FOLEY – Foley leads almost every city in the United States in building homes designed to withstand the impact of hurricanes and other weather events, according to the most recent report from SmartHomes America.
Foley ranked third in the country in the number of homes designated as “fortified.” Fortified homes are built with reinforced roofs and other measures intended to protect the buildings from storm damage.
Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich said city building codes require the higher standard of protection.
“All the new houses are pretty much being built to the gold standard now,” Hellmich said. “Our codes require the windows and doors to be built to a certain level along with tie downs.”
Hellmich said Alabama leads the country in the number of fortified homes and several Baldwin cities are near the top of the list for the state.
“Foley is one of the top three fortified cities in the nation,” Hellmich said. “It mainly has to do with roofs. Alabama has the most fortified homes in the United States. Fairhope, Foley and Daphne are all in the top four.”
Graham Green, communications director for SmarHomes Alabama, said the fortified homes program began several years ago. Hurricane Sally showed the importance of building or reinforcing homes to the stronger standards.
“Having that many fortified homes in a city really increases the chances of reduced damage during the next storm,” Green said. “”We already saw that after Sally with the number of fortified homes that Foley had even then. There was a clear difference just driving around, which houses were fortified and which were not. It absolutely makes a big difference.”
Green said Coastal Alabama had about 17,000 fortified homes when Sally hit in 2020.
“Of the fortified houses in Mobile-Baldwin counties affected by Sally, approximately 97% had little to no damage at all, not enough to trigger the deductible,” Green said. “When you dig a little further into that and take out tree-falls and that kind of damage that fortified isn’t designed to prevent and cannot prevent, it’s actually closer to 99%.”
Green said putting fortified standards in building codes, as Foley has done, helps protect property and the community. Homeowners can get tax breaks and reduced insurance rates when they fortify their houses.
“The advantage of a fortified house in Foley or anywhere in Baldwin County is that our building codes already include most of the features of fortified,” Green said.
He said the codes mean that the many new homes being built in the area are already protected.
“Foley is just growing, growing so quickly and the fact that they have fortified in their code is an investment in the strength and durability of the buildings in Foley and thereby the resiliency of the community as a whole,” Green said.
Foley has 4,466 fortified homes, according to the Smarthomes report. Mobile has the most fortified homes with 6,320, followed by Fairhope with 4,877. Daphne has 4,310.
Green said that more than 44,000 homes are designated as fortified across the country. Of those, about 36,000 are in Alabama.