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Your Home Is Your Castle. Local Disaster Experts Explain How To Protect It From Storms

Claire Thornton
From left to right: Aris Papadopoulos, Julie Rochman and Dr. Rich Olson discuss the independent documentary, Built To Last: Saving Our Homes in the Age of Disasters at Florida International University on Wednesday, May 30, 2018.

Just two days before the official start of hurricane season, Florida International University hosted the world premiere Wednesday of “BUILT TO LAST?,” a documentary that warns of risks to homes and other buildings in “the age of disaster.”

“When someone loses their home, it’s like they’ve lost everything,” said Aris Papadopoulos, of FIU’s Extreme Events Institute, whose book, “Resilience – The Ultimate Sustainability,” inspired the film.

“It’s very important that people become more educated on what they can do, practical things they can do, to be resilient-smart consumers,” Papadopoulos said.

In a panel discussion after the film, Papadopoulos said that the key to building risk-resilience is gaining awareness about where consumers place their money and values. According to him, the bulk of home renovations are cosmetic.

Homebuilder Bob Howard, who has lived in Kendall for over 38 years, agreed. He said he sells homes to people who care more about beautiful kitchens than secure roofs.

“In 1980 I built houses with the roof attached with bolts, not nails. The people across the street were building houses with staples holding on the roof,” Howard said. “Those houses, there was nothing left,” he said, reflecting on the devastation of Hurricane Andrew.

During hurricane season, the structure of a roof can mean the difference between complete devastation and surviving the storm.

“Most consumers don’t seem to care about the cake. They only care about the icing,” Howard said.

Papadopoulous said Florida homes are still being built to “pre-Andrew standards," favoring affordability over resilience. But that leads to economic loss in the long run.

"We get a lot more information on the safety features of a car then we get on homes,” he said. “We’re smarter in terms of green products or organic foods, and we’re willing to pay even a little bit extra for those. But when it comes to the most important decision of our life, which is our home, most of us are in the dark.”

President and CEO of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, Julie Rochman, provided a series of steps Floridians should take before a storm: 

  • It is most important to prevent water from entering a structure.
  • Cut back trees, especially those with overhanging dead branches.
  • Roofs must be checked for lose, cracked, and missing shingles or tiles.
  • Cables penetrating a home’s walls, such as television cables, must be caulked so that water does not penetrate the building.
  • Things like sliding doors, sky lights, and garage doors must also be fortified.
  • At the last minute, people also need to bring in objects from their lawns, like furniture and statues. Chairs and tables become missiles during hurricanes, crashing into homes and allowing storm water to enter. People can even throw lawn furniture into a pool to be as safe as possible.
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