Is Your Home Strong Enough to Withstand a Major Hurricane

Rebuilding  his home was a labor of love for Frank Peligrio. Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Biloxi home he built with his own hands. This time he made it stronger than before. But what's strong enough? Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a category three storm with maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour.  Alabama's building code requires a home to be built to withstand winds up to 100 miles per hour on the coast and decreases as you move farther inland.  That's only enough to protect your home from a category two storm like Hurricane Dolly.

"It's time," State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk said. He said the code needs to be updated. His office is in charge of enforcing building codes.  He tells WSFA 12 News, "We go in and actually look at structures and make sure people aren't returning to something that may be dangerous for them to enter."

Paulk says the latest codes put in place in 2006 would make wind speeds of 140 and 150 miles per hour, in some parts of the state, the minimum. That's enough to hold up to a category four hurricane. "I think it would lessen the amount of damage done," said Paulk.

The state's code is just a minimum. Cities can adopt stricter guidelines and some have; but Paulk says enforcement is the problem. His office can only enforce the state code. He says, "It's just like driving down the interstate. The only time people obey the speed limit is when they see a trooper. "

ALFA Spokesperson Dave Rickey says stricter codes that are enforced would benefit everyone -protecting their property and saving money on insurance costs. He says, "It shows you are really making an effort and, in fact, your damage may be lessened due to the fortifications you've made."

Remember, that code is only a minimum you can ask your builder to go above and beyond that. Both Rickey and Paulk say that's not a bad idea considering your home is the single largest investment you'll probably make in your lifetime. "Get the benefits of the latest technologies," said Paulk.

Rickey adds,  "People hopefully will stop and take note of what they can do individually to try to diminish the kind of damage of a major storm."