ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. -- "The billions of dollars spent on the record number of disasters over the past decade demands that Americans change the way they approach these events," said Federal Coordinating Officer Justo Hernandez for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "And that is not the total cost. Many additional millions of dollars have been spent in insurance claims, or lost through unemployment and business revenues. The loss of human life cannot be measured in dollars."
"A nationwide initiative, Project Impact-Building Disaster Resistant Communities, operates on a common sense, damage-reduction approach," he said. Implemented by FEMA in 1997, Project Impact joins states and territories in a partnership with FEMA to help communities change the way they approach and deal with natural disasters. To date nearly 200 communities nationwide are participating, including three initiatives in Vermont.
Project Impact bases its work and planning on three principles: preventive actions must be decided at the local level; private sector participation is vital; and long-term efforts and investments in prevention measures are essential.
"The goal of Project Impact is to make every community in America disaster resistant," stated Hernandez.
"Project Impact is not a traditional federal grant program," said Ed von Turkovich, State Coordinating Officer. "It is a philosophy; a way of thinking. It is a change in the way America deals with and responds to natural disasters."
Usually, seed money is given to communities to get their effort up and running. These grants help communities by giving them the tools to build partnerships; helping them with smart building choices and disaster-resistant community planning practices.
Working with the state, FEMA helps bring community officials, businesses and individuals together so that they can leverage funding, partnerships and long-term support to become disaster resistant. Each year only a small number of communities can be directly supported by the FEMA/state partnership grant funds. But communities, businesses or individuals can take the initiative without federal funding to become disaster resistant.
According to FEMA, for every taxpayer dollar spent in preventive measures two or more dollars are being saved in disaster recovery costs.
"Now is the time to turn the tide," von Turkovich said. "With the help of Vermonters across the state we can become disaster-resistant communities. By implementing ways to reduce future damage we can extend our awareness to include prevention along with preparedness.
Von Turkovich encourages Vermonters to contact planning commissions in the three Vermont regions already partnering with Project Impact. They are:
- Michele Boomhower, Executive Director and Project Impact Coordinator, Lamoille County Planning Commission,(802) 888-4548;
- Catherine Dimitruk, Executive Director, Northwest Regional Planning Commission, Franklin and Grand Isle counties, (800)-564-5958;
- Peter Gregory, Executive Director or Kevin Geiger, Senior Planner, Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission, Windsor and Orange Counties, (802) 457-3188.
- Individuals or organizations interested in participating in Project Impact may also contact State Hazard Mitigation Officer Angela Magara at (802) 241-5373.