SALEM, Ore. -- Fire season is in full swing and firefighters have already engaged thousands of fires across the western states. With thunderstorms complicating forecasts calling for continued warm weather, FEMA Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Fire Administration Gregory B. Cade, and FEMA Regional Administrator Susan Reinertson offer a single message: "We know we can?t stop Mother Nature, but we can and must take action before disasters strike, mitigating their worst effects and removing much of the pain from the recovery process."
?To protect homes from wildfires, Assistant Administrator Cade urges the creation of "defensible perimeters" by clearing flammable debris well-away from structures and outbuildings:
- Use fire resistant materials when building, retrofitting or renovating structures.
- Establish firebreaks around the perimeter of structures, power poles and property.
- Cut back flammable weeds and brush and remove tree branches to a height of 15 feet.
- Store combustible materials only in approved containers, and well away from the house.
- Keep roofs, chimneys and gutters clean.
- Keep a non-flammable screen over the flue opening of chimneys or stovepipes.
- Install smoke detectors on every floor, and near sleeping areas.
- Have fire tools (shovel, rake, water bucket and a ladder that can reach the roof) handy.
- Plan and rehearse family evacuation plans.
Regional Administrator Susan Reinertson agrees.? "Wildfires char topsoil and can strip slopes of groundcover.? This can increase the risk of flash floods ? which can strike suddenly, with higher velocity and greater debris loads than seasonal flooding," said Reinertson.? "You don?t need to live in a high risk flood zone to qualify for National Flood Insurance or be at risk from flash floods.? You do need to act before floodwaters rise."
Tips for reducing vulnerability to flood damage range from elevating or relocating vulnerable appliances, water heaters and furnaces, to installing backflow valves on sewer lines and anchoring in-yard fuel tanks.
According to Reinertson, most floods are too small to qualify for federal assistance, but collectively still cause millions of dollars in damage.? "Standard homeowner?s insurance does not cover flood damage," she said.? "National Flood Insurance is affordable, provides a comprehensive safety net against future flood losses, and pays off regardless of whether or not there is a disaster declaration."
New policies do have a 30-day waiting period before they take effect, and Reinertson strongly recommends that at-risk properties be protected now.?
For more information on how to minimize the effects of natural disasters, visit: http://www.fema.gov.
For more information on actions to take to reduce future risk of wildfire damage to your home, go to, www.fema.gov or www.firewise.org.
FEMA coordinates the federal government?s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.