ORLANDO, Fla. -- Manatee County is installing state-of-the-art hurricane shutters on facilities responsible for treating and testing the county’s water supply. The city of Leesburg, in Lake County, is placing windproof hurricane barriers on four of its public buildings to protect first responders, city employees and vital equipment from the dangers of flying glass and debris.
These are some of the many projects that have met federal, state and local requirements to receive funds from the $359 million in federal hazard mitigation grants being made available to Florida in the aftermath of the 2004 hurricane season, when Florida became the first state since 1886 to be struck by four hurricanes in a single year. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Florida’s State Emergency Response Team (SERT) are stressing the importance of using hazard mitigation measures to save time and money related to recovery from future disasters.
Hazard mitigation is any sustained action taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to life and property from a hazard event. In other words, it’s the practice of preparing property to withstand damage from future disasters. Across the state of Florida, money for mitigation projects is flowing in.
“Mitigation is recovery with foresight,” said Scott Morris, FEMA’s Florida long-term recovery director. “Hazard mitigation projects apply tried and true strategies and building practices. Far from simply returning a building or piece of infrastructure to the pre-disaster status quo, mitigation projects save time and money, and they save communities from much of the disruption that can accompany a natural disaster.”
Indeed, a study by the Multihazard Mitigation Council, part of the National Institute of Building Sciences, shows that every $1 paid toward mitigation saves an average of $4 in future disaster-related costs.
“The purpose of the program is to marry disaster recovery with disaster preparation,” said Craig Fugate, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “We are proud that Florida is on the cutting edge of mitigation endeavors. Our continued work with mitigation projects has better prepared us to face the brunt of future storms.”
After Hurricane Andrew devastated parts of South Florida in 1992, Florida has redoubled its efforts not just to recover in the aftermath of a hurricane, but also to encourage hazard mitigation measures designed to lessen the potential impact of future storms. Close cooperation among federal, state and local governments is crucial to the mitigation process. And since the opening of the Florida Long-Term Recovery Office in May 2005, the review process for potential projects has been significantly streamlined. State and federal officials now can review projects concurrently instead of separately, greatly expediting the delivery of hazard mitigation funds.
Eligible applicants include state and local governments, Indian tribes or other tribal organizations, and certain nonprofit groups. Individual homeowners and businesses may not apply directly to the program, although a community may apply on their behalf.
Based on the amount of federal public and individual assistance money spent on recovery after a disaster, 7.5 percent is made available by FEMA for Hazard Mitigation Grant Projects. In the aftermath of the 2004 hurricanes, $359 million was made available for mitigation projects. The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is administered by the state, with projects funded 75 percent by FEMA and 25 percent from other sources.
To be eligible for hazard mitigation grant funding, a proposed project must comply with state and local mitigation plans; have a beneficial impact upon the designated disaster area; conform with floodplain management and environmental considerations; solve a problem independently o...