Insurance Commissioner McCarty Calls For Tougher Building Codes For Panhandle
TALLAHASSEE (July 11, 2006) – Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty today testified before the Florida Building Commission (FBC) on the need to expand Florida's tougher building codes to areas of the Panhandle that had been exempted. The Florida Building Code allows wind-borne debris regions from Franklin County to Escambia County to be limited to one mile from the coast, instead of the five (5) to 20 miles that is typical for the rest of the state.
McCarty testified to the FBC that attracting global reinsurers back to Florida is vital to addressing the affordability and availability problems in the state's insurance market and the industry knows that homes built to the updated Florida building codes survived the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes extremely well. Therefore, "I am asking the Florida Building Commission to be proactive by passing tougher building standards for the Florida Panhandle region and bring this region up to par with the rest of the state," McCarty said.
McCarty said that the assumption that the Panhandle is less likely to be hit by hurricanes than southern or central Florida has been disproved during the last two hurricane seasons. While McCarty admitted that another assumption – that tree coverage in the Panhandle would mitigate the possibility of damage – has some merit, he pointed to public and private studies, in addition to the extensive inland hurricane damage on the Gulf coast, to make the case that this theory no longer can justify the Panhandle carve out.
Pointing to a survey by the Institute for Business and Home Safety which showed that 72% of Floridians in the Panhandle want homebuilders to construct homes with wind-borne debris protection, even at a higher cost to home buyers, McCarty called on the FBC to end the Panhandle exemption from the wind-borne debris requirements.
Today's workshop was the final chance for public comment before the FBC holds a final vote on the future of the Panhandle wind-borne debris regions on August 23rd. Florida's statewide building code currently requires wind-borne debris protections in areas subject to 120 mph winds.