HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Facing natural disasters like the tropical storms that hit Pennsylvania in September doesn’t have to be a losing battle for homeowners. It is possible to fight back and reduce or even prevent major damages in a future disaster.
“We want to make sure that people living in flood-prone areas know how they can make their properties better able to withstand the ravages of another disaster,” said David M. Sanko, state coordinating officer.
The term for these disaster-resistant repairs and improvements is mitigation. If you have suffered property damage, now might be the ideal time to start.
“There is no better time than when rebuilding to incorporate construction changes that will make a property less vulnerable to wind or water,” said Nick Russo, federal coordinating officer.
There are low-cost mitigation projects you can do yourself:
- Place all the electrical appliances in your basement such as washers and dryers on an elevated platform or move them to a higher floor.
- Keep all items that are stored in the basement above the flood level.
- Maintain gutters, install splash blocks, and use proper landscaping to move water away from your home.
- Anchor outdoor propane or heating oil tanks to the ground.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Web site and Publications Office can help you get information about mitigation projects. You can obtain Repairing Your Flooded Home (FEMA publication 234) and other mitigation publications by calling 1-800-480-2520, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also find instructions and diagrams for do-it-yourself projects in the Mitigation How-To-Series on FEMA’s website, www.fema.gov.
There are also major improvements to consider as well that may require permits and a licensed contractor to do the work. For example:
- Add a waterproof veneer to exterior basement walls and seal cracks to keep water out.
- Elevate the electrical system, outlets and utility connections above the flood level in your home.
- Install backflow valves on septic tanks and sewage lines to prevent sewage from entering your home and creating health hazards. Be sure to consult your local building inspector or codes officer prior to any installation.
These and many other protective measures can greatly increase the safety of your family, community and the environment should another disaster strike.
Flood insurance may pay for some mitigation measures when you are making repairs. As part of a major disaster declaration, the Small Business Administration offers low-interest disaster loans to homeowners in amounts up to $200,000.
“Regardless of your budget, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the potential for major damages that may displace you from your home. Mitigation means you may only have to repair or replace items once,” said Russo.
“It is much easier to clean up after a disaster if your electricity and heating are still intact. You may be able to stay in your home after a disaster or quickly return to it,” Sanko said.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.