Senior Leadership

Roy E. Wright

President & Chief Executive Officer

Roy Wright joined IBHS in 2018 with more than 20 years of experience in insurance, risk management, mitigation, and resilience planning. Convinced that the continuing cycle of human suffering that strikes families and communities in the wake of severe weather can be broken, Roy leads a team of scientists and risk communicators who deliver strategies to build safer and stronger homes and businesses. IBHS’s real-world impact enables the insurance industry and affected property owners to prevent avoidable losses.

Roy joined IBHS from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) where he served as the Chief Executive of the National Flood Insurance Program, led the agency’s Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, and directed the resilience programs addressing earthquake, fire, flood, and wind risks. In these roles, he guided several programs that promote a risk-conscious culture, enable faster disaster recovery, and address long-term vulnerabilities to life, property, and well-being in communities across the United States. Prior to joining FEMA in 2007, Roy worked in public and private sector roles with Coray Gurnitz Strategy Consulting and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

A native of California, Roy earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Azusa Pacific University and a Master of Public Administration from The George Washington University.

Debra T. Ballen

General Counsel & Chief Risk Officer

Debra Ballen joined IBHS in 2008 as the general counsel and senior vice president of public policy and became Chief Risk Officer in 2019. She is responsible for all of IBHS’s legal matters and oversees a number of important public policy initiatives, including adaptation, community resilience, and economic incentives for mitigation. In addition, she serves as the organization’s corporate secretary and manages member relations.

Prior to her work with IBHS, Ms. Ballen was the executive vice president of public policy management for the American Insurance Association (now APCI). She developed and implemented policy for AIA’s priority federal and state public policy issues.

She also serves on the Advisory Committee for the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado and has participated on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) High Level Advisory Board on Financial Management of Large Scale Catastrophes. She is a frequent speaker about the broad benefits of mitigation and has testified before Congress and state legislatures on these matters.

Ms. Ballen graduated with a juris doctor degree from Harvard Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University. She also has received the CPCU designation.

Anne D. Cope, PhD, P.E.

Chief Engineer

Dr. Anne Cope joined IBHS in 2009 just a few months before the groundbreaking for the construction of the IBHS Research Center in Richburg, South Carolina. As the Chief Engineer, she leads the development of research programs to improve the performance of structures in hurricanes, wildfires, severe thunderstorms, and hailstorms as well as the team of engineers, scientists, and skilled craftsman who conduct research on full-scale homes and commercial buildings. She is responsible for the team’s implementation of research findings into building codes and standards.

Prior to joining IBHS, Dr. Cope was a project manager and structural engineer with Reynolds, Smith & Hills, Inc., designing projects for NASA, Department of Defense, and commercial launch operations. Dr. Cope’s research encompasses topics ranging from the full-scale simulation of wind effects on buildings to detailed studies of the vulnerabilities of buildings to natural hazards and the development of damage prediction models. She is also a proud veteran of the United States Army. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Clemson University, and her doctorate from the University of Florida. She is a registered professional engineer in Florida and South Carolina.

Alister Watt

Chief Product Officer

Alister Watt joined IBHS in 2018, bringing 25 years of strategy consulting and management experience across public and private sectors. Alister has worked in financial services, risk management, broadcast media, and fast-moving consumer goods.

As the Chief Product Officer, Alister leads the efforts to translate IBHS’s top-tier science into action. In addition to his enterprise-wide leadership role, Alister is responsible for several critical IBHS program areas, including FORTIFIED, media, product design, and technology.

Mr. Watt has led large and small teams across the U.S., Europe and former Soviet Bloc. In these diverse roles, Alister brought structure to problem-solving, creativity to developing solutions, and rigor to implementing change. Prior to his work at IBHS, Alister’s career has spanned independent consulting, consulting for Accenture, Coray Gurnitz Strategy Consulting and Acquisition Solutions, and project management for Mars, Inc.

A Scot by birth, Alister earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Aberdeen, and subsequent to emigrating to the U.S., he earned a Masters of Business Administration from the Tuck School at Dartmouth College.

Executive Leadership Team

Susan Baxter Gibson

Treasurer & Managing Director of Corporate Operations

Susan Baxter Gibson joined IBHS in 2010 as the finance manager and has since been promoted to treasurer and managing director of corporate operations. Under the direction of the CEO, Mrs. Baxter Gibson directs, monitors, coordinates, interprets, and administers all functional activities related to accounting, finance, budgeting, cash management, and financial analysis.

Susan came to IBHS with more than 20 years experience as a CFO in the healthcare industry. Susan served as CFO at the Visiting Nurse Association of the Treasure Coast, Baptist Hospital Homecare, Gulfside Regional Hospice and Health Systems Solutions, a publicly traded software company. Susan earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting at the University of Central Florida before earning her master’s degree in business at UCF. She is also a certified public accountant.

