ROCHESTER, Minn. -- As cleanup continues in the aftermath of recent severe storms and flooding in southeast Minnesota, state and federal officials urge those affected to consider simple, inexpensive ways to prevent or reduce damage from future storms.
Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security?s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) call such actions "hazard mitigation."
Federal Coordinating Officer Carlos Mitchell said, "It's safer, cheaper and ultimately much easier to limit future destruction than to repair it afterward; and the rebuilding phase of a disaster is the ideal time to consider ways to limit future damage."
A study by the National Institute of Building Science's Multi-hazard Mitigation Council found that, although risk from natural disasters cannot be eliminated completely, every $1 spent on mitigation can save as much as $4 in response and recovery.
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.
It is important to talk to local building officials before starting any work. They can provide information on local standards, permit requirements, building codes and safe building measures.
Officials are urging residents in areas affected by the August severe storms and flooding to get a copy of Repairing Your Flooded Home, a joint FEMA and American Red Cross publication. It includes tips, checklists and safety precautions that will guide you through the best way to clean up, the preferred materials and building techniques to use in reconstruction, products to avoid in flood-prone areas, and steps to follow when selecting a contractor.
The manual is available at Disaster Recovery Centers operating in affected counties. The manual can also be ordered by telephone by calling 1-800-480-2520. After selecting touch-tone or voice commands, select Option 4 ("all other inquiries"). The publication number for Repairing Your Flooded Home is FEMA 234.
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