P!N meets Eric Vaughn

P!N meets Eric Vaughn, COO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes
P!N’s newest partner explains why the disaster safety movement is a critical voice in our national dialogue

Q: FLASH is a large, dynamic organization. Give me the elevator ride version of FLASH’s mission and work today:
A: FLASH is a non-profit partnership of more than 100 public, private and non-profit organizations with the mission of strengthening homes and safeguarding families from disasters of all kinds by providing the public with accurate and timely information on how to make their homes more disaster resistant. Our work is part of a movement to establish disaster safety as a public value in this country and to create widespread public demand for safer, better built homes.

Q: And how specifically, is FLASH working with PLAN!T NOW?
A: The partnership between our two organizations is a natural fit. Together, we will leverage the existing, validated FLASH informational programs with the reach of PLAN!T NOW to accomplish our shared mission of protecting families and communities from disasters. Our first project will be to promote hurricane preparedness for the 2010 hurricane season. The project will combine social media and grassroots tactics with high-level celebrity spokespersons. Donations made to the campaign will go to a fund for retrofitting homes for low-income families.
The goal is to inspire homeowners to prepare their homes and families by participating in community events associated with the project and its spokespersons. Residents who are not able to personally participate in the community events can still join the campaign through virtual communities created online.

Q: What newly unveiled or in progress technological advancements in home-building technology are you and your colleagues most excited about?
A: I am excited about the newest testing facilities coming online like the Institute for Building Home Safety Research Center, University of Florida’s Hurricane Simulator and the Florida International University RenRe Wall of Wind. These facilities will further illustrate the differences between products that work and those that don’t. It’s important that we ensure that the laboratory results are accessible and repackaged in a consumer friendly format so residents can benefit from the science.

Q: Share a story from your work at FLASH that moved you deeply and highlights why you love this work.
A: During the 2005 hurricane season we showcased the Tale of Two Houses project. The project showcased two families and their homes; one survived, and the other did not. The Webb’s home which was built with code-plus standards lost only a couple roof shingles while the Minardi’s home, which was not built to the latest building code, was completely destroyed. We partnered with Bob Vila to rebuild the Minardi’s home back to a code-plus standard on the television program Bob Vila. During the construction process I spoke with the Minardis numerous times. I listened to how they described the pictures and family heirlooms lost, their experiences living in temporary housing and the everlasting effects they believed it would have on their daughters. I realized after this project how important my role is in the disaster safety movement.
When homeowners have the correct information they build their homes stronger. When homes are built correctly they survive and when the homes survive families continue their lives. This story not only effected me but also the industry as a whole and it became the basis for StormStruck A Tale of Two Homes located in Epcot® at the Walt Disney World Resort®.

A quote that inspires me personally is “failure is not an option”. Consumers are making decisions around their homes that can be the difference between life and death or between their home surviving or being destroyed. The information they use to make their decisions with must be accurate and consistent at all times. We cannot fail our mission of providing the public with accurate and timely information on how to make their homes more disaster resistant — there is too much at stake.

Q: If you could wave a magic wand and change something(s) about the world regarding your mission at FLASH- what would it be?
A: If I had a magic wand I would make building safety and personal preparedness a social norm. I believe that policy and the market follow social norms. Today automobile makers do not dare make cars without airbags and consumers would think twice about buying a car without an airbag. Building safety should be the same way.

Q: Julie Rochman, CEO of the The Institute for Business & Home Safety shared with me her feeling that lack of strict, uniform building codes nationwide and testing facilities that test new building technology as an integrated system rather than isolated parts- are the biggest needs right now in terms of multiplying the amount of disaster proof homes.
Do you agree? What do you think the most pressing need is for organizations working to disaster-proof homes?

A: There is no one size fits all solution or answer in terms of multiplying the amount of disaster resistant homes. While uniform building codes will be a major milestone for the disaster safety movement, I believe the greatest challenge facing us now is a lack of information flowing from scientists, homebuilders and policymakers to homeowners.

An informed consumer is essential to reaching the goal of a disaster-safe America. Knowledgeable, empowered consumers have the most capacity to move disaster safety and mitigation forward. Consumers have to make the final decision on whether to purchase a disaster resistant home, to support their building code officials to keep a uniform building code and make the decision if they want to live in a high risk area such as the coast. Informed consumers can propel every element of the disaster safety movement forward whether its building codes, policy, or the number of disaster resistant homes.
It is important for organizations like FLASH and IBHS continue to work with consumers and arm them with the information they need on how to harden their homes and keep their families safe so they can make an informed decision about disaster preparedness.