Tanya Brown-Giammanco, PhD

Managing Director of Research

Dr. Tanya Brown-Giammanco joined IBHS in 2010 and is a managing director of research at the Research Center. She is the South Carolina Wind and Hail Underwriting Association hail chair at the lab. Her responsibilities include providing engineering leadership on hail, wind, water, and roofing-related research projects. Her research focus is on hailstone formation, hail impact testing, wind-flow characterization and testing, instrumentation, and field measurement and damage assessment studies. Prior to joining IBHS full-time, Dr. Brown-Giammanco was an engineering consultant for IBHS and LNSS & Associates.

Dr. Brown-Giammanco was a National Science Foundation – Integrative Graduate Education Training Fellow while completing her PhD in Wind Science and Engineering at Texas Tech University. Her dissertation topic was “Development of a Statistical Relationship between Ground-Based and Remotely-Sensed Damage in Windstorms.” While at Texas Tech, she was an instrumental member of their field research teams, leading a team in thunderstorm and tornado intercepts during VORTEX 2, participating in hurricane intercepts with the Texas Tech University Hurricane Research Team, and conducting numerous post-disaster damage assessments. Dr. Brown-Giammanco also holds a master’s degree in Water Resources Science and a bachelor’s degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Kansas, and served as a teaching assistant and academic advisor while at KU. She is currently appointed as a Faculty Associate at Texas Tech University to continue serving with the Texas Tech University Hurricane Research Team.

Brown-Giammanco Curriculum Vitae

Christopher Flynn

General Manager of the Research Center

Chris joined IBHS in 2017 as plant and operations manager and is now the general manager of the Research Center. Chris previously worked at Parker Hannifin, where he was the business team leader for custom drive systems and plant manager for both the SSD drives and energy grid tie divisions—as a result, he has a wealth of experience and expertise in keeping complex projects moving forward, and working with engineers and fabricators.

Chris has an MBA from Indiana University and a bachelor’s degree in architectural design and construction management from Bowling Green State University.

Ian Giammanco, PhD

Senior Director of Product Design & Lead Meteorologist

Dr. Ian Giammanco is Senior Director of Product Design & Lead Meteorologist at the IBHS Research Center. His responsibilities include providing leadership in instrumentation design and data collection, wind-flow characterization and multi-hazard testing including hail and wildfire, field programs, and provides guidance on weather and climate issues within the public policy program. He is also serving a 3-year term on the American Meteorological Society’s Committee on Weather and Climate Financial Risk Management. Dr. Giammanco has more than a decade of meteorological field research experience, serving as the field coordinator for the IBHS Characteristics of Hail Field Program, which began in 2012, the Texas Tech University Hurricane Research Team, and has participated in numerous severe thunderstorm and tornado research projects, including VORTEX 2. His research interests include boundary layer wind flow characteristics in a variety of conditions, severe convective storms, tropical cyclones, and measurement and instrumentation systems. He is also a technician-licensed amateur (HAM) radio operator with the call letters W5WWX.

Dr. Giammanco received a bachelor’s degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Louisiana at Monroe in 2002, where he was also a pitcher for their NCAA baseball team. He also holds a master’s degree in Atmospheric Science, as well as a PhD in Wind Science and Engineering both from Texas Tech University. He also completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at Texas Tech University examining the wind flow characteristics of tropical cyclones. During his doctoral studies he was appointed as a National Science Foundation – Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training Fellow, and served as an intern at NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division in Miami. In addition to his position at IBHS, he is currently appointed as an Adjunct Faculty Research Associate at Texas Tech University.

Giammanco Curriculum Vitae

Michelle Harvey-LeBlanc

Senior Director of Member Engagement

Michelle Harvey-LeBlanc joined IBHS in 2008. Michelle has more than 15 years of senior executive administration experience and is a polished professional with exceptional communication and interpersonal skills. She began her career with an international travel company and then worked for both American Express and Sony Music Entertainment, managing travel arrangements for VIP clients and senior executives, including negotiating hotel and airline contracts.

Michelle went on to serve as an executive assistant to C-suite officers at a number of high profile organizations, including the NBA Corporate Offices where she handled international projects and maintained key company databases. She was born and raised in Great Britain where she graduated from East Surrey College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Fred Malik

Managing Director of FORTIFIED Products

Fred Malik is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the FORTIFIED suite of programs, which seek to improve property resilience to natural disasters on a local, regional and national level. Since taking over the program in 2009, Fred has led FORTIFIED’s expansion to include existing residential, new residential and light commercial building standards. Under his leadership, FORTIFIED has quickly become the national building standard for resilience. With more than 20 years of construction experience and an M.B.A. from Virginia Tech, Fred has established himself as a recognized mitigation expert. He is a featured speaker on resilience and its value and practicality at conferences across the country. Fred is married and lives with his family in Florida.

