Washington, DC -- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director James Lee Witt announced today recommendations homeowners, businesses, and communities can take to help reduce the devastating effects of high winds associated with tornadoes. The recommendations are the result of a concentrated effort in assessing the damage from the May 3, 1999 outbreak of tornadoes that hit parts of Oklahoma and Kansas.
The FEMA study concludes that damage to residential structures can often be reduced or avoided if newer building codes and engineering standards that provided better guidance for high wind events had been adopted, followed and enforced. Many building failures could have been avoided with better construction techniques, and building materials and the effective use of connections.
Within days of the May 3 tornadoes, FEMA deployed its Building Performance Assessment Team, composed of wind and structural engineers, civil engineers, forensic engineers and architects to assess damage caused by the tornadoes. The assessment teams saw significant damage to hundreds of single-family homes, multi-family housing and manufactured homes. They saw building failures that resulted from wind-borne debris and high winds that often produced forces on buildings not designed to withstand such forces. They also saw building failures resulting from improper construction techniques, poor selection of construction materials and ineffective detailing of connections.
This study is another in a long list of activities FEMA has undertaken to promote Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communities. Through the initiative of Project Impact, FEMA is helping America change the way it deals with disasters. People across the nation are learning to prevent damage before natural disasters strike.
"We now know that there is much we can do to build stronger structures that will stand up even if they are near the direct path of a violent tornado - or even in the direct path of weaker tornadoes. We have found that much of the needless destruction, and the misery it brings, can be stopped," said Director Witt. "We cannot control the weather, but we can, in many cases control its effects on people."
At the press conference, Director Witt appealed to homeowners, business and community leaders regarding disaster prevention and tornadoes to do the following:
FEMA urges local officials in tornado prone areas to help their communities come through a tornado event by adopting, following and rigorously enforcing the latest model building codes and national consensus wind engineering standards.
FEMA urges local officials in tornado areas to take steps to ensure that manufactured homes are installed and secured properly.
FEMA urges insurance companies to offer lower r...