As Hurricane Florence approached North Carolina, our CEO Margot Brandenburg was invited to write a guest blog post for Medium. In the post, Margot took some time to reflect on the urgency of making weather-ready home upgrades accessible to everyone at risk, not just the people who can afford to pay for upgrades out of pocket.
Read Margot’s full blog post below or directly on Medium.
Innovating for disaster prevention, recovery + long-term resilience by Margot Brandenburg
This was supposed to be a mild hurricane season.
Unfortunately, all models predict that Hurricane Florence, a strong Category 4 storm, will hit the Eastern seaboard later this week with deadly force. Not only is it an unusually wide and strong storm, particularly for one so far north, but it is also expected to move very slowly over land. As we saw with Hurricane Harvey last year, sustained, intensive rainfall compounds the damage from hurricane-force winds. And, behind Florence sits two more storms making their way across the Atlantic.
Warmer and rising seas mean that hurricanes are expected to grow more intense in the future. At the same time, there have been record levels of property development along the coasts of the Southeast and Gulf Coast, making tens of millions of homes and families vulnerable to the next Harvey, Irma or Maria. Unfortunately, the innovation and resources needed to effectively manage this disaster risk have not kept pace with the growing number of people at risk.
MyStrongHome, a benefit corporation, fortifies houses against hurricane risk, and finances those upgrades with future insurance savings. It provides upgrades that are certified by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, and partners with insurers, who provide significant discounts in exchange for this designation. The model is the first of its kind, but incorporates mechanisms that have proven effective in energy efficiency and solar finance. MyStrongHome has fortified dozens of South Carolina homes against the storm risk they are currently facing.
It makes sense to build back stronger and better after a natural disaster, but experience reveals that long-term resilience measures can be difficult to implement in practice as communities recover. Understandably, attention is focused on addressing short-term needs. MSH works in New Orleans, where many homes have “Katrina roofs”, which were improperly installed after that catastrophe. A roof is a home’s first line of defense against storms, and if those Katrina roofs are already leaking, it is unlikely they are going to protect those homes and families when the next storm hits New Orleans.
At the same time, it is unfair (and ineffective!) to speak in abstract terms about resilience to communities who are suffering the aftermath of a disaster. Affected residents need the concrete tools and resources to rebuild their homes and their lives as quickly as possible. We have to bridge the gap between short-term need and long-term resilience as seamlessly as possible.
MyStrongHome’s model allows for families to return home as quickly as possible while providing them with a funding mechanism to make their homes stronger and better than before.
As last year’s Hurricane Irma demonstrated, many homeowners cannot afford the ‘named storm’ deductible included in their homeowners’ insurance policy, which is often much higher than their standard deductible. Following a hurricane, many homeowners face the double dilemma of needing to replace their roofs and paying for much of it before their insurance kicks in. Whether after Florence or a future storm, MyStrongHome can meet the immediate need to finance that deductible — and, in so doing, strengthen the house against future storms.