The CAT-5 Hurricane Net began as an idea by Engineering Express owner Frank Bennardo PE to cover an entire house with an open mesh fabric. After witnessing the 2004 storm season damage to homes which extended far beyond windows and doors, it was apparent that a product needed to be created to do more- protect and hold down roofs, mobile homes, sheds, signs, boats, etc.
With the idea and calculations in hand, Frank contacted his then client Michael Madden, a prominent owner of a manufacturing company of storm shutters at the time (see Madden Manufacturing) with the idea to sell the rights to the concept to him.
As ‘luck’ would have it, more storms were approaching in 2005 and Mike owned a manufactured home in Hutchinson Island, ground zero for Hurricane Jeanne, then only days away from striking. Mike called Frank and gave him his ‘big chance’ to cover his home for the storm. Frank and his team leaped into action to create the first Hurricane Net of its kind.
The home was saved, only 1 of 3 on the island to have survived, and CAT-5 Inc, was born.
The biggest problem with the installation was that the fabric needed to be ‘cut to size’ and ‘extended to fit’, which spawned ideas and testing to perfect a cutting and clamping system and a patent-able modular approach to the netting’s design.
The company received numerous Miami Dade, Florida, and Texas product approvals after extensive research and testing and the owner’s went on to patent the system (see below).
The product was picked up by then ASI Building Products (which was later bought out by Lansing Building Products) and containers of product were shipped and sold across the country.
The concept of a do-it-yourself net to cover an entire house caught the attention of national media and Mike Madden rose to the occasion, deploying multiple air boats to simulate hurricane force winds on a house covered with the Net. See that incredible footage below, airing on ABC, NBC, and CBS nationally as well as Inside Edition, a popular nationwide entertainment news show at the time.
Installations spawned nationally and internationally, receiving requests to cover all sorts of different items exposes to weather, from protecting livestock in Nebraska to covering boats, signs, trailers, planes, and more, in not only wind but protecting against snow and sun. Installations spawned from Hawaii to Puerto Rico. A favorite was when the team traveled to an installation on Bourbon Street in New Orleans (photo below).
With an unprecedented run of no hurricanes striking Florida since 2005
combined with the 2008 recession and closure of ASI Building Products, orders for the Net dwindled and the owners dispersed to other interests. Many have replicated the technologies learned from the research on the CAT-5 Net.
As a result of the pioneering efforts of this endeavor, Frank Bennardo PE became a leader in fabric storm protection, consulting with national companies on optimal fabric weather protection and saving property and lives, storm after storm.