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Here’s how the government wants to make your home disaster-proof

On this first day of the Atlantic hurricane season, federal officials are launching a new initiative to modernize building codes so communities can be more resilient to hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change.

Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Ali Zaidi, President Joe Biden’s assistant national climate adviser, planned to discuss the initiative Wednesday during a briefing at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, where Hurricane Andrew caused $26 billion in damage. Dollar caused damage in 1992, and recovering from a similar hit could cost hundreds of billions today.

Updated building codes offer a range of smart design and construction methods “that save lives, reduce property damage and lower utility bills,” according to a press release announcing the National Initiative to Promote Building Codes. It applies to new construction and houses and buildings that are being rebuilt due to damage.

“Adopting hazard-resistant building codes saves communities $11 for every $1 invested,” Criswell said, citing a finding from the National Institute of Building Sciences.

The initiative, approved by the National Climate Task Force earlier this year, comes amid signs coastal communities should brace themselves violent storms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast 14 to 21 named storms in the Atlantic this season, with six to ten becoming hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes with winds exceeding 110 mph.

It’s already started Agatha, a storm that has been hitting Mexico for the past few days may reform in the Gulf of Mexico and potentially threaten parts of Florida by the weekend, the hurricane center said.

“This initiative is proof that action on climate change brings myriad benefits to all Americans, especially in our most vulnerable communities,” said Gina McCarthy, the president’s national climate adviser.

The program aims to help buildings withstand damage caused by natural disasters such as wildfires, tornadoes and floods.

For example, the regulations ensure that roofs can withstand hurricane-force winds, that building materials are resistant to flood damage and that insulation helps reduce heating and cooling costs, officials said.

Education will be a key element. A FEMA analysis found that only 35% of cities, counties, and municipalities nationwide have updated hazard-resistant building codes. Cost is a factor: building and renovating designed for disaster resilience can be more expensive. But the estimated savings for typical households on electric bills alone could be about $162 a year, officials predicted.

And on a larger scale, communities that have adopted modern building codes are already saving an estimated $1.6 billion a year in avoided damage from major disasters, officials said. That equates to a cumulative $132 billion by 2040 that will not have to be spent on disaster recovery.

Federal agencies will use $225 million in infrastructure funding already approved for the US Department of Energy to support state and local energy code adoption, enforcement, training and technical support.

They also predict that newer regulations could yield $138 billion in energy cost savings and avoid carbon emissions equivalent to what 195 million gasoline cars emit in a year.

The agencies said they plan to lead by example and implement the new codes in federal buildings.

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This story has been corrected to say that Zaidi, not McCarthy, had planned to attend the press conference.

https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/06/01/heres-how-the-government-wants-to-disaster-proof-your-home/ Here’s how the government wants to make your home disaster-proof

Sarah Y. Kim

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