RALEIGH, N.C. -- After facing successive hurricanes Dennis, Floyd and Irene and the accompanying downpours and flooding, 1999 was a year in which North Carolinians found themselves caught in flood-repair, flood-repair, flood-repair cycle.
To end that cycle, state and federal disaster officials are providing technical advice and some financial assistance with techniques that can reduce damage to a home while at the same time increasing its attractiveness and value. Natural gas lines, septic tanks, heat and air conditioning systems and appliances are particularly vulnerable to flood damage.
Homeowners who are rebuilding with a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, may get a second loan for up to 20 percent of the amount of the repair for improvements to make the home more disaster resistant.
The vulnerability of a utility system can be reduced by elevating it, relocating it or shielding it. Local codes determine in large part what can and cannot be done. Here are some suggestions from specialists:
- Raise incoming utility services that are mounted outside your home such as meters and electrical, phone and TV cables.
- Elevate electrical outlets, switches, light sockets, circuit breakers or fuse boxes, baseboard heaters, and wiring to at least 12 inches above base flood levels.
- Raise washers and dryers on masonry or pressure-treated lumber at least 12 inches above projected flood levels.
- Elevate outside air conditioning compressors and heat pumps on masonry or pressure-treated lumber to 12 inches above expected flood levels.
- Suspend furnaces that operate horizontally from ceiling joists if the joists are strong enough. Install draft-down furnaces in the attic when permitted by local codes.
Relocation and other protective steps
If projected flood levels are well above ground floor level, equipment will have to be relocated to an upper floor in the home or protected with special shields or anchored in place. Consider these steps:
- Relocate, elevate or anchor hot-water heaters.
- Anchor fuel tanks with metal straps and fasteners to prevent them from overturning or floating away.
- Secure shelves and water heaters to nearby walls.
- Build a concrete floodwall to protect furnaces and hot water heaters (for flood depths of less than three feet).
- Install flood shields for doors and other openings to keep out floodwater (after evaluating whether the building can handle the water's force).
- Install backflow valves or plugs to prevent floodwaters from entering the home through drains, toilets and other sewer connections.
- Connect receptacles to a ground fault interrupter circuit to avoid shock or electrocution. A licensed electrician should do all electrical work.
If you have questions or want further information, call 1-800-525-0321 and ask to speak to a mitigation counselor. You may also visit any state/federal disaster recovery center or FEMA mobile mitigation information center. Or you may obtain "The Homeowner's Guide to Retrofitting"available online at www.fema.gov or call the FEMA Distribution Center during business hours at 1-800-480-2520 and ask for Publication #312. Also see the Floodplain Management Association web page at http://floodplain.org.