NSiS home page Are You Safe?
You check local tv or radio when the weather looks nasty, perhaps you have a weather radio to alert you even when you're asleep. You heed the weather warnings, you take shelter from lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes. You evacuate your mobile home, RV, or camper, you go to a windowless inner room in a conventional house.
But, are you safe? Maybe not.
If you live, or take shelter, in a newer conventional home built to code, you may be assuming your home is sturdier than it is. Hurricane Andrew churned across south Florida in 1992, destroying 97% of the mobile homes in Dade County and demolishing many newer conventional homes. Most homes built in the 1950's and 1960's were still standing.
How can this be? Ask your elected officials. After Andrew, building codes were closely scrutinized. Now, a mobile home manufactured after 1994 must be able to withstand straight line winds of 100-110 mph. That's an improvement, not a big one though. Guess what... that is the standard for conventional housing, too. Incredible, but true. And, tornado damage is not the result of kinder, gentler straight line winds.
The Fujita Scale assigns a rating to tornadoes based on how much damage was done. Is a home built to code in Florida "well-built" as the term is used in the Fujita Scale? I don't think so. Check out the damage an F2 tornado with swirling 113+ mph winds ... it demolishes mobile homes ... woosh, gone. Where does that leave a conventional home built to withstand straightline 100-110 mph winds? Crumbled on top of you?
Fujita Scale
F040-72Branches broken off trees, shallow-rooted trees pushed over, signs damaged
F173-112Roof surfaces peeled off, mobile homes and cars pushed, trees snapped
F2113-157Roofs torn off, mobile homes demolished, large trees uprooted, light-object missiles generated
F3158-206Roofs and walls torn off well-built homes, trains overturned, most trees in forest uprooted, weak pavement blown off roads
F4207-260Well-built homes leveled, cars disintegrated, trees uprooted and tossed some distances
F5261-318Well-built homes blown off foundations and disintegrated, car-sized missiles thrown 300 feet, trees debarked

Do we really want conventional housing that is as vulnerable to tornadoes as mobile homes?
Representatives of the builders associations clucked over the damage and utter destruction left by the outbreak of tornadoes in central Florida on February 23, 1998. They dismissed it as an act of nature. Were these the same guys who fought so hard to keep the weak building codes rather than lose a bit of profit on each house? The same ones who have lowered the building standards in Florida over the last 30-40 years? When all the information is compiled and analysed, will they be hung out to dry with their cronies in Dade County?
The next time you're in a building supply store, take a few minutes to check the prices of hurricane anchors, rebar, and concrete. Then, let your officials know that you don't consider your safety worth those few dollars saved in housing construction.
Also, ask what is being done with your community's share of the $9 million recently doled out by the state to develop a Local Mitigation Strategy.
And, I'm gonna say it again, get a weather radio... trot down to Radio Shack or Sam's or wherever and invest in your future.
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