Tornado test shows importance of reinforcing your home - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Tornado test shows importance of reinforcing your home

TAMPA, FL (WMC-TV) - Researchers recently blew down a perfectly good house to demonstrate how a few thousand dollars can help ensure high winds from a tornado or other disaster don't destroy your home.

Torturing houses to test their durability is the job of the catastrophe lab at the Institute for Business and Home Safety.

"This facility is incredible," researcher Anne Cope said. "It's unique.  There's none like it in the entire world."

Cope is a researcher at the institute who uses more than 100 fans, water cannons, and flaming embers to generate natural disasters.

"Now is the time to take a bigger step forward, and put a full scale building into a lab like ours to be able to see what's going on in mother nature," she said.

To do that, the lab's fans are used to produce winds of up to 100 miles an hour - the same gusts produced by the summer storm of 2003 in the Mid-South.  

"We'll be able to simulate hail, strike building components, and design better ways to prevent hail damage every year," Cope said.

Dr. Tim Reinhold says testing full-sized components is critical because some items, like shingles, can't be realistically scaled down.

"We know from a calculation standpoint what we expect to happen, but seeing it in the demonstration will be new to us as well," Reinhold said.

For a recent test, two identical homes built to the specifications of a house in the middle of Illinois were brought to the lab as test dummies.  One home was built of fortified materials, like metal straps along its base and roof.  The total cost of the reinforcement was about $5,000.

After demonstrations involving water, wind and debris, the reinforced house was still standing.  The other home, however, was a wreck.

"Superior construction so better than code, because code is a minimum standard for life safety, and we want people to do better than that," said IBHS CEO Julie Rochman.
Researchers at the Institute for Business and Home Safety say builders normally don't use higher-end, fortified materials unless a homeowner requests it, or if building codes require it.

Insurance companies paid for the tests, looking for ways to cut down on losses from natural disasters.

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