Brian McElhoe

Senior Director of Technology

Brian has more than a decade of experience in all facets of Information Technology including strategic planning, leadership, budget management, project planning and vendor management, as well as various aspects of Network and Systems Management. Prior to joining IBHS in 2015, Brian worked at Lend Lease and was the Infrastructure Manager at ScentAir Technologies.

Chuck Miccolis

Managing Director of Commercial Lines

Chuck Miccolis provides engineering and technical support for commercial building–related hazard mitigation initiatives. He is the lead engineer for the Institute’s FORTIFIED Commercial standards, a voluntary commercial construction criteria that focuses on building resiliency and mitigating losses from natural and man-made hazards. He works with IBHS colleagues, member companies, and industry trade organizations on program development, mitigation, field research, and testing at the IBHS Research Center.

Prior to joining IBHS, Mr. Miccolis was in the commercial property insurance business for more than 20 years. He was with FM Global for 18 years, and most recently with XL Global Asset Protection Services. He served as wind team technical specialist, senior loss prevention specialist, and senior property appraiser. He conducted detailed loss prevention surveys of industrial, commercial and institutional properties to obtain construction, occupancy and fire protection details, and to determine exposures. Mr. Miccolis created and prioritized Highly Protected Risk (HPR) mitigation recommendations and loss scenarios for a variety of natural and man-made risks and hazards. He improved and developed facility emergency preparedness and response plans for clients. He reduced potential business interruption for clients by identifying and quantifying their various time element exposures. He also volunteered as co-coordinator and sector team leader for the Greater Tampa Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Mr. Miccolis earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of South Florida.

Murray Morrison, PhD

Managing Director of Research

Dr. Murray Morrison joined IBHS in 2011 as a research engineer, after being a visiting researcher at the IBHS Research Center as part of a collaboration between the University of Western Ontario, FM Global and IBHS. His areas of expertise include wind tunnel measurements and techniques, boundary layer turbulence, wind induced loads on structures and full-scale structural testing. Prior to joining IBHS, Dr. Morrison worked on numerous research and industrial contracts involving wind loads on full structures and cladding elements at the Boundary Layer Wind tunnel at The University of Western Ontario. He also worked as a technology coordinator at the Insurance Research Lab for Better Homes where he continued development and implementation of the laboratory’s multi-million dollar pressure loading system, instrumentation and data acquisition equipment.

Dr. Morrison earned his doctorate from the University of Western Ontario in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, focusing on the failures of residential wood frame structures when subjected to full-scale realistic wind loading. This research has led him to participate in damage surveys in partnership with Environment Canada following severe thunderstorm wind events in Southwest Ontario. Dr. Morrison also earned his master’s in mechanical and materials engineering from the University of Western Ontario, focusing on turbulence and bluff body aerodynamics.

Morrison Curriculum Vitae

Barbie Simonson

Senior Director of Human Capital

Barbie joined IBHS in 2017, bringing more than 20 years of experience in human resources. She previously worked in the health care field and with Home Depot, and most recently with the Tampa Jewish Community Centers & Federation. She is a skilled professional with expertise in employee relations, change management, coaching and mentoring, strategic planning and administration compliance.

Barbie has an MBA from Webster University, a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Flagler College, and a wealth of HR-related credentials.

Professional Staff

Cliff Barros

Director of Communication & Market Development

Cliff is responsible for market development and communication of the IBHS FORTIFIED program. Cliff most recently worked for Pilot Catastrophe where he managed a range of insurance and wind pool clients and a team of adjusters. Prior to joining Pilot, Cliff was the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Southwest Alabama and was instrumental in bringing the Habitat Strong program to life (Habitat Strong is based on the FORTIFIED Gold standards). He is based in Mobile, Alabama.

Ja’Juan Battle

Lab Technician

Ja’Juan joined IBHS in 2019 after working at the IBHS Research Center as part of the 2018 summer intern program working on a wildfire ember project. He graduated from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte with a bachelor’s degree in fire protection engineering technology. Ja’Juan works closely with the research and production teams at the IBHS Research Center.

Mike Breznak

FORTIFIED Quality Assurance Administrator

Mike first began working with IBHS in 2014, as part of the Bankers Insurance team that helped develop our FORTIFIED evaluation software. After the software was released, he began performing FORTIFIED evaluation audits. Mike has reviewed thousands of FORTIFIED evaluations and will continue to support our quality assurance program by working closely with the FORTIFIED team to ensure evaluations are complying with all requirements. Mike is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and currently lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Over two decades Mike has accumulated experience in customer service, underwriting, and project and team leadership skills working for Bankers Financial, Spint-Nextel, and as a real estate agent.

