For Want of a nail . . .

Those words started a little rhyme that children recited.  The rhyme taught that ignoring small deficiencies could have large consequences.    The damage caused by the Angus Tornado is a somber lesson for grown-ups that in any age of climate change, skimping on best construction standards can be disastrous.

Representatives of The Institute for Catastrophic Losses examined the wreckage of the houses severely damaged by the tornado.   They concluded is that small, inexpensive measures could have protected family homes against their roof from being wrenched off by the tornado.

Loss of a roof, which weakens the structure and exposes the contents to heavy downpour, commonly occurs when a tornado strikes a built-up area, such as Angus.  The remedies are simple and well known: hurricane trusses (straps to hold the roof to the walls),  longer nails (!!), and more nails (!!) for roof sheathing.

Some time ago, the Institute has shared this knowledge with governments and the building trades industry.   But nothing was done to require these low cost practices, although Ontario is the terminus of “tornado alley”. 

The information occasioned a round of finger-pointing:  the building trades industry blamed the Ontario Government, and the Government responded by saying you were free to use these practices if you chose.

Another children’s saying comes to mind:  “Penny Wise and Pound foolish”.

Unfortunately, the situation is more serious than just a failure to require stricter building code requirements.  The examination of the wreckage discovered shoddy practices: in quite a few cases only one nail was used to secure the truss to the walls of the house.

Our sympathies and the sympathy of all Ontarians are with the citizens of Angus.  They deserve more than sympathy.  They deserve justice against the indifference of those responsible for the building code, and those who build by it.

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