Bounce Back Faster From Disaster – Build to Code

Presenting Sponsor



Free Webinar – Significant Changes in ICC 500-2014 and FEMA P-361

On May 12, 2015, ICC is offering Significant Changes in ICC 500-2014 and FEMA P-361, a free webinar for code officials, jurisdictions and property owners  that highlights the changes to the latest edition of the standard and examines how they will affect storm shelter design, construction and installation.

Prepare Your Family

Making sure your family is prepared for any natural disaster is important. Below are some of the steps you can take to prepare your family and protect your home from natural disasters. Your actions can ensure that no matter what Mother Nature brings, you, your family and your community will be resilient.

Here are a few tips to follow from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes – (FLASH®) when preparing your family for any emergency.

  • Develop a family disaster plan that includes a list of food and water supplies needed for each member of your family and supplies for your pets. Make copies of important documents like insurance policies, the deed to your home, and other personal papers, important phone numbers and a home inventory. Create a checklist of important things to do before, during and after a disaster.
  • Review your evacuation route and emergency shelter locations with your family. Options for evacuation would include staying with friends and relatives, seeking commercial lodging, or staying in a mass care facility operated by disaster relief groups in conjunction with local authorities.
  • Taking shelter is critical in times of disaster. Sheltering in place is appropriate when conditions require that you seek protection in your home, place of employment, or other location where you are when disaster strikes.

Review your plan regularly. If you make changes that affect the information in your disaster plan, update it immediately.

Visit America’s PrepareAthon! to learn more about how to prepare for earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and winter storms. Help prepare your family and community with the Severe Weather Preparedness Toolkit.

Protect Your Home

The power of these natural disasters can be overwhelming. While you can't necessarily stop natural disasters from happening, there are steps you can take to increase your home's chance of survival, even in the face of the worst Mother Nature can dish out.

Build to Code

Although you have little control over the occurrence of hazards in your community, mitigation efforts such as building code adoption and enforcement is one of the strongest strategies jurisdictions can take to protect a community against the effects of natural hazards. Mitigation increases occupant health and safety during a disaster, protects the local tax base, ensures continuity of essential services, and supports more rapid recovery from disasters.

The development and widespread adoption of building codes is beneficial in that it has created a uniform regulatory environment in which design professionals and contractors are held to a set of standards adopted by and applicable to the jurisdiction in which they work. More importantly, building codes provide you, your family, and your community protection in the event of a natural disaster.

What are Building Codes?

Building regulation in the United States began in the late 1800s when major cities began to adopt and enforce building codes in response to large fires in densely populated urban areas. The primary intent of early building codes was to reduce the fire risk, but over time, their scope has broadened. Today, building codes are sets of regulations that address structural integrity, fire resistance, safe exits, lighting, ventilation, and construction materials. They specify the minimum requirements to safeguard the health, safety, and general welfare of building occupants.

The International Code Council (ICC) family of codes covers all aspects of construction.

For more information on building codes, see FEMA’s Building Codes Toolkit for Property Owners and the General Public.


If the earthquake occurs in a populated area, it may cause deaths, injuries and extensive property damage. Here are some helpful tips to prepare your family and protect your home.

  • Plan and hold earthquake drills for your family. To learn more about planned earthquake drills in your area, visit
  • Identify two ways to escape from every room in the home.
  • Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person's bed.
  • Select a safe location away from the home where your family can meet after evacuating.
  • Have an earthquake kit containing water, food, medicines and other necessities for at least three days
  • Make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation
  • Strap water heaters, appliances and TVs to wall studs.
  • Anchor bookshelves, heavy furniture, appliances and televisions to wall studs.
  • Secure pictures, mirrors and ornaments to the wall with appropriate fasteners.
  • Know where and how to shut off electricity, gas, and water services.

