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National Disaster-Preparedness Program Boosts Outreach In Storm-Prone R.I.

Fred Malik, director of FORTIFIED Programs at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety
Fred Malik, director of FORTIFIED Programs at IBHS

It’s nothing new to Rhode Island that strong storms can mean damage to homes and businesses.

What is new, says Fred Malik, director of FORTIFIED Programs at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), is that Rhode Island is well on its way to being a model FORTIFIED state. “There is a significant value to the property in Rhode Island with a lot of coastal exposure,” says Malik. “Rhode Island provides a great opportunity to involve the entire community to better protect residential and commercial properties from coastal exposure.”

The residential program, FORTIFIED Home™ Hurricane, is “a set of engineering and building standards designed to help strengthen new and existing homes through system-specific building upgrades to minimum building code requirements that will reduce damage from specific natural hazards.” Builders and homeowners choose to adhere to the voluntary set of standards. Late last year, a new home in South Kingstown was the first in the state built to FORTIFIED residential standards.

The FORTIFIED Program is gaining traction in Rhode Island in part due to the efforts of CRC, which provides science-based information, education and tools to coastal communities struggling to plan for increasing numbers of storms, one likely aspect of climate change. Through this work, CRC convenes opportunities for building regulators and professionals, as well as home and business owners, to learn about FORTIFIED.

Malik, in Rhode Island to train several local building professionals as certified FORTIFIED Home™ Evaluators, says with so many local property owners located along the coast, he is already seeing the residents of the Ocean State become increasingly interested in strengthening their homes to withstand storm damage. “Residents of Rhode Island typically live in their properties all year round and understand the risk hurricanes and Mother Nature can wreak on their homes and communities. They are ready to do something to strengthen their properties and protect what is priceless to them,” he said.

Pam Rubinoff, a CRC senior coastal manager helping lead the center’s resiliency work, did just that: she replaced her roof, damaged in a 2015 storm, with a FORTIFIED roof —one built to specifications and with materials guaranteed to withstand storm winds and water. The roof cost more than a regular roof, she says, but gave her peace of mind that it would withstand the next storm to come through the area. “Going this route may not be for everyone, but it gave me a level of safety I didn’t have before, so it was worthwhile to me, as a homeowner.”

A FORTIFIED Wise training will take place May 10 at the URI Narragansett Bay Campus. For more information or to register, please visit the training and certification programs online.