Birmingham, AL -- There will be another storm or tornado; nature will see to that. Before that happens, there are affordable ways to reduce your risk.
"The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has information about measures families and businesses can take to safeguard against future damage," said Gracia Szczech, federal coordinating officer for the Alabama disaster recovery.
While assessing flood damage, inspectors may recommend repairs or rebuilding techniques to better protect structures. FEMA has a number of free how-to booklets and pamphlets, such as the "Homeowner's Guide to Retrofitting Six Ways to Protect Your House from Flooding." (FEMA-312).
"All you have to do is call 1-800-480-2520 and FEMA Publications will send you the material," Szczech said. Hours for that service are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Information also is available on the FEMA website, www.fema.gov/fima.
"If you are replacing a furnace or water heater, now may be the time to relocate it to a higher, safer place," Szczech said. "You also can raise the circuit breaker or fuse box and the utility meters above flood level. You can anchor fuel storage tanks and secure mobile homes."
These are affordable measures you can take if you are repairing a flood-damaged home, doing major renovations or even building a new home. A backflow valve, for example, is a relatively simple and inexpensive device that can stop sewer backup. In areas where tornados are a threat, a weather radio can provide early warning. In the event of severe storms and tornadoes, a closet reinforced to safe room standards, can help protect you from harm. Request the publication, "Taking Shelter from the Storm Building a Safe Room Inside Your House" (FEMA-320) for details.
Some funding for these measures and other improvements may be available through the disaster Housing Assistance Program. The U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program also has a provision for increasing the loan amount in some cases.
"Now is the time to think about protecting your home and family in the future," advises Perry Martin, of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and the state coordinating officer.
If you have questions about what you can do, nearly every community has building codes and ordinances to guide construction practices, advises Martin. "Before you begin to make changes, ask your local officials where you need to go to get building permits," he said.