Charleston, WV -- With the memory of the May 2002 flood and the 12 federally declared disasters in the state since 1996, West Virginians seek ways to protect families and keep property losses to a minimum.
"Nobody can stop a flood," said Louis Botta, Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) federal coordinating officer. "But if you are faced with one, there are actions you can take to protect your family and keep your property losses to a minimum."
Mitigation lessens the damaging effects from flooding. Participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and enforcing sound floodplain management techniques are steps your community can undertake. Constructing barriers such as levees will also help reduce the amount of damage to home and crops, while purchasing flood insurance reduces the financial burden should a flood or flash flood occur.
What is your flood risk? Community officials or local emergency management office are the best resources to learn about the history of flooding for the region. Ask whether your property is in the floodplain and if it is above or below the flood stage water level. Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are used to determine your flood risk. FIRMs are found in several places:
- Your local community map repository, usually, the building and planning departments;
- The FEMA Map Store for maps, flood studies and other products on-line or paper copies; and
- Call a map specialist for specific questions about your flood zone at 1-877-336-2627.
The most important thing is to make sure your family is safe. Have the following disaster supplies on hand:
- Flashlights and extra batteries;
- Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries tuned to a local station, and follow emergency instructions;
First aid kit and manual;
- Emergency food and bottled water;
- Non-electric can opener;
- Essential medicines;
- Cash and credit cards; and
- Sturdy shoes.
If you live in a frequently flooded area, take preventative measures and stockpile emergency building materials:
- Plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, hammer and saw, pry bar, shovels, and sandbags.
- Have check valves installed in building sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing up in sewer drains.
- As a last resort, use large corks or stoppers to plug showers, tubs, or basins.