Alex Brightman

Systems Analyst

Alex has extensive I/T experience and expertise including end user support, infrastructure management, and systems administration. Alex earned COMP TIA A+ and ITIL certifications from Brewster Technical Center. Prior to joining IBHS, Alex worked at Key Safety Systems providing technical support.

Eljin Brown

Senior Systems Administrator, Information Technology

With more than twenty years of experience within multiple Fortune 50 companies, Eljin has advanced expertise in the Windows Products. A University of South Carolina alumnus, Eljin specializes in Windows Active Directory and hardware technologies along with server component technologies. These qualities along with Eljin’s reputation of providing focused system operations, trouble-shooting capabilities, and being a tireless problem solver makes him an exceptional addition to our organization.

Alexandra Cary

FORTIFIED Market Development Manager

Alex is the Market Development Manager at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, providing direct support to communities along the Gulf Coast and Great Plains states.  Alex previously served as the Executive Director of Smart Home America and the Construction Manager for Habitat for Humanity of Baldwin County, AL.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Springfield College in Massachusetts and is a licensed home builder in AL.  She is the past President of the Baldwin County Homes Builder’s Association, is a member of the NAHB Single Family Builder’s Committee and the Construction Technology and Research Subcommittee, serves on the Executive Board of Smart Home America, and was appointed by the governor to the Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research Advisory Board in 2014.

Warner Chang, P.E.

Lead Project Engineer

Mr. Chang joined IBHS in 2008. He has worked as a structural engineer in Florida since 1994, with design and construction experience in residential, commercial, institutional and health care buildings, governmental facilities, and marine/coastal structures. His engineering experience is extensive and includes design development, interdisciplinary coordination, engineering analysis, inspection, project management, and construction administration.

Mr. Chang earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University in civil engineering and a master’s degree from Florida Atlantic University in civil engineering with an emphasis in structural engineering. He is a registered professional engineer and a licensed Special Inspector for threshold buildings in the state of Florida.

Chris Cioffi

Commercial Line Engineer

Chris Cioffi joined IBHS in 2016 as the Commercial Line Engineer for the FORTIFIED Commercial Program. He previously worked at TLC Engineering for Architecture where he provided structural engineering design services for a variety of projects, including the design of the new St. Pete Pier and Doral Legacy Park. He also trained interns and colleagues in the utilization of design platforms. While a student at Pennsylvania State University, Chris worked as a research assistant in the Architectural Engineering Structure Lab. Among other skills and experiences, Chris has conducted structural analysis of steel, concrete, engineered wood and masonry structures; used structural analysis programs to model design and convey structural stability; and visited construction sites to analyze existing structures, monitor current construction, and determine if additional services might be needed. Along with his work on the FORTIFIED Commercial program, he consults with the Research Center team on commercial structure testing, and collaborates with the business protection unit to provide membership-focused resources.

Chris has a bachelor of architectural engineering degree with a concentration in structural engineering, and a minor in architecture studies, from Penn State.

Andy Clyde

Director, Construction & Equipment

Andy Clyde joined IBHS in 2010 as an electrical technician responsible for maintaining and operating all electrical equipment at the IBHS Research Center. He is responsible for setting up the instrumentation for testing of buildings in the large laboratory, as well specific instrumentation used in component testing in the small laboratory.

Mr. Clyde came to IBHS after serving as superintendent of Powerworks Electric in Chester, South Carolina, where he was experienced in low and medium voltage electrical systems installations and applications. He attended New York Institute of Technology where he majored in Electronics. He is certified in OSHA medium voltage, trained in OSHA 70E/energized work, fire-stop instruction and power activated equipment.

Zanaya Craig

Lab Technician

Zanaya joined IBHS in 2018 as a lab technician at the Research Center. She previously worked for IBHS as an intern where she gained valuable experience in instrumentation, test procedures, and data collection. She is pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering at Clemson University and is a member of the Society of Women Engineers and National Society of Black Engineers.

Conrad Estes

Lead Electrical & Instrumentation Technician

Conrad joined IBHS in 2015 as an Electrical & Instrumentation Technician. Conrad works with IBHS researchers to ensure proper and precise data collection during critical experiment runs as well as data analysis after projects are completed. Using his knowledge of MATLAB, LabVIEW, Arduino, and Python programming languages, Conrad seeks new ways to push the limits of data collection and analysis.

Prior to joining IBHS, Conrad worked for TBA Communications, INC., in Tampa, Florida working on portable radio systems. He was responsible for programming and maintaining all customer radio hardware/software and consulting on sales calls to ensure customers got the right system for their needs. He also participated in the design of, and handled system administration for, TBA’s wide-area radio system, which encompassed a 60-square-mile area. Before TBA Communications, Conrad worked as an inventory and logistics supervisor at both Blackwater Aviation and F.I.T. Aviation, LLC. His responsibilities included asset tracking for an extensive aircraft parts inventory while also handling purchasing and vendor conflict resolutions.