For more information

Additional Guidance from FEMA Number
Earthquake School Hazard Hunt Game and Poster  
Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt Poster FEMA 528
Drop, Cover, and Hold Poster FEMA 529
Earthquake Publications for Individuals and Homeowners FEMA P-711CD
Earthquake Safety Checklist FEMA B-526
Earthquake Safety Guide for Homeowners FEMA 530
What To Do Before, During, and After an Earthquake a 1-page summary of FEMA 530  
FEMA Earthquake Mitigation video showcases Hearst Castle and a business owner both of whom mitigated for earthquake risk, thus saving priceless cultural treasures, properties and human lives  
Homebuilders' Guide to Earthquake Resistant Design and Construction FEMA 232
Reducing the Risks of Nonstructural Earthquake Damage — A Practical Guide, Fourth Edition FEMA E-74


Devastating floods occur throughout the U.S. every year. Ninety percent of all presidentially declared natural disasters involve flooding. Flooding is usually divided into two categories: flash flooding and river flooding. Both can cause death, injury and property destruction. If you are building or retrofitting your home consider these recommendations:

  • Elevating your home above the base flood elevation (the elevation associated with the "100-year flood") is the best method of protecting your home, and is a requirement for new homes.
  • Wet flood proofing your home allows flood water to flow through the structure. An example of wet flood proofing is installing flood vents that create permanent openings in the foundation.
  • Dry flood proofing your home prevents floodwaters from entering the building. An example of dry flood proofing is installing new brick veneer over asphalt coating and applying polyethylene film over existing walls.
  • Construct non-supporting, break-a-way walls designed to collapse under the force of water without causing damage to the foundation.
  • Use flood damage-resistant materials below the base flood elevation.
Additional Guidance from FEMA Number
Protect Your Property From Flooding Fact Sheets  
Hurricane Sandy Recovery Advisories  
2008 Midwest Floods in Iowa and Wisconsin Recovery Advisories  
Foundation Requirements and Recommendations for Elevated Homes  
Homeowner's Guide to Retrofitting Third Edition FEMA P-312
Above the Flood Elevating Your Flood Prone House FEMA P-347
FEMA Map Service Center provides access to Flood Maps and flood-related Databases  
Flood Resistant Building Code Resources  
FloodSmart Cost of Flooding Interactive Tool shows what a flood could cost homeowners  
FloodSmart Levee Simulatorshows different ways a levee can fail and reminds everyone that a levee doesn't guarantee your home's protection  
FloodSmart Regional Fact Sheets explain facts about flooding in each region, risks during Summer Storms & Hurricane Season, and informational tips to reduce risk:  
FloodSmart Testimonial Videos are real life stories about flooding and its aftermath  
Engineering Principles and Practices of Retrofitting Floodprone Residential Structures FEMA P-259
Floodproofing Non-Residential Buildings FEMA P-936
Protecting Manufactured Homes from Floods and Other Hazards FEMA P-85
NFIP Technical Bulletins  
Protecting Building Utilities from Flood Damage FEMA P-348


A well-built home can stand up to hurricanes. FLASH provides homeowners the tools to make sure your house is hurricane-ready with the Protect Your Home in a FLASH program.

More Information on Preparing for Hurricanes by Simpson Strong-Tie

Additional Guidance from FEMA Number
Coastal Construction Manual FEMA P-55
Cleaning Flooded Buildings: Hurricane Sandy Fact Sheet  
Home Builder's Guide to Coastal Construction FEMA P-499
Hurricane Ike Recovery Advisories  
Hurricane Isaac Recovery Advisories  
Hurricane Katrina Recovery Advisories  
Hurricane Sandy Recovery Advisories  
Local Officials Guide for Coastal Construction  FEMA P-762
Recommended Residential Construction for Coastal Areas: Building on Strong and Safe Foundations FEMA P-550

Tornadoes and High Winds

A properly built, high wind safe room protects your family from the most intense tornadoes and hurricanes and can be incorporated into a planned build or renovation to create a multiuse space in your home, adding to its value. FLASH urges homeowners to "Give an Ordinary Room an Extraordinary Purpose" by building or retrofitting interior spaces in their home to safe-room standards.

