LA CROSSE, Wis. -- As cleanup and recovery continues following the severe storms and flooding that struck Wisconsin Aug. 18-31, state and federal officials urge disaster victims to take measures to prevent the damage from happening again.
There are ways to prevent or reduce future disaster damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (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 many simple home improvements that residents of flood-prone areas can make to help themselves.
"It is safer, cheaper, and ultimately much easier to limit future destruction than to repair it afterward," said FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Bolch. "And, the rebuilding phase of a disaster is the ideal time to consider ways to limit future damage."
Any community that is participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has adopted a local floodplain ordinance. Both the local ordinance and floodplain map should be consulted before construction and any necessary permits obtained.
Disaster recovery officials urge property owners and builders to talk to local building officials before starting any work. The officials can provide information on local standards and building codes, and, most importantly, on safe building measures.
"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 Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) State Coordinating Officer Diane Kleiboer,.
Several suggestions to keep damages from happening:
- Install a sewer backflow valve. Flooded sewer systems can force sewage back into the home. This was a widespread problem in the recent Wisconsin floods. Not only is sewage back-up 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.
- 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, whichever is greater. Appliances can also be moved to the first or second floor.
- 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 for safety. 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.
- 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.
- Install a floating floor drain plug. Installing a floating floor drain plug at the lowest point of the finished floor allows water to drain. When the floor drain pipe backs up, the float rises and plugs the drain.
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 ...