Heather Estes

Research Manager & Research Scientist, Materials

Heather is a materials scientist based at the IBHS Research Center. She has extensive experience in data analysis, quality control, sample management, and designing experiments. She was an analytical chemist at PRI Asphalt Technologies where she established a quality assurance program and conducted research and method development for asphalt, construction materials, and crude oil. Heather has more than 10 years of experience with asphalt chemistry, analytical chemistry, and laboratory sciences.

Heather is also an experienced field scientist and has traveled abroad to conduct research projects. Her knowledge of asphalt chemistry and field work will be applied directly to lab studies at IBHS. Heather acts as the liaison between the asphalt shingle manufacturers and IBHS member companies, and contributes to the roofing research at the lab. As Research Manager, Heather manages the IBHS Internship Program and research work flow. She currently serves as a member of ASTM International and The American Chemical Society, and is on the Board of Directors for National Women in Roofing. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from the Florida Institute of Technology and her master’s in chemistry from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Estes Curriculum Vitae

Siavash “Si” Farvardin

Manager of Codes & Standards

Si earned a bachelor of applied science degree from the University of Louisville and completed courses in construction management at the Catholic University of America. Prior to joining IBHS, Si conducted evaluation of new materials and technologies in building construction and their compliance to the U.S. model building codes at the International Code Council Evaluation Service (ICC-ES). He served on task forces developing acceptance criteria for new building products and the American National Standards Institute’s Conformity Assessment policy Committee. Si served as the Program Manager at the National Evaluation Service and Project Engineer at the Institute for Building Technology and Safety. He also conducted building and fire plan review for the Anne Arundel County government in Maryland and conducted building inspections for Fairfax County Government in Virginia.

At IBHS, Si conducts research of legislative and regulatory developments in building codes, and assessment of building code adoption and enforcement systems of the U.S. states with focus on life-safety-related issues, property protection and structural integrity in the built environment. He also participates in code development committees associated with the International Code Council and conducts research on standards that are referenced in model building codes. He also serves on several subcommittees of American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

Blake Garris


Blake joined IBHS in 2019 with over 20 years of experience in traditional television, digital video/editorial/audio production, and brand marketing strategy. He was previously an Emmy-nominated producer/director at the South Carolina PBS affiliate, ETV, as well as a manager of production and content at the Disney subsidiary, Marvel Entertainment, in New York. He has also freelanced in various capacities for companies including CNN, NBC, The Food Network, The Discovery Channel, IGN, TLC, The History Channel, Showtime, NFL Films, The Travel Channel, ESPN2, and many more.

Blake received his bachelor’s degree in political science and masters in media arts from the University of South Carolina where he was also an adjunct professor of new media.

Daniel Gorham, P.E.

Research Engineer

Dan brings to IBHS a wealth of science and engineering experience in the wildfire peril. Most recently, Dan was the Research Project Manager for the Fire Protection Research Foundation in Quincy, Massachusetts. He has also spent time with the National Fire Protection Association, and was a Guest Researcher at the U.S. Forest Service Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory.

Dan holds both a master’s and bachelor’s degree in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland College Park. His background in fire and life safety include experience as a firefighter/EMT in the state of Maryland.

Gorham Curriculum Vitae

Diane Graul

Administrative Assistant

Diane brings more than 35 years of administrative, travel coordination, and human resource experience to her role as administrative assistant. Prior to joining IBHS, Diane worked as a staffing coordinator with Tomlin Tested Staffing and as an executive assistant at Express Scripts Holding Company (formerly Medco Health Solutions).

Christina Gropp

Public Relations Associate

Christina joined IBHS in 2019 as a Public Relations Associate. Prior to joining IBHS, Christina was a broadcast meteorologist, reporter, and digital content producer for WDEF News 12 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

In addition to other accomplishments in the WDEF newsroom over the last three years, Christina was instrumental in increasing the station’s presence and output on its social media channels. Christina holds a bachelor’s degree in meteorology with honors from The Pennsylvania State University.

Laurie Grundy

FORTIFIED Quality Assurance Manager

Laurie joined IBHS in 2015, bringing more than 30 years of construction project management and building codes administration experience. After earning her bachelor’s degree in building construction from the University of Florida, Laurie managed historic renovations and high-end residential construction projects in Palm Beach County, Florida and gained extensive structural experience on commercial and multi-family projects in Broward, Dade and Monroe counties. Most recently, she coordinated the team of designers and contractors on a major renovation to a local landmark building in St. Petersburg, Florida.

