Washington, DC -- Xenia, Ohio, joined a select list of communities across the country today when it was chosen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to become part of the agency's Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communities initiative. The announcement marks the first time the Project Impact designation has been made as a direct result of a community's response to a disaster.
"Through Project Impact, the residents of Xenia can build back smarter," said FEMA Director James Lee Witt. "This community has seen time and again the devastation that a tornado can bring. Through partnerships, public education and prevention programs, residents of Xenia can reduce their losses from future disasters."
Project Impact, an initiative launched by FEMA in 1997, works with state and local governments to take action to reduce the risk and prevent potential damage from disasters. The partnership will unite FEMA, the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA) and Xenia's local government, citizens and business leaders in a combined effort to envision and implement strategies designed to lessen future disaster loss.
"We are delighted to be part of a program that will build on our existing efforts to lessen future devastation and the terrible human costs associated with disasters," said Janet Odeshoo, acting regional director for FEMA Region V in Chicago.
Xenia's location in the Midwest makes it extremely vulnerable to tornadoes, as experienced one month ago when a F4 tornado struck the community. Collaborative efforts are already underway in the community to prevent future devastation. The town has been working with agencies such as the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide residents with low-interest disaster loans that may include funds for constructing safe rooms in storm-damaged homes. Through workshops and displays at area business sites, many local residents have also had an opportunity to view safe room mock-ups and video presentations about wind-resistant construction techniques.
FEMA and the Ohio EMA are also working with city officials to construct safe rooms in damaged public facilities, such as the Xenia Service Center and the county fairgrounds.
In the past 10 years, FEMA has spent more than $25 billion to help repair and rebuild disaster-stricken areas. Project Impact's goal is to eliminate the damage-repair-damage cycle by implementing preventive measures before disaster strikes.
"I'm pleased that Xenia will be part of the Project Impact effort," said Xenia City manager Jim Percival. "This initiative has demonstrated that prevention works, and Project Impact will continue to help our businesses and residents shift their focus from simply reacting to disasters to taking actions in advance to stop the destruction of property and loss of life."
Project Impact corporate and community partners assist with monetary aid, in-kind services, technical support and labor to aid in implementing disaster-resistant measures. FEMA provides technical, administrative and financial support.
Since its inception in 1997, nearly 250 communities and 2,500 business partners have embraced Project Impact. Instead of waiting for disasters to occur, Project Impact communities initiate mentoring relationships, private and public partnerships, public outreach and disaster mitigation projects to reduce damage from potentially devastating disasters. Previous community projects have included creating disaster resistance strategies, revising local building and land use codes, and passing bond issues to construct prevention measures that will impact the entire community.
For more information about Project Impact or preventing damage, call (202) 646-4117.