There is certainly a lot to love about granite counter tops, custom cabinetry and other aesthetic investments, but what happens when Mother Nature challenges your home? Designer upgrades won’t protect your property and family during a natural disaster. Homeowners now are starting to make the prudent choice to upgrade their existing homes, or to purchase a new home that is stronger and safer. That truly is the first step in building a FORTIFIED home. There are several factors that go into making this choice.

IBHS (Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety) created the FORTIFIED Home™ program to help strengthen homes from hurricanes, high winds, hail, and severe thunderstorms. Protect your home from natural disasters by using FORTIFIED Home construction standards and methods. IBHS applied years of research to develop a holistic set of resilient construction standards proven to make homes more resistant to high winds and wind-driven rain.

The following is the origin of a fortified house. It is a type of building which developed in Europe during the Middle Ages. Generally beginning as a traditional manor house or noble residence it would later be fortified to a more military styling with the addition of gate houses, stone walls, towers or other such features to create a fortified house.

The definition of fortified: 1. to protect or strengthen against attack; surround or provide with defensive military works. 2. to furnish with a means of resisting force or standing strain or wear: to fortify.


Fortified homes can save homeowners money. Fortified for Safer Living is a program developed by the Institute for Business & Home Safety, or IBHS, a nonprofit funded by the insurance industry to advocate for stronger construction in both new and existing homes. It sets standards that, when met, will often qualify a home or business for discounts from property insurers. Most homes don’t have the kind of roof system that qualifies for discounts. What’s needed is a secondary water barrier, so that if the roof blows off in a storm, there is a back-up underneath to prevent water damage, according to IBHS. Consumers often think that if their home is built to code that it automatically qualifies as a Fortified house, and that is not the case, said Darius Grimes, president of Disaster Smart Inspection Consulting in Cantonment, Fla. Many consumers carry misconceptions about building codes. They mistake “built to code” to mean complete safety, not realizing that standard building codes are minimum standards that don’t provide the protection you need during a severe weather event. Building codes don’t reduce property damage. They are primarily meant to give you enough time to get you and your family safely out of the home—not to insure you have a home to come back to once the severe weather has passed.

A FORTIFIED home has a higher value on the market. A new independent research study sponsored by the Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research (ACIIR) at the University of Alabama confirms the monetary value of a stronger home. The study found that switching from a conventional construction standard to a FORTIFIED designation increases the value of a home by nearly 7%, holding all other variables constant.


IBHS has developed programs for new (FORTIFIED for Safer Living) and existing (FORTIFIED for Existing Homes) homes which specify standards for building and retrofitting homes to better withstand these natural disasters:

  • FORTIFIED for Safer Living is a package of code-plus construction requirements that strengthen a home’s roof and wall systems, openings (e.g., windows and doors), and foundation.  Currently about 200 homes meet the Fortified for Safer Living requirements.
  • FORTIFIED for Existing Homes was launched in 2010, and provides standards for strengthening existing homes through retrofit techniques at the bronze, silver and gold levels:

Bronze level addresses improving the roof system and attic ventilation system.

Silver level addresses improving exterior opening protection, in addition to meeting bronze requirements.

Gold level addresses, in addition to meeting bronze and silver requirements, the design and installation of a continuous load path, which is a method of construction similar to a chain that ties the house together from the roof to the foundation.


FORTIFIED construction has been tested in real life.  Prior to Hurricane Ike, IBHS designated 17 FORTIFIED for Safer Living homes in Galveston, TX.  Of these 17 homes, 14 survived Hurricane Ike.  The three homes that did not survive were damaged by neighboring houses that did not meet FORTIFIED requirements.  These neighboring homes were washed off their foundations and slammed into the FORTIFIED homes.

Independent inspections add value and peace of mind. One of the strengths of the program is that independent, third-party, FORTIFIED Inspectors, evaluate every FORTIFIED home before, during and after construction to ensure compliance with program requirements. IBHS certifies only those evaluators who have completed a comprehensive training program, passed an exam, and who meet IBHS’ rigorous professional requirements. When you buy a FORTIFIED home, you can be assured it was built using the resilient construction standards that allow it to withstand severe weather.




The Impact of FORTIFIED Building Standards