After Hurricane Andrew, Laurie joined the Palm Beach County Building Division as a Senior Plans Examiner and also worked in the Construction Services Division at the City of St. Petersburg as a Senior Plans Examiner.

Laurie is a LEED Accredited Professional, licensed Structural Plans Examiner, a member of the Building Officials Association of Florida, an Associate member of the American Institute of Architects, and is certified as a Safety Assessment Program Disaster Service Worker (DSW) through CalEMA.

Faraz Hedayati, PhD

Research Engineer

Faraz Hedayati is responsible for conducting fire studies and research in other perils at the IBHS Research Center. Starting in 2015, he was involved in several IBHS wildfire research projects as a research consultant before joining the organization full-time in 2018.

Faraz earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering at universities in Iran before moving to the U.S. in 2014. Since he came to the U.S., Faraz has earned two additional advanced mechanical engineering degrees—a master’s and a PhD—at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His research interests include but are not limited to heat transfer modeling, machine learning and data analysis, and image/video processing.

Brent Henzi

Public Affairs Manager

Brent Henzi joined IBHS in 2011 as a communications associate. Prior to joining IBHS, Brent worked as a reporter for the online publication, the Florida Tribune, where he covered the state Legislature.

Brent graduated from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communications with a bachelor’s degree. He has also formerly worked for a daily newspaper and a magazine in Oregon.

Melvin Hughes


Melvin joined IBHS in 2017 as a technician at the Research Center. Melvin is a carpenter, certified welder and Navy Reservist. Prior to joining IBHS, Melvin worked for Fluor on the construction of a nuclear power plant near Columbia, South Carolina.

Donna Johnson

Office Systems Assistant

Donna Johnson joined IBHS in 2009 with more than 25 years of administrative experience. She is responsible for providing database support to the IBHS member relations director, assisting the office systems senior manager by acting as the liaison with office equipment vendors and suppliers, handling mailing and shipping needs, maintaining office supplies and processing publications requests. She is also responsible for providing administrative support to staff as needed. Prior to joining IBHS, Ms. Johnson worked as an administrative assistant for a local engineering firm in Tampa.

Simon Kellogg

Creative Director

Simon Kellogg oversees the creative development of IBHS’s core communications including print and web content, marketing, and events, to ensure strong, consistent branding and messaging that aligns with the IBHS Disaster Safety Strategy. He is a creative and strategic thinker whose skills in marketing and advertising guide the growth of the IBHS brand.

Mr. Kellogg earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Florida State University and joined IBHS in 2000.

Stephanie Lesser

Public Affairs Manager

Prior to joining IBHS in 2015, Mrs. Lesser was a freelance writer and editor for a range of startups, websites, and magazines. She has taught research and writing at several universities and worked as a content strategist for a digital marketing agency.

Stephanie earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Florida State University.

Ross Maiden

Designer/Drafting Technician

Ross Maiden is a design/drafting technician at the IBHS Research Center. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from the University of South Carolina. He has experience with data analysis and computational modeling from his work with gangway design for Perigee Partners, Inc., in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. He also has many years of experience with landscape design and installation for his family’s business in Great Falls, South Carolina.

Aubrey Marcinko

Associate Product Producer

Aubrey joined IBHS in 2019 as an Associate Product Producer. Aubrey brings 5 years of experience in a variety of television anchor, video production and editing roles creating SEC video content for ESPN and Amazon in addition to producing music videos for country artists like Luke Combs.

Aubrey earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication with a minor in sport and entertainment management from The University of South Carolina in Columbia.

David McClain


David has over 30 years of experience in residential and commercial construction. He previously owned McClain Construction, and has worked for Carolina Earthworks, JDM Construction, and Crossland Homes. Before joining IBHS he was with Carowinds Amusement Park in Charlotte, North Carolina, performing ride maintenance and working in their millshop. David is part of the Research Center production team, building test panels and other structures for research projects.

Veronica McNear

Research Scientist

Veronica joined IBHS in 2019, bringing a unique skill set to the team from her nine years of experience working for State Farm, the last seven of which were in the catastrophe risk management unit running catastrophe models. She also has experience related to claims, underwriting, and reinsurance.

Veronica holds a master’s degree in atmospheric science from Texas A&M and a bachelor’s degree in synoptic meteorology from Purdue.

Brenna Meisenzahl

Research Project Scientist

Brenna joined IBHS full-time after working in our 2018 internship program where she assisted with wildfire and hail research. She graduated from the University of North Carolina Charlotte in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Meteorology and is a member of the American Meteorological Society. Brenna’s responsibilities also include photographing activities and research work at the Research Center.

