CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- Flood disasters have struck West Virginia six times in the last four-and-a-half years. Therefore, it makes sense to take steps now to protect lives and property before the next major flood.
"We don't know when it will happen, but one thing is sure - there will be another flood," Justo Hernandez, federal coordinating officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said. "It is possible to reduce future flooding damage. There are many prevention techniques that can minimize the effects of floodwaters on residential properties."
According to John Pack, state coordinating officer and director of West Virginia's Office of Emergency Services (OES), "There are many options to homeowners, which can save money and end the costly recurring 'damage-rebuild-damage' cycle. Ultimately, however, preventative measures can also save families from the emotional toll that can be created by having floodwaters in their homes."
Some measures designed to reduce the risk of future flooding - known as hazard mitigation - are relatively inexpensive when done during home renovations. For example, elevate everyday appliances such as dishwashers, refrigerators, washers and dryers as well as electrical panels and computer equipment.
Federal and state hazard mitigation specialists say before alterations or repairs are made, residents should be sure to contact local building officials to obtain information on local codes and any necessary permits.
The following checklist of steps is recommended by federal and state disaster officials to mitigate the impact of future storms:
- Install interior floodwalls to protect utilities and appliances against low-level flooding.
- Relocate the main electrical panel to an upper floor or elevate it to a recommended 12-inch safety margin above the base flood elevation.
- Elevate washers and dryers, water and/or central heating systems. The heating system also may be suspended with sufficient reinforcement of the ceiling joints.
- Anchor fuel storage tanks to the wall or floor to prevent floating and overturning.
- Install a floating floor drain plug at the lowest point of the lowest floor. This is to allow water to drain and prevents drains from backing up.
- Install interior or exterior backflow valves to help prevent sewage and floodwater backup from entering your home through the wastepipe or sewer lines.
- Finally, always check with your local building officials for permit and code requirements.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can help home and business owners keep future disaster costs under control through additional low-interest loan funding for mitigation measures beyond what may be required to restore the property to pre-storm conditions.
Additional preventive measures can be found in two free FEMA publications. "Protecting Your Home From Flood Damage: Mitigation Ideas for Reducing Flood Loss" is sent to all who apply for disaster housing assistance. "An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure" is available by calling the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-525-0321, or for speech and hearing impaired 1-800-462-7585.
The U.S. Small Business Administration can be reached at 1-800-659-2955.