By S.E. Slack

Is your home ready for the next natural disaster? If the Department of Homeland Security has its way, it will be. The DHS recently announced a pilot project called Resilience STAR Home. The goal is to help builders, contractors and homeowners take proactive steps to enhance the resilience of the homes in their communities and create homes that are better equipped to withstand natural disasters.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety is partnering with DHS on the pilot project. Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO, says that resilient building design and practices are critical to avoiding the costly rebuilding efforts that occur after tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters strike.

"Resilience STAR comes along as the 2013 Hurricane Season ends, and we are very fortunate that no major storm made landfall in the U.S. this year," she says. "Given that most people are not able to move out of the way to escape Mother Nature’s fury, what else can be done to help communities better withstand the devastating disasters that will continue to plague our nation?"

The only alternative to moving structures out of nature’s path, she says, is to strengthen them.

The DHS spent two years identifying rigorous, yet achievable and affordable, standards for the initial Pilot Project. It selected IBHS’ hazard-specific retrofits and all-hazard, new construction standards as the sole construction and building criteria for the Resilience STAR pilot project.

Using these standards, says Rochman, will allow residents to remain in their homes following catastrophes and make necessary repairs, instead of moving out and rebuilding the entire structure. Businesses, too, will be able to return to normal operations more quickly.

Pilot communities featuring new construction and retrofitted homes will be selected. Currently only single-family homes are eligible to participate in the program.