CHARLOTTE, NC -- (Marketwired) -- 05/23/13 -- The deadly tornadoes that ravaged North Texas and Moore, Oklahoma in the days leading up to and following the Build it Better Leadership Forum in Charlotte, NC underscored the Forum's key takeaways about the critical importance of strengthening buildings in the face of natural disasters.
The Build it Better Leadership Forum brought together more than two hundred scientists, meteorologists, construction experts and safety advocates for two days of discussion and brainstorming about how to help communities build stronger buildings that can better resist the impact of natural disasters.
As Forum delegates left with important action items to help advance disaster safety, the most recent tragedy in Moore, Oklahoma offered a powerful reminder of the urgency of this work.
Leslie Chapman-Henderson, President and CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) and co-presenter of the Forum, said the devastating effects of Monday's deadly tornado in Oklahoma laid bare the fact that families live at constant risk when homes and communities are not disaster-resilient.
"We must drive policy that delivers stronger, safer and smarter ways to build and rebuild so that our nation's communities are better equipped to confront tomorrow's extreme weather," urged Chapman-Henderson. "Promptly adopting and enforcing modern, model building codes will help save lives, offer families greater financial security and shorten recovery time after catastrophic events like the Moore tornado."
As the Build it Better Forum concluded, before the devastation of Moore captured the nation's attention, Build it Better Forum leaders hailed important progress in making some communities in America safer from natural disasters. "While we face daunting challenges, the participants at this Forum reminded us to be inspired by our many successes," said Stephen Weinstein, Chairman of the RenaissanceRe Risk Sciences Foundation, the lead sponsor for the Forum. Weinstein noted Florida's My Safe Florida Home retrofit grant program which helped more than 25,000 households become more disaster resilient. He also highlighted the South Carolina Safe Home Program as a model for pragmatic, cost effective mitigation. "In North Carolina families have moved to safer ground and high risk areas have been transformed for community use and natural habitats," continued Weinstein. "These are important successes that need to be celebrated while we rededicate ourselves to the hard work that remains in helping other parts of America better prepare for disaster situations."
Julie Rochman, President and CEO of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), a Forum co-sponsor, said disaster safety experts largely know what steps are needed to make the country and its buildings more disaster resilient. "We can see the path forward to make our buildings stronger and communities less vulnerable to disasters," noted Rochman. "What we need to do is summon the political will in America to make the changes needed to help us become a safer nation."
National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb, PhD., who helped open the Forum in Charlotte last week, summed up the sentiment of participants when he said, "Preparedness is an annual event but resilience is a permanent topic."
North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin also addressed Forum attendees. In his remarks, Goodwin applauded North Carolina's lower than average insurance premiums in comparison to other states and said the lower rates were "largely due in part to improvements made to our Beach Plan and excellent working relationships with our stakeholders." Goodwin also underscored the value of mitigation in keeping rates lower and reducing property losses in disaster.
Additional featured speakers and experts at the conference included:
•Bill Read, Former Director of the National Hurricane Center; currently Severe Weather Expert at
KPRC-TV, Houston •Margaret Davidson, Director of NOAA's Coastal Services Center •Chris Estes, President and CEO, National Housing Conference
Panel discussions addressed the unforeseen consequences from Hurricane Sandy and the complexity of the emergency management and rescue efforts along with the compounding effects of wind and water on community infrastructure.
Other panels addressed commercial and residential building exposure in the face of severe weather with a look at steps some communities have taken to better protect themselves through building codes, natural protections, better construction designs and the application of modern building science. Experts also discussed which states are most and least prepared for severe weather and why, and how low income communities can better prepare for, and respond to, natural disasters.
The Build it Better Leadership Forum was sponsored by the RenaissanceRe Risk Sciences Foundation along with the Coastal Hazards Center, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), the National Housing Conference and the Center for Housing Policy, the UNC Center for the Study of Natural Hazards & Disasters and WeatherPredict Consulting, Inc. Additional information about the Build it Better Leadership Forum is available at www.mitigationleadership.com.
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