Charleston, WV -- Federal, state and local governments do all they can to reduce flood hazards that can cost lives as well as billions of dollars in damages and losses to residential and business property.
They build levees, dams, dikes, floodwalls and berms, dredge channels, clear waterways, remove debris and provide incentives to elevate, relocate or even acquire and demolish structures that suffer recurring damage.
And yet, every year, Americans sustain more than $1 billion in flood-related damages. Of all natural disasters that have occurred in the last five years, floods caused 61 percent of all property damage.
In West Virginia the frequency of flooding makes flood-hazard risks and costs crystal-clear. Since 1996 the state has received 12 federal disaster declarations.
"Floods destroy homes and devastate families and communities," said Louis Botta, federal coordinating officer for the recent flood recovery operations. "The best way to deal with this vulnerability is from the ground up, one house, one neighborhood, one community at a time," Botta said.
He said that the first step in lowering the flood risk to your home and family is to talk to your local floodplain manager.
"One-to-one, these local officials can show you the latest flood maps, they can explain the 'why-and -how' of floodplain ordinances and they can offer practical advice on reducing future damages," Botta said. Examples include such things as elevating circuit boxes and household appliances including washers, dryers, hot-water heaters and air-conditioning units.
Local officials will have copies of the Flood Insurance Study and Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) published by FEMA for all NFIP participating communities. Local officials can also pinpoint whether a structure is in a regulatory floodplain and, if so, the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) standard that must be met. The BFE is the height the floodwaters will rise to in the one-percent-annual-chance ("100-year") flood. The first floor of new buildings should be above the height of the BFE. They also can provide information on federal, state and local programs that provide financial assistance for homeowner retrofitting projects to reduce flood risk.
Responsibility for floodplain management may vary in different communities. However officials such as a city clerk, mayor or county administrator can put interested applicants in touch with the responsible office.
Robert Perry, state National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) coordinator, said that state and local governments were fully behind the effort to rebuild and repair with prevention in mind.
"Mother Nature is telling us something and we have to listen. It doesn't make good sense to rebuild without first making sure the structure will be more disaster-resistant than it was before the flood," Perry said.
Perry said that buildings constructed in compliance with NFIP standards suffer 77 percent less flood damage than those built prior to local enforcement of these standards.
The officials also urge those who don't already have a flood insurance policy to buy flood insurance coverage regardless of whether it's required or not. Floods are far-reaching and can happen in areas where the coverage isn't required by law.
NFIP coverage provides reimbursement to repair the physical damage from flooding, and, in addition to this protection, most flood policies bought or renewed since June, 2000 offer extra Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage. Insured commercial properties, properties outside the floodplain and properties insured under a group flood insurance policy are ineligible for ICC. This added coverage provides $20,000 ($30,000 if the flood damage occurred after May 1, 2003) toward the cost to bring a flood-damaged structure into compliance with c...