Insurance Commissioner To Urge Commission To End Panhandle Carve-Out From State Building Code
TALLAHASSEE (8/18/2006) – Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty will testify to the Florida Building Commission next week to urge an end to the panhandle carve-out from the most recent and stricter state building codes.
Florida's statewide building code currently requires wind-borne debris protections in areas subject to 120 mph winds. However, the code also allows wind-borne debris regions from Franklin County to Escambia County to be limited to one mile from the coast, instead of the five to 20 miles that is typical for the rest of the state.
The Florida Panhandle exemption has been based on two premises: that hurricanes are much less likely to hit the Florida Panhandle than southern and central Florida, and that tree coverage lessens wind-borne debris, which in turn, lessens wind storm damage.
"To say that the panhandle is not likely to be hit with catastrophic hurricanes, after what we have seen over the past two years, is to deny reality," said McCarty. "And to think that trees, many of which will be cut down in the construction process, will meaningfully reduce wind risk is to enter fantasyland. The unfortunate truth is that families who live in houses built to reduced codes will suffer tragic consequences in the future due to lack of action by the Commission."
A survey by the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) 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. Moreover, 64% were unaware that the building standards were weaker in the Panhandle than for the rest of the state. Strengthening building standards in this region can also encourage more insurance capital to enter our state --- which ultimately will translate to greater competition in the property insurance market, and lower premium rates for consumers.
Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) President and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson will testify with McCarty at the FBC meetings. The FBC voted to retain the panhandle carve-out at its July meeting; the final vote on the issue will take place at next week's meetings. The meetings are scheduled for August 21st and 22nd at the Don Shula Hotel, 6842 Main Street, in Miami Lakes.
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