HAMPTON, Va. -- Weeks after Hurricane Floyd's floodwaters have receded, many individuals, businesses, and communities are tallying the damage. It will be months before lives are put back together and years before communities are rebuilt and back to normal, federal disaster recovery officials said. It is impossible to prevent natural disasters, but many communities affected by recent disasters could have been spared or could have reduced their losses had they been better prepared. While some had flood insurance and others had taken steps to minimize damage, a new community-based initiative called "Project Impact: Building Disaster-Resistant Communities," could have tackled danger zones head on, before they became disaster statistics. With preventive measures, losses are reduced and sometimes eliminated altogether, according to federal and state disaster recovery officials. James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), introduced Project Impact in 1997 in an effort to "protect families, businesses, and communities by reducing the impact of natural disasters," said Tom Davies, federal coordinating officer.
Nationwide, nearly 200 communities and more than 1,000 business partners are involved in Project Impact, which promotes total community involvement and thrives on the energy and partnerships generated by committed individuals, businesses, and local leaders. Any community can become a disaster resistant community, such as Roanoke, and Virginia Beach, which are currently involved in education awareness and other disaster-resistant community efforts. The City of Chesapeake is the newest addition to Project Impact communities in Virginia.Project Impact initiatives run the gamut from individuals who install storm shutters in their homes to local governments that invest in public buildings and other government facilities. Regardless of the size or scope of the initiative, building disaster- resistant communities saves lives and prevents damage. In the process, it saves money as well. Current statistics show that for every dollar spent on prevention, at least two dollars are saved on disaster repairs.
Through its four-pronged program, Project Impact builds safe communities when individuals, businesses, and community leaders take the following steps:
- Identify and recruit Project Impact partners in the community such as local government leaders, civic and volunteer groups, businesses, and individual citizens.
- Determine the community's risk for falling victim to natural disasters.
- Set priorities and target resources to reduce impact of future disasters.
- Keep the entire community informed and focused on Project Impact's ability to reduce damage and costs of future disasters.
For more information about "Project Impact: Building Disaster-Resistant Communities," call 1-800-227-4731 or visit the FEMA web site at www.fema.gov.