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Insurance Problems And Hurricane Katrina Five Years Later

Posted by Joe Brennan | Posted in Homeowners Insurance, Insurance Advice, Insurance Claims Help, Insurance Dispute | Posted on 08-18-2010


Hurricane KatrinaInsurance Problems – When Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29, 2005, it caused an estimated $41.1 billion in insured losses across six states, and took an incalculable economic and social toll on many communities. Five years later, the recovery continues and some residents in the most severely affected states of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are still struggling. (Insurance Advice available for those still struggling).

Wanda Edwards, IBHS’ director of code development, analyzed the quality of building codes in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, with a particular emphasis on progress since Katrina. “Building codes along the Gulf Coast today are mostly disappointing, with only Louisiana getting high marks for taking proactive steps to adopt a statewide building code,” Edwards said.

“Five Years Later – Are We Better Prepared?” details IBHS’ analysis of pre- and post-Katrina building codes in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Key findings include:

  • Louisiana adopted a statewide code, but the state has struggled financially to staff and manage building inspection departments. Design professionals, contractors and subcontractors are still in the process of learning the new code and altering their construction practices in order to comply. Reports from code officials indicate it is a challenge to find qualified people to fill the role of inspectors.
  • Seven of Mississippi’s 82 counties are required to enforce the wind and flood requirements of the 2003 International Building Code (IBC) and 2003 International Residential Code (IRC).  In 2006, lawmakers created the Mississippi Building Code Council. After some initial progress, the push for statewide building code adoption met with significant opposition, which led to several unsuccessful legislative efforts.
  • Alabama has failed to adopt strong building codes statewide despite widespread damage from Hurricane Katrina. The limited building code requirements that do exist are governed by the Alabama Building Commission which requires state-owned buildings, hotels and motels, and movie theaters to follow the 2006 IBC. Individual cities are not prohibited from adopting modern codes, but adoption and enforcement is voluntary.  There have been numerous unsuccessful attempts in the Alabama Legislature to pass bills that would create a statewide code.

In 2009, Alabama passed a law requiring Alabama-admitted insurance companies to provide an insurance premium reduction to owners who build, rebuild or retrofit their homes in accordance with specified standards to better withstand hurricanes and other catastrophic windstorm events. Among these standards is the IBHS FORTIFIED for Safer Living® and FORTIFIED for Existing Homes™ programs, which employ code-plus design guidelines and retrofit measures for bringing existing homes in line with modern building codes. 

Homes built to modern codes are much less likely to be damaged during a hurricane, according to an IBHS study conducted in Charlotte County, Fla., where Hurricane Charley made landfall in 2004. The results from this study show that homes built to modern, well-enforced codes were 60 percent less likely to incur hurricane-related damage than homes constructed before the codes were adopted. The study also revealed that if damage did occur, it was likely to be 42 percent less severe. Furthermore, based on the analysis of additional living expense records, the strong building code requirements in place in Florida allowed homeowners to return to their houses more quickly and likely reduced the disruption of their daily lives.

“Modern building codes have been proven time and again to result in better performance for homes and businesses,” Edwards said. “States like Alabama and Mississippi must learn from their history of repeated hurricane exposures and do more to protect their citizens.”

RESOURCES: In the event you are still suffering from a Hurricane Katrina Claim and believe that you were short-changed by your insurance company you can still obtain Insurance Advice from Insurance Claims Group, Inc.

About the IBHS: IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific research organization supported by property insurers and reinsurers. The Institute works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks to residential and commercial property by conducting research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparation practices. Visit for more information about IBHS resources.

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(C) Joe Brennan is President and owner/operator of Insurance Claims Group, Inc., a national independent adjusting, appraisal, and umpiring firm. We will answer your claim questions FREE as part of our FREE Insurance Advice and Insurance Claim Consulting Services.

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Joe Brennan
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