Stronger buildings equal safer citizens

This week Mississippi will celebrate a major victory in policymaking by the Mississippi Legislature with the enactment of Senate Bill 2378, which strengthens the state’s building codes.

While we celebrate this step toward safety today, the work towards strengthening building codes dates back several years, even before the state was devastated by hurricanes Katrina, Dennis and Rita in 2005. These storms caused massive amounts of damage and highlighted that Mississippi was deemed to have some of the weakest building standards of all hurricane prone states.

However, starting August 1st, builders will be required to fortify new buildings with materials that can more effectively stand up to Mother Nature.

Whether it be a hurricane along the coast, or a severe weather event anywhere in the state, the people of Mississippi stand to be better protected under this new law.

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, several lawmakers and the insurance industry placed a high priority on passing this legislation. Commissioner Chaney was instrumental in leading the Mississippi Windstorm Mitigation Council, which was created during the 2011 Legislative Session for the purpose of developing and implementing a comprehensive and coordinated approach for windstorm mitigation. The mitigation council, reviewed the needs and recommended a statewide minimum code for adoption during the 2013 Legislative Session. While opposition in some quarters of the state stopped the legislation in 2013, lawmakers took positive action and passed the bill this year.

The insurance industry supports strong building codes because we’ve seen firsthand the personal and financial impact that inadequate standards can have on a family.

Whether it is tropical storm or a strong EF4 tornado like the one that devastated portions of Hattiesburg and the surrounding area in February of 2013, these statewide codes will protect the people of Mississippi and their property by ensuring residential and commercial buildings are now built to withstand greater hurricane force wind and impacts from flying debris.

Having stronger building codes in place could potentially save consumers money, reduce damage and speed up recovery efforts following a storm. Most importantly, it could save lives.

When it comes to protecting the health, safety and welfare of the people of Mississippi, there is no question about the value of this legislation. Stronger buildings equal safer citizens.

Donovan Brown is the state government relations counsel for Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.