In an effort that puts crash test dummies to shame, several insurance companies are working together to build a new testing facility for home hurricane preparedness. The Institute for Business & Home Safety, along with several insurers like FM Global, State Farm, Nationwide and Allstate are working together improve home hurricane mitigation and safety codes by building what amounts to a hurricane wind simulator, a wind tunnel that creates hurricane force winds and tests how well different homes stand up to the storm. The Wall Street Journal described these efforts:
“The insurance industry is doing its best to create a tempest in a teapot.
On Tuesday, the industry-funded Institute for Business & Home Safety will open a facility that breaks new ground in the world of disaster labs: replicating hurricane conditions on a large scale.
The $40 million research center, set on 90 acres in Richburg, S.C., features a massive test chamber as tall as a six-story building that can hold nine 2,300-square-foot homes on a turntable. Those homes can be subjected to tornado-strength winds generated by 105 giant fans. Mix in water from the 750,000-gallon tanks, and researchers can simulate Category 3 hurricanes.”
Built without using taxpayer dollars, research from this facility could save billions of dollars in storm damage and save hundreds of lives. Mitigation before a storm hits is the best way to minimize damage from a storm, the market is responding well to the challenge of hurricane preparedness, and no government intervention was needed.
“The property industry has been on a research craze for years, bringing science to bear on how buildings withstand natural disasters. Underwriters Laboratories Inc. in Northbrook, Ill., ignited parts of the World Trade Center flooring in a gas furnace after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to see how the flooring affected the building’s collapse.”
Insurance companies all along the Gulf Coast have been hammered by legislators in recent years for not bringing down prices along the coasts and not working to help consumers prepare for storms. These populist complaints are both disingenuous and politically motivated. The number one concern of insurers needs to be maintaining solvency; charging rates that allow an insurer to cover the cost of claims after a storm hits. Government has made this near impossible in some states, leading insurers to stop writing polices there. Projects like the disaster lab prove that insurers care about mitigating storm damage, it is in their own interest to limit damage and lower claims.