BRIDGEPORT, W. Va. -- West Virginians who are repairing or rebuilding after recent severe storms, tornadoes, flooding, mudslides and landslides are facing many choices - and opportunities - regarding how they put the pieces of their homes and lives back together.
State and federal emergency management officials are hoping that some of those choices will include proven techniques that can help reduce or prevent future storm damage.
"As people repair or rebuild, it's an ideal time for them to incorporate disaster-resistant measures," says Ed Smith, federal coordinating officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the West Virginia disaster recovery effort. "Many of these are small changes that can make a big difference the next time storms strike."
State Coordinating Officer Jimmy Gianato, director of West Virginia's Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, says that similar steps taken after other disasters in the state already have proven effective in minimizing subsequent damage.
"We know that disaster-resistant techniques work because we've seen examples where damage was reduced or prevented in another disaster," says Gianato. "Right now, many West Virginians have a second chance to take those same steps as they rebuild. We hope they'll consider using some of these methods that will better protect their families and homes."
Officials agree that the best way to minimize damage from severe storms and break the costly damage-repair-damage cycle is to consider both wind- and flood-resistant techniques. Many of these measures can be put in place for little or no cost. Some require more of an investment.
Significant tools have been devised to help people understand and reduce or prevent future losses. Web users can go to www.fema.gov and find an enormous amount of detailed information about ways to combat storms, tornadoes and flooding. The Web site www.floodsmart.gov can even tell you the risk of flooding at your address - and provide flood maps and names of the nearest agents offering flood insurance.
To minimize damage often caused by high winds, emergency management officials suggest the following:
- Anchor critical building components in three areas:
- Attach roof rafters to the walls with a metal connector - most easily added when new roof sheathing and shingles are installed - to help the structure resist wind uplift.
- Tie one floor to another with a continuous strap (nailed on the outside of the wall) or with a floor-tie anchor, nailed to the inside of the wall.
- Secure the structure to the foundation with connectors nailed to the studs and bolted into the concrete - also to help the structure resist wind uplift.
- Fortify gable roofs by bracing the end wall of the gable to resist high winds.
- Take outside measures to minimize flying debris:
- Replace landscaping gravel and rock with shredded bark.
- Keep trees and shrubs trimmed.
- Cut weak branches and trees that could fall on your house or those around you.
- Reinforce glass windows and doors by:
- Installing impact-resistant laminated glass window or door systems.
- Applying high-strength window security films to standard window and patio door glass.
- Fortify garage doors by:
- Installing permanent wood or metal stiffeners to an existing door.
- Replacing door with one that is designed to resist high winds.