As this blog is posted, we watch the response to Hurricane Harvey’s devastating flooding in Texas and Hurricane Irma’s record-breaking winds hurtling towards the Southeast U.S. These events have broken many decent, calm years in the Gulf of Mexico, and this hurricane season should be a stark reminder of the power and impact that natural hazards pose to millions along the coast.
To me, we must always think about and plan for the risks and vulnerabilities that surround us - as there is no time off from enhancing community resilience. A trip to the grocery store can quickly become a lesson in an experience in how to stock up for the next storm and create a disaster survival kit. A family vacation can become a mock evacuation. A home inspection can turn into an opportunity to strengthen your dwelling. My personal favorite, a weekend paddleboard fishing adventure that becomes an exploratory floodplain and wetlands expedition.
This is why I am happy to be a part of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and Smart Home America teams, to help communities become more resilient. Having grown up in hurricane-prone South Florida and helping with recovery efforts for Hurricanes Ike, Irene and Sandy, I feel like I bring some real-world knowledge and experience to natural hazard risks and resilience.
After graduate school in Texas, I was selected as a Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellow and worked in the National Sea Grant Office. I then worked for NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management as a program officer for Coastal Management Programs and Research Reserves in the Gulf of Mexico and became a Certified Floodplain Manager to help assist with flooding impacts. This past year, I joined Smart Home America as its planning and policy manager because I wanted to directly assist communities and states with the risks they face and the resilience needs they have.
Smart Home America (SHA) is a community-based, not-for-profit (501c3) organization that was created in 2009 to foster resiliency from the bottom up. We have built a successful, adaptable approach to enacting mitigation solutions by improving building codes and methods, supporting mitigation incentives, promoting state and local policies, creating effective collaborations and partnerships, and leveraging useful resources. In fact, our efforts have resulted in Alabama leading the nation in standardized, resilient construction practices through the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s FORTIFIED Home program.
This nationally recognized, third-party verification program is based on 20 years of research and field observations. We were the first group to systematically implement the program, resulting in nearly 4,900 homes being designated in Alabama and Mississippi as FORTIFIED, an 89-percent market share. This end result has many personal and community-wide benefits, including homeowners saving on their insurance, having better insurance policies and increasing home market values, as well as building a more resilient stock of homes in risk-prone communities.
Recently, Smart Home America and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant entered into a partnership to address both wind and flood hazards. Our approach is to provide comprehensive outreach and extension services to address our risks, overcome acute and prolonged hazards, collaborate with the public and private sector professionals, provide training and information sharing, and create new partnerships for disaster preparedness and recovery. This activity will increase work with floodplain management practitioners on the Community Rating System, train private sector service providers on both hazards research and mitigation practices, and provide technical assistance to local community officials.
For more information about getting a FORTIFIED Home visit DontGoof.org.
For any direct questions or assistance please contact me at Hank@smarthomeamerica.org.