Urbandale, Iowa -- Recent flooding in several Iowa counties is hastening homeowners to buy flood insurance and take extra measures to prevent damage from possible flooding. State and federal officials urge homeowners to take precautions with simple, inexpensive ways to prevent or reduce future flood damage. The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) calls such actions "hazard mitigation."
It's safer, cheaper, and ultimately much easier to limit future destruction than to repair it afterward. The rebuilding phase of a disaster is the ideal time to consider ways to limit future damage.
While some mitigation measures, such as acquisition of structures or elevation of buildings are costly long-term projects, there also are relatively easy home improvements that residents of flood-prone areas can make.
These improvements include:
- Relocating or elevating 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.
- Elevating or relocating 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.
- Installing a septic backflow valve. Flooded septic systems can force sewage back into the home. This is both an unpleasant experience and a health risk. Backflow valves can be installed inside or outside the structure, but must conform to local building codes.
- Building 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.
- Anchoring 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.
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. It is important, however, to talk to local building officials before starting any work. They can provide information on local standards, building codes and, most importantly, on safe building measures.
FEMA also recommends that homeowners and renters buy flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is available through most major private insurance companies and licensed property insurance agents who sell homeowner or property insurance. Anyone unable to easily find an agent should call the NFIP's toll-free information line at 1-800-427-4661, or (TTY) 1-800-427-5593 for the hearing or speech impaired.
Additionally, funding for hazard mitigation projects may be available to victims of the recent disaster who qualify for U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest loans. The SBA may increase a disaster recovery loan by up to 20 percent, if the funds are used for mitigation projects to protect the house from future flood damage.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing...