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Congress and ANSI Member Partner to Develop Hurricane Protection Legislation

Proposed Bill Calls for $100 M to Fund Research and Outreach Programs

New York, Jun 11, 2002

With the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season now underway and the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Andrew approaching this August, those who know hurricanes best are acutely aware of the importance of taking steps to prevent damage from hurricanes before one is even on the radar, and they are working to make the public and the government aware as well.

When Hurricane Andrew hit the Bahamas, Florida and Louisiana in August of 1992, the effects were devastating. By far the most costly hurricane in recent history, Andrew claimed more than 125,000 homes, with estimates of property damage as high as $40 billion dollars. But the fact is that even in years with no severe hurricanes, property damage from smaller hurricanes and other windstorms is high. The average annual cost of property damage from hurricanes from 1990 to 1999 was over $4.9 billion; costs from tornadoes and other windstorms annually are over $871 million. Meanwhile, the amount of money the federal government devotes to develop and promote knowledge, practices and policies that could reduce losses from wind-related disasters is a comparatively low $5 million.

Recent proposed legislation may raise this figure to support research activities and potentially decrease property damage and loss of life. Recently introduced to the House of Representatives by bi-partisan sponsors, Rep. Dennis Moore (D-KS) and Rep. Melissa A. Hart (R-PA), in collaboration with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), an ANSI member and ANSI-accredited standards developer, the Hurricane, Tornado and Related Hazards Research Act (H.R. 3592) could allocate $100 million to hurricane research by 2005. In addition, the bill calls for the establishment of an interagency National Windstorm Hazard Reduction Program to be administered under the jurisdiction of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The program mandates the formation of a National Advisory Committee for Windstorm Hazard Reduction, consisting of 21 presidentially-appointed members from state and local governments, universities and the private-sector.

H.R. 3592 predicts that the losses currently experienced due to wind hazards will only increase unless steps are taken to help citizens protect their communities and sets the goal of "obtaining a major, measurable reduction in wind-related loss of life and property within ten years." Research activities will focus on "the collection of physical and performance data for buildings and other structures for use in developing and deploying mitigation measures; information dissemination on cost-effective and affordable hazard reduction research results to the general public; improved technology for loss estimation, risk assessment, prediction, warnings and disaster response; [and] increased public awareness of the dangers of windstorms and the value of mitigation to preserve property and life."

Although the bill is still in its infant stages, there is much that the public can do to protect themselves and their property from hurricane damage. For example, property owners in hurricane-prone regions can enquire if their buildings are constructed to wind pressure or load specifications. Chapter Six of the American National Standard Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and other Structures (ANSI/ASCE 7-1996) is one such standard that engineers can refer to for calculating the wind load a building will experience based on numerous factors such as location, design, proximity to a coast line and others.

In addition, a useful tool for homeowners is the National Association of Home Builder's technical information website (www.toolbase.org), which includes guidelines for building and protecting homes in hurricane-prone areas as well as affordable safeguards such as installing storm shutters.

In order to raise public awareness, President Bush, in coordination with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), recently declared May 19 through May 25, 2002, National Hurricane Awareness Week (www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/index.htm). Throughout hurricane season*, NOAA promotes early preparation techniques to protect against wind-related damages as well as safety tips that can be used before, during and after a storm. For further information and official reports on tropical storm activity, visit the NOAA website (www.noaa.gov).

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* Atlantic and Caribbean hurricane season: June through November; Eastern Pacific hurricane season: May through November (Source: NOAA)

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