DANBURY, Conn. -- Weeks after Tropical Storm Floyd hit the State of Connecticut, people are still cleaning up and beginning to ask: "What about next time?"
The rebuild and repair phase of a disaster is the ideal time to consider methods of reducing future damage. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials call such action hazard mitigation.
"We want to break the damage-repair-damage cycle whenever possible," Federal Coordinating Officer Sharon L. Stoffel said. "It's safer, cheaper and ultimately much easier to limit future destruction than to repair it afterward."
Connecticut Office of Emergency Management (CT OEM) Director John T. Wiltse notes there are many simple home improvements that residents of flood-prone areas can make themselves.
"While many recommended measures require a professional contractor, some can be accomplished by a competent homeowner," Deputy Federal Coordinating Officer for Mitigation Paul White said. "It is important, however, to talk with your local building officials before you start any work. They can provide useful information on local standards and building codes."
Among the suggestions :
Relocate or elevate water heaters, heating systems, washers and dryers to a higher floor or to at least 12 inches above the high water mark. You can build a wooden platform of pressure-treated wood upon which to place the washer and dryer. Remember to include stairs for the platform. With the platform 12 inches above the high water mark, they will be needed. Watch out for the ceiling as there might not be enough room.
Anchor the fuel tank to the wall or floor. FEMA recommends anchoring your fuel tank. Metal strapping and lag bolts for this work can be bought at any hardware store. Make sure that the strapping and bolts are of non-corrosive material.
Anchoring a fuel tank is important for at least three reasons:
- Fuel tanks often float off their cradles during floods and threaten other structures in the flood path. Floating fuel tanks truly are a danger to all
- Maintaining an uninterrupted fuel supply enables homeowners to more quickly reestablish themselves in the home when the flood subsides
- Fuel oil spilled creates an additional health hazard.
Install a septic backflow valve to prevent sewer backup from entering your home. Septic systems also are flooded during the event, and sewage can be forced back into the home. Not only is this very unpleasant, it also presents a health risk for the returning occupants. Installing an interior or exterior septic backflow valve minimizes the chance of this happening.
Install a floating floor drain plug at the lowest point of the lowest finished floor. Drainpipes become an avenue for floodwaters to force sewage back into the home, which presents a health hazard to residents. Installing a floating floor drain plug at the lowest point of the drain run prevents this. The floating plug allows drainage during normal times, but when water backs up in the drain, such as in a flood, the float rises and plugs the drain.
Elevate the electric box or relocate it to a higher floor, and elevate electric outlets to a recommended 12 inches above the high water mark. A licensed electrician is required for these tasks. Not only is this a safety measure, but an electrician can save time and money after a flood. An uninterrupted electrical supply is just as essential as an uninterrupted fuel supply to allow the homeowner to quickly move back into the home. The best thing to do is relocate the main electrical panel to an upper floor, but otherwise, elevate it at least 12 inches above the high water mark.