New Initiative To Fortify Oklahoma Homes Could Save Lives

Thursday, April 7th 2016, 11:13 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma is among the top five states for natural disasters, but our building codes don't necessarily reflect that.

A new program hopes to strengthen Oklahoma homes against severe weather, and the Fortified homes could save your possessions and your life.

Mother Nature's fury unleashed on north Tulsa, Owasso, Verdigris and Claremore - 550 homes and businesses were damaged, including Michael Ellis’ Owasso home.

Special Coverage: Tornado Outbreak: March 30, 2016

"The whole house started rockin', we heard, ya know, boards getting ripped off," Ellis said.

Most homes have roof damage, many were torn away. Family items stored in the attic are now exposed to the elements.

The same thing happened last May in Broken Arrow.

Homeowner Trey McVay said, “That's the main thing that I noticed on all the houses that got hit by the tornado, is that the roof came off pretty easily."

A nationwide campaign called the Fortified Resilient Home Program is kicking off in Oklahoma and Colorado, both highly vulnerable to extreme winds and hail.

The insurance industry initiative provides added hail and roof protection, covering winds up to 130 miles per hour - the same wind speeds that pummeled homes from Tulsa to Claremore.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak is helping launch the program.

"You can really take a look at a fortified versus a non-fortified home, and the losses can be greatly minimized by doing just a few common sense things," Doak said.

Testing shows how well new materials and construction methods hold up against high winds.

The three-tiered program, beginning at bronze level, gives homeowners increasing levels of protection, starting with the roof. Homebuilder John Madden is already implementing the higher standards.

"The other difference with the Fortified is that we actually nail the roof decking onto the rafters versus just stapling. Staples are used by just about everybody. Nailing is what is required by Fortified to keep that roof deck from lifting off," Madden said.

Better shingles and taping protect from water if shingles are ripped off.

"These two pieces are held just by tape, and if you want to pull it, you're not going to be able to pull it apart," Madden explained.

National program manager, Alex Cary, is meeting with local builders, the non-profit Tulsa Partners, and Habitat for Humanity, which is building a Fortified home in the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood.

"There are some very simple things you can apply to bronze that, in many cases, can be less than $1,000 worth of improvements to that home," Cary said.

Madden said, "Your deductible for insurance, for high wind and hail, I believe, is up one percent, one-and-a-half percent of your value, which, that in itself, typically, would pay for a Fortified home."

Beyond money, it's about protecting lives and reducing inconvenience in a storm's aftermath.

McVay said, "I saw a lot of people having to go through a lot of trouble trying to get their homes fixed. We lived here maybe five months after the tornado hit and there were still a lot of homes that hadn't been fixed yet. I think the house across the street, they didn't move back in until we were here for three months."

"There's no reason not to do something like that as long as it's not cost-prohibitive," said Ellis.

You can find more information on the program here.