By Beth Freeman, Region VII Administrator
Last spring, during our annual Bring Your Child to Work Day, a youngster asked me about the “feel good” in what I do, and the work of FEMA. As I left the office yesterday, I had that “feel good” moment I think that young person was referring to.
Every time a state receives a federal disaster declaration, money is set-aside for projects that will help to reduce the impact of future disasters. Sometimes it can be difficult to actually know the benefit a mitigation project brings to a community, but June 5, when news of the impending levee breech in West Alton came across my email, I knew the money the State of Missouri invested in flood mitigation in St. Charles County was paying a dividend.
Through the work of local emergency mangers, community planners, and Missouri’s State Emergency Management Agency, over 200 flood prone properties within West Alton have been acquired since 1994 through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. And throughout St. Charles County 1,437 properties were purchased. Approximately 286 properties might have been flooded had they not been acquired with FEMA funds.
When the river goes below flood stage once again, we will have additional data to study the cost of these acquisition projects compared to the projected cost of disaster recovery that would have been needed over the years had the buy-outs not occurred. But today, the value of this work is much more personal. It is measured in the well-being of the families who are safe and not wondering what will be left of their homes and way of life once the floodwaters recede.