SAN JUAN, PR -- Residents who are rebuilding their homes or businesses after the flooding which occurred in late September and into October are facing many choices as well as opportunities regarding how they put their homes or businesses back together.
Officials of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) expect that some of those choices will include proven techniques that can help reduce or prevent future storm damages.
"As people repair or rebuild, it is an ideal time to include disaster-resistant measures. Even small changes can make a big difference the next time storms strike," explained the Federal Coordinating Officer, Justo Hernández. Similar steps taken after past disasters have proven effective in minimizing subsequent damages.
Disaster recovery 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 may require an additional investment, but will pay off in the future," said Hernández.
Web users can go online to www.fema.gov and find detailed information about ways to handle storms, tornadoes and flooding to reduce future losses. The website www.floodsmart.gov can even estimate the risk of flooding at your address and provide flood maps and names of the nearest agents offering flood insurance.
Individuals and families can take actions that will minimize losses from floods. Some of those might include:
- Do not forget to buy flood insurance - Flood insurance provides year-round financial protection and improves your ability to recover when severe storms strike and cause unexpected damage. Floods are the most common type of natural disaster. Most homeowners' insurance policies do not cover flood damage.
- Installing a sewer backflow valve -- temporarily blocks drain pipes -- preventing sewage from backing up into the house.
- Elevating key utilities and appliances - water heaters, furnaces, washers and dryers -- keeps operating parts dry. When possible, move them from a lower level to an upper floor. Otherwise, relocate appliances on a base at least 6 inches high. Be sure to use a licensed contractor when plumbing or electrical changes are undertaken.
- Raising electrical components - panel boxes, switches, outlets, at least 1 foot above the 100-year flood level - keeps electrical systems operational.
- Anchoring a fuel tank -- by securing it to a large concrete slab or by installing metal straps over the tank and attaching them to the ground - keeps the tank from floating away.
- Adding waterproof veneer -- to exterior walls to seal all openings, including doors -- prevents water entry. Flood gates may be effective, as well.
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.