SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- After a mild start, winter has finally arrived with the first real storms of the season. And with the rain comes the recommendations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for everyone to help reduce the effects of flood damage.
Though the last two years have not seen wide-spread flooding in California, FEMA officials are hoping that memories of the devastating 1998 El Ni?o floods and the January 1997 floods will encourage Californians to take proactive measures before the flood waters begin to rise.
By being winter-wise and flood savvy, residents and business owners can help reduce the monetary and emotional toll that comes with disaster. In addition to mitigation measures and the purchase of flood insurance, this year residents may be one step ahead of the process by maintaining their disaster preparedness kits.
"Now is the time to be prepared, before the seasonal rainstorms become more frequent," said Regional Director Martha Whetstone for FEMA Region IX. "By being self-responsible, Californians can prepare for flooding, which will not only save lives, but also can reduce damages."
One of the primary ways residents and business owners can be prepared is to buy flood insurance now because most insurance policies contain a 30-day waiting period clause.
"Most people don't realize until it's too late their property insurance does not cover flooding," Whetstone said. "Insurance policies contain a waiting period, so the coverage does not take place instantly. You don't want to wait until the need is apparent to purchase flood insurance, Think ahead; purchase flood insurance now."
Currently in California, more than 378,425 flood insurance policies have been issued, totaling more than $54.9 billion in coverage. The average cost of a flood insurance policy premium is $427. For information on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), call 1-800-427-4661.
In addition to flood insurance, FEMA stresses cost-effective mitigation measures that residents can do themselves including:
- Stockpile emergency building materials such as plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber nails, hammer, saw, shovels and sandbags;
- Check valves installed in building sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing up in sewer drains;
- Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity and water;
- Install a floating flood drain plug at the lowest point of the lowest finished floor;
- Relocate water heater and heating systems to an upper floor, or elevate them a least 12" above the base flood elevation;
- Relocate washer and dryer to an upper floor, or elevate them at least 12" above the base flood elevation;
- Relocate electrical box to an upper floor or elevate the electrical box to a recommended 12" safety margin above base flood elevation;
- Prevent sewer back-up from entering your home by installing a septic backflow valve; and
- Anchor fuel tank to the wall or floor to prevent floating and overturning.
If floodwaters do rise, it's important to be prepared and to educate your family on what to do during emergencies.
Among the suggestions are plan and practice evacuation routes, determine a central meeting place where everyone can gather, or a phone number of someone living outside the area where everyone can check in, and keep disaster supplies on hand such as:
- Flashlights and extra batteries;
- Portable battery-operated radio and extra batteries;
- First aid kit and manual;
- Emergency food and water;
- Non-electric can opener;