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Becoming a Disaster-Resistant Community: How and Why

Release date: 
December 6, 1999
Release Number: 

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Mother Nature has given warnings of an urgent need for North Carolina to batten down and build "up," state and federal officials say.

Eric Tolbert, director of the state Emergency Management Division (NCEMD), points out that the 1999 hurricane season was particularly hard on North Carolina. There were 12 named tropical storms, five of them major hurricanes. Hurricanes Dennis, Floyd and Irene caused massive destruction in the state, and the prediction for next year is more of the same.

Tolbert said Hurricane Floyd's trail of damage shows where the job of building better (wind- and flood-proofing homes and businesses) should be under way, and he urged that public leaders in disaster-prone areas start now to help make their communities more disaster resistant. One opportunity is through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) national initiative called Project Impact, he said.

Becoming disaster resistant requires a community-wide effort over a long period of time. Participation and commitment are required of all sectors of the community: employers, businesses, community associations, services, and local government. Project Impact and the North Carolina Local Hazard Mitigation Planning Initiative provide guidance on how to accomplish this cooperative effort. Under Project Impact guidelines, a community goes through a number of steps in four phases, including:

Phase 1: Build the Partnership

  • Form a partnership team of local officials, representatives of industry and business, infrastructure, transportation, utilities, housing, volunteer organizations, health care, government, work force, education--all community elements having a stake in reducing losses.
  • Designate a project impact coordinator to provide staff assistance for the partnership team and to assist with community education and outreach.
  • Establish subgroups to tackle identified issues.
  • Develop or reproduce Project Impact materials to explain objectives and how to get there.

Phase 2: Identify Hazards and Community Vulnerabilities

  • Determine which areas of your community can be affected by disasters, how likely it is that a disaster may occur, and how intense the disaster might be.
  • Identify the facilities that are at risk and to what degree they might be affected, as well as how their damage might affect the vulnerability of other structures.
  • Do a risk assessment to define the potential consequences of a disaster based on a combination of your hazard and vulnerability studies.

Phase 3: Prioritize and Take Hazard Risk-Reduction Actions

  • Plan for open space acquisition of high hazard potential areas.
  • Develop policies, incentives and legislation to encourage property owners to invest in projects that will reduce losses in disasters.
  • Adopt policies that require consideration and mitigation of identified hazards in subdividing or consolidating parcels, changing land uses, or redevelopment.
  • Support community efforts to improve or replace vulnerable utilities and transportation systems.

Phase 4: Communicate Successes

  • Develop and distribute promotional mitigation materials, organize a speakers bureau, and ask the news media to become partners or sponsors in communicating the value of reducing hazards and the progress toward making your community disaster resistant.

Existing Project Impact communities in North Carolina are New Hanover/Wilmington, Charlotte/Mecklenburg, and Boone. Coming into the program next year are Buncombe and Lenoir counties and all of their municipalities and the eastern band of Cherokee Indian...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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