Where low pressure forms around warm ocean currents in the Caribbean and South Atlantic, tropical waves can soon become full-blown hurricanes. 58-year-old construction worker Augustine St.Jean was born in Dominica in the Eastern Caribbean and has used his technical skills to invent a strap that helps keep galvanized steel and iron roofing secured to homes during hurricanes and reduce storm damage. We interview him about the inspiration behind his invention.
What inspired you to create the Hurricane Tie Strap?
Two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean island of Dominica where I was born, I visited my homeland and saw the hurricane damage first-hand. I wanted to help find a solution and since I have 30 years experience in construction, I created the Hurricane Tie Strap to help secure the most vulnerable part of the galvanized rooftops commonly used in Caribbean house construction.
How do you feel it will protect homes during the hurricane and why hasn’t anything similar been invented before?
With my invention I stress the importance of identifying and securing the most vulnerable area of the roofing – the section most prone to storm and hurricane damage. I was amongst the first to discuss and offer solutions to this problem. Also, I was one of the few to practically apply technical and construction experience to tackle a problem that is affecting millions across the Caribbean and South Atlantic.
Do you feel that your Caribbean background and construction experience in the USA has given you a better grasp than most of what is required to solve the problem?
Well, I was born in Dominica which has experienced hurricane and storm damage in my lifetime and, yes, I was a construction worker in the USA for over 30 years. Over the decades, my knowledge of construction while working in the US has expanded considerably and I am looking to apply my seasoned skills to help overcome the challenges my homeland faces during hurricane periods.
Has your work in construction been of benefit in designing your concept and getting specific technical elements correct?
I believe my 30-year construction experience has been invaluable. It has opened my mind as regards the technical requirements in housing and building issues I often face. This has been applied in the conceptual elements of my invention. I cannot go into the specifics, because the design is a secret at this stage but you can see how and where this knowledge has been of benefit.
Have you received any positive feedback about your invention at this stage?
Yes, I have had discussions with a number of specialist engineers who have praised the concept. It has been well-received by prominent members of the industry who know what they are talking about and can offer advice going forward.