MIAMI, Fla. -- Reduction of potential deaths, injuries and property damage is the top priority of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as America faces the 1999 Hurricane Season, FEMA Director James Lee Witt announced at a press conference at the National Hurricane Center in Miami today.
June 1st marks the start of the Atlantic hurricane season and already 118 communities are taking steps to become disaster-resistant through Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communities. This FEMA initiative is designed to challenge the country to undertake actions that protect families, businesses and communities by reducing the effects of natural disasters.
"Somewhere, somehow this hurricane season, a hurricane will strike a community. If it's yours, I promise you FEMA will be there to help," Witt said. "But I also promise this: if we act right now, like Project Impact communities have done, to prevent hurricane damage, we'll face fewer shattered windows and fewer shattered lives. That's our promise, and this is our message to Americans along our coastlines: You don't have to be victims."
Project Impact is at the National Hurricane Center today to educate Americans on how to become disaster-resistant. FEMA has the technology and the know-how to reduce damage from hurricanes and other natural disasters. Together with the National Hurricane Center and NOAA Project Impact is giving communities the tools to minimize the loss of life and damage to property.
Director Witt announced that President Clinton has signed legislation giving the Small Business Administration $15 million for loans to help businesses prepare for natural disasters. This money will be targeted to Project Impact communities first. In addition, Project Impact is joining the Economic Development Administration of the Department of Commerce to analyze the economic impact of hurricanes on local and state economies and help chart a long-term economic recovery strategy that includes preventative actions to reduce future impacts.
"We can extend these helping hands," said Director Witt. "But it's up to the communities to roll up their sleeves before the next hurricane strikes." In South Florida, 60 percent of the businesses damaged by Hurricane Andrew still had not recovered after a year, and even now, almost seven years later, some businesses have not yet recovered.
"Will your community be hit by a hurricane?" asked Director Witt. "We can't know. But we can prevent hurricane damage through efforts such as Project Impact. A small investment in prevention today, will pay enormous dividends if a hurricane strikes tomorrow. Let's make this hurricane season a time of hope by taking prevention steps, rather than a season of fear."