BILOXI, Miss. -- If you want to know how to blunt the impact of a disaster, the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would be delighted to demonstrate methods to you, your kids, your parents, or your local builder.
In English, Spanish or Vietnamese. In grade school or a retirement home.
FEMA is big on disaster mitigation, which is the business of acting in advance of a potential disaster to reduce the physical damage that could occur. There are many tangible steps that can be taken, for instance, to prepare a building for the possibility that it might flood.
Or to make a building more wind resistant. Or even to protect a building with certain plants and trees that can reduce the force of a hurricane-driven surge.
Proactive mitigation can save private property owners and governments millions for only a fraction of the price of repair or restoration. FEMA is ready with publications, compact disks, slide shows and staff to explain how.
A series of publications is available free at www.fema.gov to guide you through mitigation steps. These include FEMA 320, Taking Shelter from the Storm, Building a Safe Room Inside Your Home; FEMA 365, Rebuilding for a More Sustainable Future; FEMA 312, Homeowner's Guide to Retrofitting; and FEMA 386-2, Understanding Your Risks, Identifying Hazards and Estimating Losses.
These same publications, and others, are also available electronically using the FEMA Web site.
Through FEMA's Community Education Outreach (CEO) program, more than 195,000 Hurricane Katrina survivors received counseling on mitigation techniques. FEMA's CEO program uses mitigation displays in home improvement centers, retail outlets and conferences, children's programs in schools, crisis management meetings, and in assisting local governments in preparing their mitigation plans.
One of the more visible outreach efforts has been a demonstration project on how people can make their homes more wind and water resistant when rebuilding. The project includes construction of a small frame room and roof section by vocational school shop students which is then displayed at home improvement centers.
The CEO program records its messages in Spanish and Vietnamese to help those populations understand the mitigation message and take advantage of the assistance available through FEMA.
Children's programs in the elementary schools suggest ways to practice mitigation around the home. Mitigation plans for seniors are available at assisted living facilities, retirement and nursing homes.
FEMA conducts demographic studies to determine where mitigation assistance is most useful. During the early hurricane recovery period, mitigation specialists staffed 34 fixed disaster recovery centers and 17 mobile sites.
Proactive mitigation can save governments and private property owners the trouble and expense of dealing with repetitious disaster losses. FEMA is ready to explain how this can be done.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.