SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Need to make major repairs or rebuild as a result of recent flooding? Before spending any money, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (DEM) disaster recovery officials urge first checking with the local building permit office to get required permits.
"Experience has shown that lives can be saved, homes can be protected and economic recovery can be accelerated by building safer, stronger buildings," said Ed Laundy, DEM State Coordinating Officer. "Property owners have a responsibility to themselves, their families and their neighbors to rebuild in a way that reduces future flood losses. In fact, these steps may be required for all new construction or substantial improvements to flood-damaged homes. This means adhering to the floodplain ordinances in effect in your city or county."
Checking with the local building permit office can help individuals avoid costly mistakes. Local building officials also can offer technical advice to show the best way to prevent future damages, including:
- rebuilding with materials less likely to be damaged by water, such as tile rather than carpeting;
- raising utility connections and electrical outlets; and
- elevating the structure above the base flood elevation. (This is the level at which there is a 1 percent chance of flooding every year.)
Home repair and rebuilding in a flood hazard area takes on special significance. Buildings that were constructed prior to a community's adoption of local floodplain ordinances don't have to be altered to meet the current standards unless they suffered substantial damage. At the point where community officials determine that the repair costs would equal or exceed 50 percent of a dwelling's pre-disaster market value, owners of these substantially damaged properties will have to meet the current local ordinances when repairing their properties.
Communities adopt and enforce these ordinances to help prevent future flood losses and to enable property owners to buy insurance through FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Most standard homeowner policies do not cover damages caused by rising water.
"Implementing and enforcing floodplain ordinances are crucial to an entire community," said Robert E. Hendrix, FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer. "If a community doesn't, it may lose its eligibility to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. This jeopardizes disaster assistance for everyone."
Also, communities that do not enforce floodplain ordinances can prevent homeowners who want to repair or rebuild using federally secured financing (most types of mortgage loans, including FHA and VA loans) from buying flood insurance.
Without flood insurance, the only assistance individuals may get would be temporary rental assistance. Also, they cannot qualify for funding for minor home repairs, low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration and grants for other emergency needs from the state.
Flood insurance can be purchased through most insurance agents or companies. It's available for commercial or residential structures and personal property. If federal flood recovery assistance is granted once, the property must be covered by flood insurance to receive most federal and state disaster assistance when the next flood comes.
"Flood proofing homes saves two dollars in taxpayers' funding of disaster relief for every dollar spent," said Hendrix. "There is no reason to stay in harm's way when we can break the damage-repair cycle. A community's enforcement of sound floodplain ordinances makes a stronger, safer legacy for future generations.
"While the government can help flood victims get back on their feet this time, no one wants to experience such a disaster again. That's why we are so eager to help dev...