Tampa, Fla. — The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is launching a new program called FORTIFIED Home – Hurricane designed to help homeowners build safer, stronger new homes, and retrofit existing homes to make them more resistant to hurricanes.

During the last few years, IBHS has conducted pilot projects using the new program in select areas, including Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, where it has been very well received. The program is now being launched in all coastal areas from Texas to Maine that are most vulnerable to hurricanes.

“We learned a great deal during the pilot phase. Homeowners want to have more resilient houses, but they need to be affordable and hazard-specific, which is what the new FORTIFIED Home – Hurricane program provides. We are launching the hurricane program now, which will be followed by a high wind and hail program focused on the Midwest and Great Plains states,” said Julie Rochman, IBHS CEO and president.

The FORTIFIED Home program is affordable at every price point and uses a unique systems-based method for creating stronger, safer homes. Employing an incremental approach, the program has three levels of designation – Bronze, Silver and Gold. Builders and contractors can work with home buyers and homeowners to choose the desired level of protection that best suits their budgets and resilience goals.

“Homeowners insurance is a wonderful safety net that can help put houses back together following hurricanes, but there is much more that makes a house a home, and a family part of a community. FORTIFIED Home – Hurricane protects what is priceless like cherished family heirlooms that can never be replaced, and the peace of mind you have knowing that your home will still be there when the storm passes,” Rochman said.

“People often ask why the FORTIFIED Home program is necessary when many jurisdictions have building codes in place. The answer is codes appropriately provide minimum life safety protection designed to ensure people can get out of a building safely. Codes are not intended to ensure that the home is habitable after a catastrophic event or to protect the other property contained in the home,” explained Rochman.

The new FORTIFIED Home – Hurricane Program provides a uniform, voluntary, superior set of standards to help improve a home’s resilience by adding system-specific upgrades to minimum code requirements. One of the most unique and important aspects of the program is that every FORTIFIED Home is inspected by an independent, third party, certified evaluator — before and after the upgrades are performed.

“Another key feature of this program is that it starts by focusing on the roof, which is the most important and most vulnerable component of every building. Your roof is your first line of defense against Mother Nature, so you want it to be as strong as possible,” noted Rochman.

The FORTIFED Home – Hurricane program will:

· reduce the potential for property damage to your home from hurricanes;

• protect physical assets — such as the building itself and personal property like furniture, artwork, clothing and photographs;

• lower ownership costs;

• minimize environmental footprint by limiting the amount of destroyed building materials that end up in landfills after a hurricane;

• safeguard investments made to make a home more sustainable and energy efficient;

• increase the chances of quickly returning home after a hurricane and resuming daily life;

• increase the likelihood of staying in the community as it recovers and lower the overall cost of your community’s recovery. Studies show every $1 spent on disaster mitigation saves society $4; and

• improve the marketability of a home with a transferable FORTIFIED Home – Hurricane designation.

“The FORTIFIED Home – Hurricane program enables homeowners to make informed decisions about maximizing their investment in disaster-resilience, and achieve peace of mind knowing their home will be as strong as possible when hurricanes strike. It’s not a matter of if another big hurricane will hit the U.S., just when and where,” Rochman said.