Government minimum flood elevation requirements along the Gulf Coast region are too low to prevent flooding, according to a new report from Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).

The report, “Hurricane Ike: Nature's Force vs. Structural Strength,” assessed the damage caused by Hurricane Ike, which made landfall near Galveston, Texas on Sept. 13, 2008.

IBHS contends the base flood elevation (BFE) mandated by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is insufficient, leaving many homes and businesses vulnerable to storm surge. Accordingly, IBHS urges the NFIP to provide greater incentives for building well above the minimum elevations now in place, noting that an estimated $9 trillion of insured coastal property are vulnerable to hurricanes.

"Simply put, the study found that many properties are not built high enough to withstand storm surges, tightly enough to prevent water from causing interior damage or strongly enough to prevent damage when high winds strike." IBHS President and CEO Julie Rochman said in a statement.

IBHS SVP of Research and Chief Engineer Dr. Tim Reinhold added that, while most homes in coastal areas are built to or slightly above 100-year base flood elevations, they are still at risk.

"A 100-year flood means that the level of flood water has a 1% chance of being equaled or exceeded in any single year,” he said. “However, it is well recognized in the engineering community that coastal homes built to this level have a 26 % chance of being
flooded or demolished over the life of a 30-year mortgage. "All it takes is a breaking wave about 2 feet above the base of a house to knock out the bottom floor or destroy a frame house."

Reinhold stressed that mitigation efforts need not be financially onerous.

"The chances of destruction can be significantly reduced by employing what has been learned about the importance of proper elevation, which can be relatively inexpensive when building a coastal home," he continued. "For example, building to a 500-year base flood elevation reduces the chance of storm surge exceeding the base elevation to about 10 % in a 50-year period."

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