CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. -- In a rural part of Chester County, the worst of Mother Nature can be unleashed on a moment's notice.

The place is called the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Their mission? To help homes and businesses hold together during major hurricane-force winds and rainfall.

Using powerful engines and hoses, the institute literally blows away roofs on homes to understand how they can be better built.

"As an engineer, when I think about hurricanes, I clearly think about structures," said Dr. Anne Cope, vice president of research. "A home that's well maintained and well cared for is going to perform well during an event. We're out here working, doing research — building buildings, tearing them apart — so that we can figure out needs to happen within the walls to make those homes and buildings stronger."

Dr. Cope says small improvements in the way homes are constructed, such as a few added bolts to the base of a home or adding braces to a few of the joints in a roof, can have big impacts during a storm.

"It does have a lasting impact," said Dr. Cope, recalling a personal experience. "My parents were affected by the 2004 storm season in central Florida. They were in a FEMA trailer in their driveway for over a year, so I see the difference it can make having a little bit of resilience. If they had had a 'fortified bronze' roof, I don't think that would have happened to them.

So, it's those tiny little things that can make a big difference. My job is to find those things and promote that information so I can make a lasting impact."

Cope says a majority of insurance companies in the U.S., as well as a few overseas, use the institute's research to help keep down costs.