Planning for more sustainable communities after Sandy

Two Ohio counties are joining a growing list of municipalities that are taking a hard look at how to protect residents, properties and other infrastructure against natural disasters and increase sustainability. 

The Dayton Daily News reports Dayton and Montgomery counties in Ohio are first investing in changes ranging from improving energy efficiency to mechanical upgrades and planning. There also are discussions about using alternate energy to power government vehicles and lower carbon footprints. The next step is a long-term plan to better address flooding, drought, windstorms, and more common electric outages from storms, city leaders told the newspaper. 

In the wake of Sandy and other recent natural disasters and prolonged drought, many communities are making similar changes, according to the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). There are 1,000 ICLEI government members around the globe. 

“Part of this wake-up call we’re seeing is from the massive damage and from the damage to the business communities,” ICLEI spokesman Don Knapp told the Dayton Daily News.  

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) urges policymakers, home and business owners to act now to build more resilient communities that will better withstand the next round of natural disasters. Ohio is particularly prone to windstorms, severe winter weather, frequent flooding and hail damage. 

“Mother Nature doesn’t let up – she wreaked havoc in several communities last year, and she will continue to do it in 2013 and every year to come,” said Julie Rochman, IBHS president and chief executive officer. “Unfortunately, in the U.S., we often build the same way, in the same places, over and over again after disaster strikes. We must – and we can – learn how to effectively break that cycle of devastation by significantly improving the disaster resistance of residential and commercial property.” 

IBHS is leading the way in identifying stronger, safer construction practices that will help save lives and reduce property damage related to natural and manmade catastrophes. Much of this work is being done at the IBHS Research Center in South Carolina, where the Institute uses results obtained from realistic, full-scale research tests conducted at the facility to develop clear guidelines for the design, construction, repairing and retrofitting of residential and commercial structures. 

Brian Holland, ICLEI’s director of climate programs, sees Sandy as a turning point in attitudes about disaster preparedness that was underscored by strong statements from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the newspaper reports. 

“Cities are on the front lines and they respond to their constituents, and that’s why we are seeing action now,” Knapp said. 

One way to effectively harden buildings against hurricanes and severe windstorms is to participate in IBHS’ FORTIFIED program, which offers hazard-specific guidance to build new homes and business and retrofit existing homes. FEMA uses this standard as the basis for its own wind hazard mitigation program. 

To help individuals get better prepared, the free Your Plan app is available in iTunes. It was released in 2012 by IBHS and the Insurance Information Institute. The app features property protection guidance from IBHS and provides a comprehensive set of resources and checklists, created by IBHS. Consumers can use these resources to help minimize property damage due to severe weather events and other disasters. Users also can build customized checklists, and can share their checklists with family and friends.

One Response to Planning for more sustainable communities after Sandy

  1. Thanks for the great post. We are up in the Northwest and primarily help homeowners with fixing their homes, but more and more we are getting requests about disaster preparedness. Thankfully we don’t have many natural disasters but earthquakes are always something that can happen in the Northwest surprisingly. Would love to see what information has be put out about that after the IBHS released this information.

    Thanks again for the great post and disaster preparedness is something that we all need to pay a lot more attention to.

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