Merrimack, NH - As cleanup continues in the aftermath of the severe storms and flooding that struck New Hampshire during the month of October, state and federal officials urge disaster victims to take measures to prevent the damage from happening again.
Since the October 26 presidential declaration, many residents of the five designated counties (Cheshire, Grafton, Hillsborough, Merrimack, and Sullivan) have registered for disaster assistance by calling the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at 1-800-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY). Registration can also be done online at www.fema.gov.
Those still cleaning up are asking: "How can I keep this from happening again?"
There are simple, inexpensive ways to prevent or reduce future flood damage. FEMA calls such actions hazard mitigation.
While some mitigation measures such as acquisition of structures or elevation of buildings are costly long-term projects, there are simple home improvements that residents of flood-prone areas can make to help themselves.
"It's safer, cheaper, and ultimately much easier to limit future destruction than to repair it afterward," said Peter Martinasco, FEMA's federal coordinating officer for this disaster. "And, the rebuilding phase of a disaster is the ideal time to consider ways to limit future damage."
"While many recommended measures require employing a contractor, there are several cost-saving options that, when carried out correctly, will go a long way toward mitigating potential damage," said State Coordinating Officer Mike Poirier, New Hampshire Bureau of Emergency Management (BEM). "It is important, however, to talk to local building officials before starting any work. They can provide information on local standards and building codes, and, most importantly, on safe building measures," he said.
Several suggestions to keep damages from happening:
- Relocate or elevate water heaters, furnaces, and major appliances. Water heaters, furnaces and appliances such as washers and dryers in the basement can be elevated on a masonry or pressure-treated wood base at least 12 inches above the previous high-water mark or the base flood elevation. Appliances can also be moved to the first or second floor. Some heating systems can be suspended from the basement ceiling.
- Elevate or relocate electrical systems. Electrical panel boxes, circuit breakers, wall switches, and wall outlets should be relocated at least 12 inches above flood level or even moved to a higher floor. A licensed electrician familiar with local codes should be hired to do this work. An uninterrupted electrical supply will allow the homeowner to move back to the home more quickly after a flood.
- Install a septic backflow valve. Flooded septic systems can force sewage back into the home. Not only is this an unpleasant experience, it also presents a health risk. Backflow valves can be installed inside or outside the structure but must conform to local building codes.
- Build interior and exterior floodwalls. A watertight masonry floodwall can be constructed to enclose furnaces, utilities, and appliances on the lowest floor of the building. On the outside, a similar wall could be constructed around the perimeter of the basement opening to keep water from entering.
- Anchor your fuel tank. Fuel tanks, either inside or outside the home, should be anchored to prevent them from overturning or breaking loose in a flood. Metal straps and bolts should be non-corrosive, and wood structural supports should be pressure treated.
FEMA also recommends that homeowners and renters buy flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) flood insurance is available through most major private insurance companies and licensed property insurance agents who...