Mississippi has enacted its first statewide building code that is designed to set construction guidelines to strengthen homes and other buildings from hurricane and other weather-related damage.
Governor Phil Bryant signed the legislation that advocates have been calling for since 2005 when the state was hit by hurricanes Katrina, Dennis and Rita.
The new law requires cities and counties to adopt as a minimum standard any of the last three editions of the International Building Code and any additional codes as adopted by the Mississippi Building Code Council.
The local governments would also have to enforce other Mississippi Building Code Council requirements addressing electrical, plumbing, fuel gas and other systems.
The codes, however, do not apply to industrial facilities such as factories, utility stations, gas and oil plants and pipelines. Farm buildings and fishing camps are also excluded.
The new building codes are scheduled to take effect August 1, 2014.
The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, in an August 2011 study, found that Mississippi rated the lowest among the 18 states along the country’s eastern coastline in terms of having any building guidelines in place.
Only seven coastal area counties in the state were required to enforce the wind and flood requirements of the 2003 International Residential Code. However, there was no mandatory enforcement or programs or requirements for inspectors.
The IBHS noted that Mississippi is not only highly exposed to damage from hurricanes, but also to windstorm events and fires.
IBHS President Julie Rochman praised Mississippi’s leaders for taking steps to mitigate those disasters.
“We can’t move buildings out of the way when Mother Nature roars, but we can make sure they are built stronger and safer so they are more resistant to sever weather events,” said Rochman. “Mississippi knows it is not a matter of if another storm will hit, but when will it hit.”
The new building codes also had the support of industry groups including the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. Contractor groups also supported the measure.
PCI State Government Counsel Donovan Brown commended Mississippi lawmakers for implementing the building codes.
“Having stronger building codes in place could potentially save consumers money, reduce damage and speed up recovery efforts following a storm,” said Brown.