By Jimi Grande
Special to the Press-Register

Stronger building codes save lives, property and taxpayer money — and I commend the Press-Register editorial board for urging Alabama officials to adopt and enforce model codes statewide. Fact is, this is not an issue confronting any one part of the state, nor is it limited to the shores or heartland of our nation.

Consider the devastating tornadoes that ripped through Alabama in late April.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling predicts damage from the storms will exceed the record of $2 billion from Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

While no minimum building standards will be able to save structures directly in the path of a highly rated tornado, they can greatly increase the resilience of communities.

The Louisiana State University Hurricane Center has estimated that had they been in place in 2005, stronger building codes would have reduced wind damage from Hurricane Katrina by 80 percent, saving $8 billion. Imagine if comparable reductions in damage were possible in Alabama.

Alabama has been attempting to tackle these difficult pre-disaster mitigation issues. State, political and business leaders are to be applauded for their actions to improve building codes.

The Press-Register cited a current move to provide income-tax deductions to property owners who retrofit their homes to withstand storms. There is no doubt community leaders have taken note of the continued growth of the population along the coast despite the high risk of deadly storms.

According to the Census Bureau, the population of coastal Alabama has increased by nearly 60 percent since 1960.

However, the deadly tornado that devastated northern Alabama was a bitter lesson that natural disasters can strike anytime and anywhere — and that requires statewide solutions.

Statewide model building codes can help protect homes and buildings from hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, fire, ice storms and other natural catastrophes. Stronger, safer homes and buildings can save lives, mitigate property loss and reduce the amount of public disaster aid needed to rebuild.

According to a National Institute of Building Sciences study, for every $1 spent to make buildings stronger, the American taxpayer saves $4 in federal disaster assistance.

The key is model building codes that promote a level and consistent playing field for design professionals, suppliers and builders, creating a minimum standard upon which consumers can rely.

As Alabama officials work to solve this issue on the state level, the BuildStrong Coalition is urging passage of the Safe Building Codes Incentives Act, HR 2069, introduced by Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Albio Sires, D-N.J., and Richard Hanna, R-N.Y.

Under the law, states that adopt and enforce recognized model building codes for residential and commercial structures would qualify for an additional 4 percent of funding available for post-disaster grants. The program would be administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Sixteen states have already taken these steps. We urge Alabama to do the same. It will mean stronger, safer homes and buildings, and it will save lives, mitigate property loss and save American taxpayers money by reducing the amount of public disaster aid needed to rebuild.


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