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Lack of statewide building code gives Delaware lowest ranking in hurricane preparedness analysis

Eli Chen/Delaware Public Media

Hurricane season is officially underway. Delaware once again ranks last for preparedness through building codes—according to an analysisby an insurance research nonprofit.  

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety rates the building codes of states along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts for hurricane preparedness every three years. Since 2015, Delaware has ranked last—with a score of just 17 out of 100— because it doesn’t have a statewide building code.   

Anne Cope is the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s chief engineer.  She says Delaware’s patchwork of county and local codes leaves some homes more vulnerable to hurricane damage.

“The City of Dover is still using the 2009 [model] code,” she said. “Lewes, Georgetown, Milford, Newark—they’re all on 2012. … No code in effect in the City of Harrington right now.”

Cope says newer model codes have better requirements for how parts of the building are connected. She recommends a statewide code requiring things like water-tight roofing. 

“The materials themselves are typically great and strong enough,” she said. “Where the building gets its resilience is typically in the connections—how can we connect all the pieces together to make sure it can stand up to Mother Nature’s wind and wind-driven rain.”

Some municipalities in Delaware—like Lewes—have taken steps to protect buildings in flood-prone areas. 

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety recommends Delaware adopt a statewide code, and begin requiring licensing of building officials and construction contractors. 


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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