  • Tornado safe rooms are designed to withstand winds up to 250 miles per hour, and offer lifesaving refuge for families in the path of high-wind events like tornadoes.
  • A safe room designed to meet standards set forth by the National Storm Shelter Association, the International Code Council and FEMA and will stand up to the most intense tornadoes and hurricanes.
  • Safe rooms can be located anywhere on the first floor of your home, in a basement or outside. A safe room can double as a closet, bathroom, laundry or even an outdoor room like a garden shed or pool house.

More Information on Preparing for Tornados and High Winds by Simpson Strong-Tie

Additional Guidance from FEMA Number
2011 Tornadoes in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and Missouri Recovery Advisories  
Community Safe Room Fact Sheet  
Protect Your Property from High Winds Fact Sheets  
Residential Safe Room Fact Sheet  
Flood Hazard Elevation and Siting Criteria for Residential Safe Rooms  
Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms FEMA P-361
Taking Shelter from the Storm Building a Safe Room for your Home or Small Business FEMA P-320 –
Taking Shelter from the Storm Building a Safe Room for your Home or Small Business (brochure) FEMA L-233
Tornado Protection Selecting Refuge Area in Buildings FEMA P-431
Wind Retrofit Guide for Residential Buildings FEMA P-804
Building Science for Disaster-Resistant Communities: Wind Hazard Publications (brochure)  


Each year, thousands of acres of wildland and many homes are destroyed by fires that can erupt at any time of the year. Wildfires spread quickly, igniting brush, trees and homes. You can protect your home by following these tips.

  • Prevent wildfire damage by developing a defensible space in your landscaping by clearing at least 30 feet around your home, or 50 feet around your home if you reside in a heavily wooded area.
  • Plant fire-resistant, native vegetation and remove any dead or dying trees. Properly prune shrubs, and trim tree branches so they don't extend over a roof or near the chimney. Mow your grass and control the height and spread of ground covering vegetation. Keep plants at least 12 to 18 inches away from the house.
  • When putting on a new patio deck, build from fire-resistant materials. On new and existing decks, create fire barriers around the deck base and clear vegetation at least 100 to 300 feet downhill from the deck base.
  • Install only burning-brand, exposure rated (Class A, B or C) roof assemblies using materials such as asphalt shingles, slate or clay tile or metal roof coverings.
Additional Guidance from FEMA Number
Home Builder's Guide to Construction in Wildfire Zones Technical Fact Sheet Series FEMA P-737
Protect Your Property from Fire Fact Sheets  
Rebuilding After a Wildfire Fact sheet  
Wildfire Hazard Mitigation Handbook for Public Facilities FEMA P-754

Important Disaster Safety & Mitigation Links

FEMA Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration's Building Science Branch develops and produces multi-hazard mitigation guidance, provides training on this guidance and works closely with the ICC and other partners to develop disaster-resilient building codes to reduce loss of life and property.  Building Science's Mitigation Assessment Teams (MATs) are comprised of expert investigators who deploy into the field post-disaster to assess the damages and make recommendations for future technical guidance and building code improvements. Download disaster-specific MAT reports and find out how to join a future MAT team.

Other helpful disaster safety and mitigation links include:
10 Tips for Disaster Safety & Mitigation Flyer (Download and make copies for events)
FEMA Building Codes Toolkit for Homeowners
Find more building safety resources in the Catalog of FEMA Building Science Branch Publications and Training Courses, FEMA P-787
Find more earthquake resources in the Catalog of FEMA Earthquake Resources, FEMA P-736B
Flood Cleanup: Safety and Salvaging Brochure
For more information on mitigating critical facilities such as hospitals, schools, and fire stations, see FEMA's Risk Management Series for Natural Disasters
High Wind Safe Rooms
Learn about how building safety and sustainability are linked in Natural Hazards and Sustainability for Residential Buildings, FEMA P-798
Mold: Tips on Prevention and Control Brochure
Protect Your Home in a FLASH
Safety First-Disaster Preparedness: Tips for your Home and Family Brochure
Watch Disaster Safety "How-To" Videos
National Building Museum Designing for Disaster Exhibit and Blog

Simpson Strong-Tie

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