Texarkana, TX, February 22, 2001 -- A community that has suffered losses from ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding or earthquakes usually tries to find ways to prevent the same type of damage from happening again. Taking measures to prevent or decrease losses from natural disasters is called mitigation.
FEMA and state mitigation experts have noted several strategies that might prove helpful in areas that were hit hard by the storms of December and January. There are also some concerns in the aftermath of those storms, which led to a Jan. 8 presidential disaster declaration in Texas.
Literally tons of forest debris in wooded areas may increase the risk for wildfires during the dry season. This debris provides a tremendous fuel source that would be difficult to control if ignited. In areas where wooded areas are close to buildings, an aggressive cut--back program may prevent damage to the buildings in the event of a fire.
Many structures were damaged due to falling tree limbs, electrical hookups torn off of houses and icy build--up on roofs. Homeowners can be educated as to proper measures for pruning and replanting vegetation and for strengthening their dwellings. Low--growing trees planted around wires and buildings will provide shade in the summer but lessen the impact of falling branches in the winter.
Power outages were a major problem during the winter storms. Power was lost to water distribution and wastewater treatment facilities, hospitals, homes and businesses for extended lengths of time. As communities develop their own mitigation plans, they must be addressing the needs of critical facilities and identifying alternative power sources.
Information about various types of mitigation may be found on the Internet at www.fema.gov/mit. The site includes low--cost tips for homeowners to protect their homes and property from unnecessary damage. There is also material about Safe Rooms for homes in tornado--prone areas.