DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. -- Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt kicked off a disaster-resistant Spring Break today by noting the efforts of Deerfield Beach, Fla. In 1997, Deerfield Beach became the first of 118 Project Impact communities nationwide. Project Impact is a national initiative designed to involve citizens, government officials and the business community in actions to make their communities more disaster-resistant.
Joined by 10 Marine Corps ROTC students on Spring Break from Deerfield Beach High School, Director Witt installed hurricane shutters into the home of Elder BT Weston, a resident of Deerfield Beach. This heralds the beginning of the second annual Project Impact Spring Break - in which youth across the country become involved in disaster-prevention and damage-reduction activities in their own communities. This year, several Project Impact communities will hold Spring Break activities, including Pascagoula, Miss.; Wilmington, N.C.; and Oakland, Calif.
"By installing shutters, strengthening windows, making minor repairs and teaching others how to safeguard themselves from the next natural disaster, these Spring Break participants are making America safe from natural disasters," said Director Witt.
Deerfield Beach homeowners benefit not only from these volunteer efforts but from Project Impact corporate partners like Fannie Mae, which joined FEMA to make consumer installation loans at competitive interest rates available to American homeowners for the purpose of making certain disaster-prevention improvements. The first recipient of a Fannie Mae disaster-prevention home loan in Deerfield Beach will be announced soon.
"We are proud of the steps the Deerfield Beach community has taken to protect their homes and families from unnecessary losses," said Steve Seibert, Secretary of the Department of Community Affairs for the State of Florida. "Through the educational and economic support of Project Impact, Deerfield Beach is on its way to becoming a community that can withstand disaster."
Deerfield Beach citizens are also learning how to prevent damage through a disaster-resistant home built by State Farm and the City of Deerfield Beach. It will be open to the public for information on Project Impact and disaster-resistance.
Since joining the efforts in 1997, Deerfield Beach business representatives, local officials and members of the community have been actively involved in making their community safe from natural disasters. Susceptible to hurricanes, tropical storms and flooding, Deerfield Beach has been hit by at least seven major hurricanes in the last 75 years.
"Living in an area prone to violent weather, we all need to take responsibility for our safety and well-being," said Deerfield Beach City Manager Larry Deetjen. "Project Impact is showing us that you can in fact teach an old dog new tricks."
During his visit to Deerfield Beach, Witt evaluated several sites in the community, in which damage-reduction measures are already in place. The Deerfield Beach Chamber of Commerce is currently being retrofitted with shatter-resistant glass from Project Impact corporate partner Solutia Inc.
"The Chamber of Commerce is a landmark in this community and we had to do something to limit the damage from hurricanes," said Janyce Becker, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce. As part of Solutia's partnership with Project Impact, Solutia will provide their new hurricane-resistant KeepSafe Maximum glass along with technological and informational support to several targeted communities.
"This is exactly what we needed," said Becker. "By building a disaster-resistant communit...