Modern building codes could prevent $1.6 billion in damage from natural disasters each year

States that could avoid the most losses

While FEMA analyzed 18.2 million buildings built in 2000 or later in the United States, only buildings with enough data were included in its model. A total of 12.4 million buildings were included in the three disaster models. As the number of buildings included in the model varied by condition, we also looked at the potential losses avoided per building analyzed.

Overall, Wisconsin could avoid the most losses per building. By adopting modern building codes, properties in Wisconsin could avoid $403,486 in potential disaster-related losses per year, or $2,416 per building. However, the potential savings can be much higher. Although FEMA only includes 167 Wisconsin buildings in its model, Wisconsin has 42,023 buildings built in 2000 or later.

Notably, FEMA classifies two counties in Wisconsin as high-risk, high-growth areas, meaning areas that have a large number of post-2000 buildings at significant risk. In these high-risk, high-growth Wisconsin counties, Dane has more than 9,000 post-2000 buildings, while Kenosha has more than 8,600.

Wisconsin’s potential losses consist entirely of potential flood damage. A total of 368,670 properties in Wisconsin are at risk of severe flooding over the next 30 years, according to the First Street Foundation’s risk factor, largely due to heavy rains. This represents 3% of all properties in Wisconsin.

States that could avoid the most annual losses per building by adopting modern codes

1 Wisconsin 167 $403,486 $2,416
2 Indiana 9,574 $16.3 million $1,704
3 Arizona 11,355 $17.5 million $1,543
4 Michigan 1,825 $2.5 million $1,391
5 Illinois 2,998 $3.9 million $1,300
6 Minnesota 4,270 $5.4 million $1,253
seven Montana 1,818 $2.2 million $1,232
8 North Dakota 1,426 $1.4 million $987
9 Kansas 3,024 $2.7 million $886
ten Iowa 3,358 $2.9 million $857
11 Nebraska 4,342 $3.6 million $828
12 Colorado 3,691 $2.4 million $639

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Indiana ranks second, with more than $16.3 million in potential losses avoided each year, or $1,704 per building. Meanwhile, Arizona — ranked third — could avoid more than $17.5 million in potential annual losses. This amounts to $1,543 per building.

Potential losses for both states consist entirely of flood damage. Indiana’s flood risk may seem apparent – the Midwestern state has experienced several destructive floods in the past, many of which have occurred because the state sits on the Ohio Basin, exposing surrounding communities at risk of river flooding. But while Arizona probably isn’t a state that comes to mind when you think of flooding, its flood risk stems from a defining characteristic of desert climates: the monsoon season. During Arizona’s monsoon season, which runs from June 15 to September 30, storms and flooding can strike quickly, bringing rapidly changing conditions.

By type of disaster, these states could avoid the most losses

Properties in the District of Columbia could avoid nearly $2,500 in flood losses per building — that’s the most of any flood-hit state. Its location (the nation’s capital is located between the Potomac and Anacostia rivers) and flatter elevation make it highly susceptible to flooding.

Of the 23 states included in the wind damage models, Florida could prevent the most wind loss at $514 per building — that’s mostly due to its hurricane risk. (Another ValuePenguin study on weather damage found that hurricanes were the leading cause of weather-related damage in the state, causing $4.8 billion in property damage over the past five years.)

States that could avoid the most annual losses per building by adopting modern hurricane wind codes

1 Florida $514
2 Caroline from the south $163
3 Alabama $87
4 Mississippi $67
5 Rhode Island $66
6 North Carolina $39
seven Massachusetts $35
8 New Jersey $30
9 Hawaii $29
ten New York $19
11 Connecticut $15
12 Delaware $13

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Meanwhile, of the six states included in earthquake damage models, Hawaii could prevent the most seismic losses at $56 per building. Volcanoes are largely responsible for Hawaii’s seismic activity, and of the thousands of earthquakes Hawaii experiences each year, the majority occur on and around the island of Hawaii. The southern districts of the island, where three of the most active volcanoes in the state are located, are the most affected by earthquakes.

After Hawaii, the states that could prevent the most seismic damage are:

  • California: $31 per building

  • Washington State: $21 per building

  • Utah: $13 per building

  • Oregon: $5 per building

  • Alaska: $4 per building