Sherry Melton

Executive Assistant

Prior to joining IBHS, Sherry worked for Verizon Wireless for 20 years where she gained a wealth of administrative and process management experience. Sherry also earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

Hilda Menendez 

Purchasing Coordinator

Hilda Menendez brought more than 15 years of administrative and project management experience to IBHS when she became the Purchasing Coordinator for the Research Center in 2016. She has extensive experience with purchasing operations and vendor management. She began her career as a purchasing assistant at Victory Packaging and rose through the ranks to become a purchasing manager and training facilitator. As a training facilitator, she designed and developed instructional materials for employees in all departments. Hilda, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, was also an International Coordinator for InterNET Services where she supported the company’s Hispanic North American customer base. Hilda is working toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration from York Technical College.

Gail Moraton

Business Resiliency Manager

Gail Moraton joined IBHS in 2011 as the business resiliency manager. She is responsible for the Open for Business® program, a business continuity and property protection planning tool for small to mid-sized businesses for IBHS member company employees, agents and policyholders. She formerly worked for the Mercury Insurance Group in Clearwater, Florida as a business continuity program officer and senior business systems analysts. She also worked for the company’s Brea, California and Vernon Hills, Illinois branches, where her positions included underwriting branch manager and senior underwriter. Gail is currently a member of the Greater Tampa Bay Association of Contingency Planners. She is also certified as a Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP) by DRI International.

Joel “Mark” Oliver


Joel “Mark” Oliver, a native of Lancaster, South Carolina, joined IBHS in 2016 as a machinist at the Research Center. Prior to that, he worked as a mechanic, machinist and maintenance supervisor, where his duties included setting up, calibrating and maintaining many different types of tools. At Velmet, Inc., Mark was responsible for machining operations for manual and Computer Numeric Control machines. While there, he performed alignment checks, inspected machine operations and was charged with detecting and responding to program errors or other unplanned situations that might impact machine operations. Mark brings a wealth of experience with the kinds of precision machines that IBHS uses to fabricate tools for scientific research.

Reece Plyler


Reece joined IBHS in 2016 as a Research Center technician.

Reece has a wide variety of experience in installing and maintaining electrical and mechanical equipment in residential, commercial and industrial applications stemming from his 27 years in the fields of industrial electricity/electronics, millwrighting and welding.

Hank Pogorzelski

Applied Statistician

Hank Pogorzelski joined IBHS in 2008 as the organization’s first applied statistician. His responsibilities include planning studies, conducting surveys and compiling data relating to property losses and injuries for analysis.

Mr. Pogorzelski is also responsible for preparing written reports and graphics to communicate findings. His prior experience includes 7 years with a large distributor of computer products and services. He earned a master’s degree in economics and a bachelor’s in international relations, both from the University of South Florida.

Justin Privette

Maintenance Technician

Justin Privette is responsible for handling all maintenance functions at the IBHS Research Center. Prior to joining IBHS in 2018, Justin was a maintenance technician at Darnel Inc. in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

While serving in the U.S. Navy, Justin held the roles of machinist, leading supervisor and propulsion assembly supervisor. He earned his associate’s degree in electronics engineering technologies at EPCI University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, as well as an industrial maintenance certification from South Piedmont Community College in Monroe, North Carolina.

Whit Remer

Counsel & Director, Public Policy

Whit joined IBHS in 2017 as Counsel and Director of Public Policy. He focuses on internal IBHS legal issues, as well as federal and state legislative and regulatory policy affecting building codes and standards, mitigation funding and incentives, and community resilience.

In addition to his law degree from Loyola University, Whit earned a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of New Orleans and a bachelor’s degree in geography and political science from Florida State University. He is well versed in a wide range of legal and public policy issues of importance to IBHS, having most recently served as Senior Manager of Federal Government Relations for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Whit’s previous experience also includes working on climate adaptation and catastrophe recovery for vulnerable populations.

Ian Roman-Echevarria

Accounting Assistant

Ian joined IBHS in 2018 as an Accounting Assistant at IBHS headquarters in Tampa, Florida. He is responsible for accounts receivable, accounts payable and various internal accounting projects.

Before joining IBHS, Ian worked at Reyes-Ramis CPA Group in Ponce, Puerto Rico, doing account reconciliation, payroll analysis and inventory depreciation. Ian graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, majoring in accounting, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in forensic accounting at Florida Atlantic University.

Chris Sanders

Research Project Scientist

Chris Sanders joined IBHS from Texas A&M Galveston where he was an instructor and research assistant. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Geology and master’s degree in Marine Resources Management which focuses on the different impacts of development on the coastal environment. Chris also has previous experience as a property insurance adjuster and wellsite geologist.

Larry Scott

Technical Writer

Larry is IBHS’s technical writer in the Communications Department. He helps draft and edit various materials for our scientists, including research reports, white papers, and abstracts. Larry has a wealth of experience as a technical writer and editor, having worked for several organizations in the health care and I/T fields, including BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Avtec, CGI Technologies and Solutions, Adaptec and IBM. He has a bachelor’s degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from the University of South Florida.

