LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Nevada Division of Emergency Management (DEM) are urging Southern Nevada homeowners to protect themselves from severe storms and flash floods like the ones that struck Clark County last month. "We want to break the cycle of damage-repair-damage that is so costly and so disheartening to disaster victims," said FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer, Mike Lowder. "It is safer, less expensive, and ultimately much easier to limit future destruction than to repair it afterwards," he said.
In some cases, where a home is located in a floodplain, reducing the flood risk may require raising or relocating the entire structure. But there are also many simple and relatively inexpensive steps that individual owners can take to protect themselves and their property.
Some of the most severe damage in the Clark County flash floods was to mobile homes. By the very nature of their construction and location, these homes are frequently vulnerable to storm damage and flooding. "Mobile home owners should be especially careful of propane tanks," says Jeanne Ruefer, the State Flood Management Program Officer. "When these tanks break loose in a flood," she says, "they are not only a loss to their owners, they are extremely dangerous when carried downstream with other flood debris." Ruefer recommends that all fuel tanks be securely fastened to a wall or concrete slab with non-corroding metal straps or brackets. They can also be secured to trailer carriages and frames using stout chain or metal straps or elevated above potential flood levels. "Don't rely on elastic bungee cords," warns Ruefer. "They won't hold in a flood."
Another serious hazard for both mobile and conventional homes is any electrical connection or appliance that is too close to the ground. People who live in low-lying areas should be sure that circuit and fuse boxes are installed at least a foot above the base flood elevation. Moving them to an upper floor is even safer. Of course, only a licensed electrician or electrical contractor should do this kind of work. The same principle applies to furnaces, water heaters, washers and dryers, or any other major appliance that might be covered with water in a flood. Putting such appliances up on a platform 12" or more above the floor can often solve this problem.
Once an air conditioning unit is flooded, it is usually a total loss. Roof-mounted units are safer than window units in a flood simply because they are higher off the ground. Interior or exterior backflow check valves will prevent sewers or septic tanks from backing up through toilets and drains. Floor drains should have a floating plug valve that allows water to flow out, but prevents floodwater from coming back into the house. Again, this is something for a licensed contractor to deal with.
In any disaster, it is important to protect legal documents like deeds, insurance policies, bank records, and birth certificates. These should be kept in watertight containers and stored where they are least likely to be swept away.
For many flood victims, the most devastating losses are those items that can never be replaced - photos, family albums, and precious mementos of all kinds. If these can't be stored away safely, then disaster officials recommend that people keep watertight containers handy so that these items can be protected when storm warnings are posted.
These and other simple tips are available free from the FEMA Publications Office at (800) 480-2520. Ask for The Homeowner's Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect Your House from Flooding (Publication #312). This information is also available on the FEMA web site listed below. Nevada homeowners may get additional help, information, and advice on hazard mitigation from the State Division of Water Planning (SDWP) by calling (775) 687-3600, ext. 23, or the state's toll free number, (800) 992-09...