Baton Rouge, LA -- After Tropical Storm Isisdore and Hurricane Lili pounded coastal and inland Louisiana, area residents need no reminder that their homes and livelihoods are often at risk in the fragile flood-prone area.
However, state and federal disaster officials overseeing recovery efforts in the aftermath of the storms cautioned that the urge to fix things up quickly might mean that long-term solutions could be overlooked.
"We are a state that prides itself on our ability to bounce back," said Art Jones, state coordinating officer. "But we want to come back smarter, better, and more able to withstand the damage of future disasters."
Jones explained that it is not unusual for some areas in the state to experience repetitive flooding and that some basic costs to return a damaged home to a functioning standard might be re-incurred over the course of several disasters.
"We encourage every resident to take responsibility for lowering the disaster risk of their home," Jones said. "But in any instance where emergency repairs total more than 50 percent of a structure's pre-disaster value, we require homeowners to put protective measures in place to reduce future losses."
Carlos Mitchell, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinating officer said that reducing repair and rebuilding costs associated with recurring losses is an on-going concern and a major part of federal and state disaster assistance programs.
"Taxpayers as well as weary residents don't want to continually deal with the same problem," Mitchell said. He urged all residents with disaster-related uninsured losses to visit disaster recovery centers to speak with mitigation experts on ways to lessen future damages.
Mitchell said that some cost-effective homeowner measures to lessen future flood damage include: elevating or relocating an electrical panel, anchoring a fuel storage tank, repositioning appliances such as a clothes washer or dryer on a higher platform, and strapping down a water heater. Mitchell said more permanent measures, such as elevating, or re-locating the home should also be considered by residents after recurring flooding.
Mitchell outlined other forms of disaster assistance that promote disaster-reduction efforts:
- The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) goal is reduction of loss of life and property in flood-prone areas. The NFIP is self-financed by policyholder premiums. More than 365,000 Louisiana residents are enrolled in the program (regular homeowners' insurance policies do not cover flood damage). Coverage is available for homeowners and renters and household contents can be covered. Businesses may also apply for coverage to buildings and their contents, including equipment. If you have a home business, a separate NFIP policy is available.
- U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest loans require that recipients carry NFIP policies for the life of the loan. After the loan is repaid, owners are encouraged to continue participation. The amount of the loans can be increased in some instances to cover the additional cost of compliance to meet local floodplain requirements.
- Individual and Family Grants are available to help uninsured and underinsured residents who do not qualify for SBA loans. Households receiving these grants are automatically enrolled for three years in the NFIP with the cost included as part of their grant. If the property is sold, the seller must inform the buyer of the title of the requirement to maintain flood insurance coverage.
- Flood hazard maps are critical tools for communities and individuals to locate potential flood hazard risks. These maps are available at Building Permit Offices in most Louisiana parishes and also can be viewed on...