Last year’s hurricane season was demonstrated full force mid-year when hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Jose ripped through the Houston area, most of Florida, and the Caribbean – causing hundreds of billions of dollars in damages.

In recent years, federal and state governments have joined with local authorities to greatly upgrade the codes and regulations governing design and build efforts in regions commonly besieged by severe storms. As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, one pattern is beginning to emerge: Structures built to the stricter building codes seem to have fared better.

For example, in 1992, Hurricane Andrew ravaged the Bahamas and Florida with sustained winds topping more than 160 mph. As a result, Florida enacted some of the nation’s strongest building regulations. Among the provisions were requirements for stronger fasteners to secure roofing and the installation of missile-impact resistance glass to better protect windows from wind-borne debris.

To prepare for these occurrences, FEMA offers guidelines designed to shield buildings from avoidable storm damage. According to FEMA, windows should be:

  1. correctly designed and anchored to resist wind pressures;
  2. adequately protected to resist windborne debris;
  3. sufficiently flashed and weather-stripped to limit water infiltration; and
  4. appropriately selected to resist local conditions.

In addition, FEMA’s website says the most effective solution is impact-resistant glazing systems. These systems provide “in-situ” protection and require no human action or involvement after installation. An example of products proven to withstand extreme forces is MI Windows and Door’s StormArmor™ line of vinyl and aluminum windows and sliding glass doors.

Every building located in areas frequented by severe storms should also be properly evaluated for their ability to withstand strong hurricane-force winds. As mandated by the American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM) and the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), impact-resistant windows are required to undergo a stringent series of tests.

The ASTM E1996 impact-resistant test starts with a 2x4 being fired from a cannon into the window. Next, the window is subject to 4,500 positive and 4,500 negative pressure cycles at 20 percent to 100 percent of its design pressure rating to simulate the high-pressure winds created by hurricanes.

Although many building owners may be reluctant to invest in impact-resistant windows, which can be three times the cost of standard windows, the value of such products is frequently recouped by the people whose structures are regularly besieged by severe storm conditions. Like homeowner’s insurance, most people purchase protective policies with the hope of never filing a claim. But these hurricane-resistant products will always be in place to protect against severe threats when they do arise.