2011 is in our rearview mirror, but that huge sound of relief coming from the insurance industry has been heard before. Losses caused by natural disasters in the U.S. reached more than $55 billion at year’s end, and they have tallied an estimated $750 billion since 1980.
It’s no secret that much of those losses did not have to occur. The lack of strong building codes or strong enforcement contributes to needless deaths and unnecessary destruction of property.
The Louisiana State University Hurricane Center estimated that stronger building codes would have reduced wind damage from Hurricane Katrina by 80 percent, saving taxpayers $8 billion. LSU also studied the impact that strong building codes would have had on a Category 3 storm in Mississippi, finding that storm damage would have been reduced by $3.1 billion, with nearly 40,000 buildings spared from destruction or significant damage.
A National Institute of Building Sciences’ study concluded that for every $1 spent on mitigation at the federal level, American taxpayers save $4 in disaster assistance. With billions of dollars paid by the federal government and the private sector for disaster relief and rebuilding communities, encouraging adoption of model building codes would ensure our cities and towns are better equipped to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters.
Last year, with the support of insurers, agents and other organizations, U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) introduced HR 2069, The Safe Building Code Incentive Act of 2011. The legislation would enhance existing mitigation programs by encouraging states to adopt and enforce model building codes to qualify for an additional 4 percent of funding available for post-disaster grants. This would reduce the need for federal disaster aid spending over time while respecting states’ rights by incentivizing them, instead of forcing them, to enforce new codes.
The more than half-million independent agents and brokers in the U.S. could generate a powerful grassroots movement to engage taxpayers and consumers in support of The Safe Building Code Incentive Act. Especially in these times of constrained government resources, there is no better time to get this important legislation passed.
To learn more and to get involved, visit BuildStrongAmerica.com.