Our welcome home party for a 94-year-old World War II veteran a decade after Hurricane Katrina was cause for neighborhood celebration. It attracted national media and included a military color guard that hung an American flag on the porch.

But upon reflection of that day, it was sobering and transformative to realize that all the celebration and happiness only happened because a family suffered — for years. That change in perspective led us to evolve our mission from being reactive — rebuilding homes after a disaster — to being preventive.

Healing from disaster can only progress so far before the fear of a future storm stalls out that healing process. If you’re afraid that another storm will throw you back to where you were after the last one, how deeply can you really sleep at night?

We wanted to take a leadership role in bringing resiliency into the recovery process, so several years ago we partnered with Travelers and the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). FORTIFIED standards, developed by IBHS, are the result of 20 years of data from storm damage field investigations and lab testing. These design and construction standards protect against hurricanes, hailstorms, low-level tornados and severe thunderstorms.

We received Louisiana’s first FORTIFIED Gold standard certification for a residential building in 2019. Since then we’ve incorporated FORTIFIED standards into more than 115 homes across our operating sites.

Louisiana’s first GOLD-certified home in New Orleans. This means the roof is stronger and walls, windows and doors will withstand winds and windborne debris.

For many of the communities we’re working with— the elderly on fixed incomes or low-income families— having a FORTIFIED roof provides stability not only to the physical structure of the home but also in peace of mind in not having to be in the exact same vulnerable position should a storm hit again.

We’re building upon our FORTIFIED knowledge and layering in additional resiliency measures for our homeowners — things like incorporating resilient flooring and PVC cabinets, which have a lower water absorption property that makes them easier than wood to clean and restore after water damage. We’re also adding additional structural bracing for roofs and storm-impact windows. In southwest Louisiana, where Hurricanes Laura and Delta packed a one-two punch, 100% of SBP projects will receive FORTIFIED roofs.

FORTIFIED roofs (like the one above on a home we rebuilt in southwest Louisiana) don’t look different from a traditionally constructed roof and only cost about $600 more. What’s underneath is a sealed roof deck and stronger roof sheathing attachment, which help keep the roof on and water out during high winds.

This sort of resilient building strengthens communities for the future. We know we can’t prevent storms from happening. If anything, climate change will make them worse, so we’ll continue to find ways to reduce the damage they cause.

Thomas Corley is SBP’s Continuous Improvement Officer overseeing the standardization of SBP’s operational practices.

Bringing discipline & innovation to create social impact. Shrinking the time between disaster & recovery for at-risk communities. sbpusa.org