Joy Stokes

Director, Member Relations

Joy Stokes joined IBHS in 2006 and is responsible for the recruitment, retention, communication, training and education of current and potential IBHS member, affiliate member and associate member companies. She works directly with members to customize introductory and topic-specific Webinars for company employees and agents. Mrs. Stokes is the contact person for any and all IBHS member inquires including those related to publications, engineering, building codes, programs, etc. She also serves as the contact person for publication reviews when members use IBHS resources and content. Mrs. Stokes is responsible for overseeing IBHS committees in general and ensuring that expected time commitments of members participating on and chairing committees are reasonable. In addition, she also ensures that there is a high level of participation among committee members.

Prior to joining IBHS, she spent 3 years working as an office manager and public relations assistant for a Tampa-area nonprofit that was the fundraising arm of firefighter, paramedics and police organizations. She earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies from the University of South Florida.

Carolyn Strait

Lab Manager

Carolyn Strait joined IBHS in 2018 as a research project engineer at the Research Center and has since been promoted to lab manager. Her project design and research skills are put to use on many projects collaborating with the research staff. Prior to her work at IBHS, Carolyn had several years of experience working as a nuclear and training engineer in South Carolina and Washington State. She earned her bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from Boise State University.

Mary Tavarez

Receptionist/Administrative Assistant

Mary Tavarez joined IBHS in July 2013 as a receptionist/administrative assistant. She manages the front desk and provides administrative functions for the FORTIFIED program, among other administrative duties. Mary has more than 7 years of administrative experience in both Tampa, Florida, and New York, New York, in accounting, customer service, human resources, research, purchasing, and sales.

David Trull

Carpentry Team Leader

David joined IBHS in 2013 as a Research Center technician. He assists in the creation, assembly, and movement of buildings and portions of buildings for testing at the lab.

David has extensive experience in carpentry and construction, with more than 25 years at a number of construction firms including the Carolina Building Group and 1st Quality Electric. David also owned his own flooring company, Trull Floor Covering, for 16 years.

J. Arn Womble, PhD, P.E.

Lead Research Engineer

Prior to joining IBHS in 2018, Dr. Arn Womble was an Assistant Professor of civil engineering at West Texas A&M University where he directed the Wind Hazards Engineering Research Program. He has previously taught wind engineering, engineering mechanics, mathematics, physics, and logic at Texas Tech University, South Plains College, and Kingdom Preparatory Academy Christian School. Dr. Womble has also worked in professional practice as a structural engineer, consulting wind engineer, and expert witness for windstorm damage litigation. Dr. Womble holds professional engineering registrations in Colorado and Mississippi, and he received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award for the study on tornado effects on the built and natural environments via remote-sensing technologies.

Dr. Womble earned a master’s degree in civil engineering from Colorado State University and a bachelor’s and PhD in civil engineering from Texas Tech University. He also studied at Tyndale Theological Seminary and the Ezekiel School of Church Music. Dr. Womble is a member of the American Association for Wind Engineering, the Structural Engineers Association of Texas, and the ASCE Technical Council on Structural Wind Engineering. He chairs the Remote Sensing Subcommittee of the ASCE Tornado Speed Estimation Standards Committee.

Dr. Womble’s research interests include severe wind effects on structures, aerodynamics of structures, forensic wind engineering, and the use of remote-sensing technologies for windstorm damage assessment.

Womble Curriculum Vitae

Mark Zehnal

Senior Roofing Specialist

Although he became an employee in 2016, Mark Zehnal’s association with IBHS dates back to 2004 when he began collaborating with engineers and researchers on proposals that have helped to improve roofing performance. He is now a Senior Roofing Specialist supporting development of FORTIFIED initiatives in the Great Plains region. Mark also works with IBHS staff on building code initiatives and roofing-related research, and serves as the IBHS representative to the RICOWI Board of Directors.

Mark received his roofing contractor license in 1987 and was working in Miami when Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida. He later became the code specialist for roofing for Miami-Dade County, ensuring that the high-velocity hurricane zone roofing codes, established after Hurricane Andrew, remained stringent and uniform.

Mark has spent 30 years in the roofing industry, as a contractor, building code compliance officer, and most recently, as director of technical services for the Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors Association. In that position, he helped write the 2014 Florida Roofing Code and taught continuing education seminars for building inspectors, contractors, engineers and architects. As a current member of the Roofing Technical Advisory Committee for the Florida Building Commission, Mark reviews Florida Building Code proposed code changes, clarifications and declaratory statements. Mark is a licensed standard roofing inspector in the state of Florida. He’s also a LEED Accredited Professional and a certified general contractor, building contractor and roofing contractor in the state of Florida.