Volume 7, Issue 9 - October 2006

Not Just Another Website
Hurricane Retrofit Guide is a Needed Resource
by Michael Fischer

The Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), under sponsorship by the State of Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA) is developing a web-based retrofit guide for use in hurricane-prone regions. While the program was developed for Florida residents, the advice will be posted on the website and available to anyone living in a hurricane-prone region. 

IBHS represents the property and casualty insurance industry. It provides representation to code and regulatory bodies in order to promote appropriate building and construction practices for structures in high wind areas. Working with the DCA, IBHS will produce a comprehensive set of guidelines for existing structures built to older codes, or containing products that have deteriorated due to age or other conditions. The hurricane retrofit website will provide information for homeowners covering a wide range of building products. Using easy-to-read language, the website will give consumers simple direction on how to prepare their homes for storm events. 

Critical Retrofit Info
Set for launch in early 2007, the IBHS/DCA site will also provide information on how to protect homes from damage resulting from high winds as well as water intrusion. IBHS has identified roofing and wall openings, including doors and windows, as vulnerable areas where wind and water often enter structures during tropical windstorms and hurricanes. For fenestration products, the retrofit guide will offer advice for retrofitting windows, skylights, entry and garage doors to improve their performance during a storm. 

The proposed scope of the retrofit guide also includes information regarding hurricane panels, shutters and plywood panels designed to offer protection from impact related and windborne debris. Breakage of glass during hurricanes can provide a means for water intrusion. Failure of openings can result in large breaches in the wall envelope and result in structural failure, causing roof and wall systems to fail due to internal pressurization. Large fenestration products openings, like patio and garage doors, cause greater concern when breached due to the sheer volume. After Hurricane Andrew, the FEMA report on building performance cited garage door failures in particular as a frequent contributing factor to roof collapse.

The website also includes the following fenestration topics:

  • Opening protection including window films, shutters and storm panels;

  • Window protection including attachment to the structure, protecting glass from breakage and minimizing water intrusion;

  • Entry door considerations such as hardware attachment, framing connections, water intrusion and impact resistance;

  • Inspection tips for sliding doors including advice on how to evaluate the strength of an existing door, means to minimize water entry and available retrofit shutter systems designed especially for large patio doors openings; and

  • Garage door information about ways to reinforce garage doors using retrofit post systems, track reinforcement and other ways to add strength.

Ending Misinformation
In addition to providing retrofit tips, there are also discussions of popular misconceptions about high wind events. Some of the commonly cited erroneous suggestions include backing an automobile against a garage door to provide added strength which, while providing positive pressure strength, has no effect on negative pressure—identified as a common factor in garage door failures. 

The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) is working with IBHS on this and other projects to identify opportunities to improve door, window and skylight performance during storms. As part of our advocacy strategy to promote the safe use of industry products, WDMA members will provide important feedback regarding the retrofit tips and other advice included in the website.

Michael Fischer of the Kellen Company serves as director of codes and regulatory compliance for the WDMA. He may be reached at MFischer@wdma.com.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.