Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma,
13:06 PM

Building FORTIFIED Homes to Protect Those We Love

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Julie Shiyou-Woodard worried about her father. He did not evacuate the Mississippi coast. Like many others, he refused to believe the storm would travel so far north.

When she couldn't reach him, Julie loaded the car with supplies and headed south. When she arrived in Mississippi, she found the family home destroyed. Fortunately, her father was safe.

The next day, Shiyou-Woodard was deployed to New Orleans with a disaster medical assistance team. “I spent the next few months witnessing suffering and devastation I had only seen in movies,” she recalled.

“At the time, I was principal planner with a local planning commission. Part of my job was to find ways to strengthen our communities before disasters. I saw first-hand what we were doing was not working.”

Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Tornado devastation in Tusaloosa, Jopilin and Moore. Regardless of size, weather events rais the questions: How should we build our homes, businesses and communities to protect those we love?Right after Hurricane Ivan in 2004, a group of Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coast residents experienced the same frustration. They started looking for ways to avoid this damage in the future. Their efforts and passion helped form Smart Home America. The organization has since grown and now help groups throughout the country find solutions to strengthen their own communities.

In 2014, Shiyou-Woodard became the president and CEO of Smart Home. With her personal and professional experience, it was a role she embraced to grow the organization.

A perfect example is the Smart Home partnership with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). The FORTIFIED Home™ program strengthens homes from severe storms. Using these construction standards and methods goes beyond emergency preparedness and disaster preparedness. Knowing your home has been FORTIFIED against disaster provides peace of mind.

“When you build FORTIFIED and a hurricane hits, you are more likely to come home after evacuating and sleep in your own bed. You are able to start recovery much sooner,” Shiyou-Woodard explains.

FORTIFIED looks at a home as a system of systems, not individual components. The standards are applicable to both new and existing construction. A fortified evaluator directs the improvements, based on your specific circumstances. Steps involved might be:

  • installation of a secondary water barrier,
  • ring shank nails or spray foam to strengthen roof connections,
  • opening protection (shutters, panels or fabric) and
  • metal straps and bolts to connect the roof to walls and walls to the foundation.

The evaluator also certifies efforts for insurance discounts available to FORTIFIED homeowners.

Seeing the coastal success, Tulsa Partners in Oklahoma, has also embraced the program. The nonprofit is committed to creating a disaster resistant and sustainable community. It collaborated with Habitat for Humanity and State Farm to build FORTIFIED homes in the Tulsa area.

“We were very excited to partner with Habitat for a 24-hour FORTIFIED build in August this year,” said Partners Executive Director Tim Lovell. “The FORTIFIED Home Bronze Level addresses the roof system. Specifically, the upgrades reduce wind and water entering the attic through the roof covering and vents.”

Eleven years after Katrina, coastal Alabama is a model for stronger communities. Currently they lead the nation with more than 2,000 FORTIFIED designations. What’s the next mission for Smart Home America?

“We continue to educate about the importance of building better, being properly insured and how to build FORTIFIED,” said Shiyou-Woodard. “Our new Don’t Goof When You Re-Roof initiative and Insurance Shopper’s Guide will help homeowners make informed decisions and be better protected. Outside of Alabama and Mississippi, we’re drawing from our experience and supporting similar groups. Tulsa Partners are leading efforts in Oklahoma to promote IBHS’ newest program, FORTIFIED Home High Wind and Hail.”

Want to get FORTIFIED? The first step is the application. Upon receipt and processing, applicants are provided a list of IBHS Certified FORTIFIED Home™ Evaluators working in their area.

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