Did Builder Groups Block Insurance Industry Move to Require More Storm Shelters?


A 2012 insurance industry proposal to make tornado shelters part of the building code for large commercial and residential buildings was blocked by construction and building management interests, the New York Times reported.

The idea of requiring storm-safe rooms in some structures in storm-prone areas was pitched by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety in 2012, after a powerful tornado killed 162 people in Joplin, Missouri. But a committee of the International Code Council voted down the plan as impractical, technically flawed and too expensive.

Safe rooms are now getting new scrutiny as a possible solution, as storms appear to be growing in intensity around the country. An outbreak of tornadoes on Dec. 10 killed six workers at an Amazon facility in Illinois and nine at a candle-making site in Kentucky. Concrete safe rooms were not available, officials have said.

The Times reported that building materials and techniques exist to make wind-resistant safe rooms, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology has also endorsed the concept. But builder groups, including the National Association of Home Builders, the Building Owners and Managers Association and even some hospital association leaders have consistently opposed code requirements in order to help hold down construction costs, the report said. Many existing building codes, adopted by state and local governments, may not require construction standards that can withstand heightened wind and rain events, some critics have said.

“There’s a lot of building codes in this country that are based on hope: ‘We just hope it won’t be that bad,’” Craig Fugate, a former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told the Times. “And people die.”

Builders’ groups declined to comment to the Times about the report.

Photo: Search and rescue crews work at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory on Dec. 12, 2021 in Mayfield, Ky. Tornadoes caused catastrophic damage across multiple states that weekend. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

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