than when you are rebuilding and the recent disaster is fresh in your mind,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Bolch. “In addition to the other benefits, strengthening a structure might someday save a life,” he added.

Hazard mitigation includes such commonsense measures as installing hurricane straps in replacement roofs, installing storm shutters, and bolting walls to foundations or even elevating entire buildings above flood levels. Information on measures to help protect your home is available free at any of the Disaster Recovery Centers now open in Alabama .

While these measures can’t guarantee that a structure won’t be damaged in a storm as powerful as Hurricane Katrina, the odds for a property’s survival will reportedly be increased.

Here are some of the important improvements homeowners should discuss with contractors before rebuilding:

* Hurricane Clips: These are small metal plates that secure a roof to the top of structure walls. They are inexpensive and widely used in areas of the country prone to damaging wind loads.
* Masonry Ties: These metal strips help secure brick walls to the wood structure. They are most effective when spaced no farther apart than 16 inches horizontally and two feet vertically.
* Plywood: While impact tests show pressboard can be as strong as plywood, construction engineers prefer using plywood 5/8ths of an inch thick, and not less than 7/16ths.
* Fastening: In securing 4 X 8 foot plywood sheathing to walls or roofs, nails should be driven at intervals no greater than four inches around the perimeter of the board and six inches in the middle lines. Ring shank nails provide additional gripping power, and should be used instead of ordinary nails.
* Roof Coverings: For hurricane prone regions, be sure the shingles selected meet or exceed the wind speeds expected in your area. A secondary waterproofing system under the shingles will provide additional protection from wind-driven rain, even if some shingles are lost. Modern materials that provide this dual waterproofing protection include butyl rubber or neoprene roll, dual-faced adhesive mastics that are applied to the roof prior to installing the shingles. Fasten shingles with six nails per shingle rather than three or four, and never install shingles using staples, air guns or air tools.
* Garage Doors: High winds can buckle a weak door, creating entry for wind that can easily lift an unclipped roof. Consider a heavier gauge, wind rated, garage door.
* Hurricane Shutters: For hurricane-prone regions, studies have shown that hurricane shutters significantly reduce damage. In rebuilding, a set of hurricane shutters adds minimal cost but great benefits in terms of reducing future damages to a home.
* Mobile Homes: In order to protect a mobile home properly from both turning over and sliding on the foundation, two types of ties are recommended: over-the-top ties and frame ties.

Officials stress the need to tie structures other than mobile homes to their foundations with correctly installed anchor bolts of proper dimension. In structures with concrete block foundations, the bolts should penetrate at least 15 inches into the foundation in order to reach the second course of block to provide better odds that they will not be pulled out of the foundation in strong winds.

If the concrete is poured, use bolts a minimum of 1/2-half-inch diameter set at least seven inches into the concrete and topped with a washer and nut.

They also recommend use of 2 X 6 inch wall studs, which are more rigid than the usual 2 X 4 inch timber and provide an added benefit of greater space for wall insulation.

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