Schools used as shelters in hurricanes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Six million Floridans evacuated for Hurricane Irma. Many of those left were able to survive by taking refuge in the more than 600 shelters set up around the state, most of which were in public schools.

Andrea Messina with the Florida School Boards Association says "People don't have to go far from their home. Many people who live locally have the ability perhaps to walk to the facility."

Hurricane Charley destroyed six public schools in 2004, but building codes have improved since then. Irma appears to have only caused minimal damage to public schools.

Messina says "a school that was built under a previous building code could easily get hit. So technically the winds just didn't go in the areas where the schools that might have been at risk were."

Soon after hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992 the state began strictly adhering to international building codes. Every three years the state would adopt all new standards added to the code.

Now, a new law allows the state to pick and choose which new standards to adopt and which to ignore.

Advocates fear the change will allow Florida's standards to fall behind. Leaving homes and structures like schools at risk.

Carol Bowen, Chief Lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida says despite having the option, there is no indication corners will be cut when it comes to school safety.

In a statement she tells us, "There is no language or effort to take us back to where we were pre-Andrew. What happens moving forward - I have to imagine - will be a topic of conversation in the 2018 session."

At the earliest, a changing building code won't affect new constriction until after the year 2020.