LEBANON, Va. -- One month after southwest Virginia was affected by severe storms, people are still actively cleaning up --- but beginning to ask, “ What about next time?”
The rebuilding and repair phase of a disaster is the ideal time to consider ways to limit future damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and theVirginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) call such action “hazard mitigation.”
“We want to break that damage-repair-damage again cycle whenever possible,” declared Tom Davies, FEMA federal coordinating officer. “It is safer, cheaper and much easier to limit future destruction than to repair it afterward,” he added.
“Some mitigation projects such as elevating buildings are long-term and costly but there are several simple home improvements that residents of flood-prone areas can do to help themselves,” said Michael Cline, VDEM state coordinating officer.
While some recommendations require a contractor, many measures can be simple and inexpensive.
Among the suggestions are:
- Relocate or elevate air conditioning units, water heaters, heating systems, washers and dryers to a higher floor or at least a foot above the high water mark
Place the washer and dryer on a platform of pressure-treated wood. Include in the plans safe wooden stairs, especially needed if the platform is 12 inches above the high water mark.
- Anchor the fuel tank to the wall or floor
Strap the fuel tank to the exterior wall of the house. Non-corrosive metal strapping or lag bolts can be bought at a hardware store.
Anchoring the tank is important for three reasons. One, fuel tanks often float off their cradle during floods, threatening other structures. Two, maintaining an uninterrupted fuel supply enables the homeowner to more quickly re-establish the home when the flood subsides. Three, spilled fuel oil creates an additional health hazard.
- Install a septic backflow valve to prevent sewer back-up from entering the home
Septic systems also flood, forcing sewage back into the home. Installing an interior or exterior septic backflow valve minimizes the chance of this happening.
- Install a floating floor drain plug at the lowest point of the lowest finished floor
Drain pipes become an avenue for flood waters to force sewage back into the home. Installing a floating floor drain plug at the drain run’s lowest point prevents this. The floating plug allows drainage during normal times; but when water backs up into the drain, such as in a flood, the float rises and plugs the drain.
- Elevate the electric box or relocate it to a higher floor; elevate electric outlets to a recommended 12 inches above the high water mark
It is advisable to hire an electrician for these tasks. Following a disaster, an uninterrupted electrical supply is just as essential as an uninterrupted fuel supply. Ideally, the main electrical panel should be relocated to an upper floor. At the very least, it should be elevated 12 inches above the high water mark.
FEMA urges all those living in flood-prone areas to purchase flood insurance and familiarize themselves with the details of its coverage.
For more information on hazard mitigation, individuals may call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 (hearing- or speech- impaired TTY 1-800-462-7585).
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became ...