Portsmouth, N.H. – Making repairs can be a drag. The only thing worse is making the same repairs for a second or third time. However, after the storms and flooding of March and April of this year, more than 145,000 Bay Staters took the opportunity to avail themselves of information that may help them break the dispiriting cycle of damage-repair-damage-repair.
To help with those difficult flood-repair issues, staff from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Mitigation Division stationed themselves in 60 home improvement stores to serve as face-to-face resources from mid-April through early August. Each team of about five members brought a display table and boxes of publications to distribute under the banner reading “Mitigation – Rebuilding Better and Stronger.” The 37 FEMA staffers from all over the country were deployed to Massachusetts to participate in this outreach program.
Fellece Coleman, coordinator of the Community Education Outreach (CEO) outreach in Massachusetts, says ”Support from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, FEMA’s regional office in Boston, and field office staff enabled us to achieve this phenomenal success.”
Customers entering the stores would be approached by a FEMA-shirted representative and asked if they had damage during the storms. Various publications or counseling would be offered, depending on the type of damage each customer described. Typical handouts included: Repairing Your Flood-Damaged Home, Protecting Your Home from Flood Damage, Mold & Mildew, and National Flood Insurance brochures. More than 75,000 publications were given out during the mitigation effort.
The CEO personnel were also qualified to offer advice on specific problems such as how to improve basement drainage, raise utilities out of the reach of rising water or sealing bulkhead doors to prevent leakage.
“It was invaluable that the CEO program was able to begin its operations early in the disaster,” she continues. “Some people begin repairing homes immediately and this way we caught them before they made mistakes. We also had enough time to visit 60 sites instead of 20 or 30.”
“We were able to refer many of the customers to Disaster Recovery Centers that were open in the affected area so they could register for assistance or get more information on aid programs.”
“When the recovery centers closed and registration period ended on June 12,” Ms. Coleman adds, “we spoke to the importance of disaster preparedness for hurricanes and summer storms. The interest from the citizens was amazing.”
This CEO effort was launched in the wake of a March 29, 2010, presidential disaster declaration for seven Commonwealth counties: Bristol, Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester. Individuals, businesses, state and local governments and some private non-profit agencies became eligible to apply for assistance from the federal government. A temporary Federal/Commonwealth joint field office was opened on April 5 in Andover, MA, to administer the recovery process.
Mitigation outreach specialists also participated in the following activities: nine fairs, four special events, and interviews with radio, newspaper and television outlets. The interactions provided an opportunity for Massachusetts residents to give feedback on their interaction with the federal government after the disaster declaration.
The CEO teams also completed four DAWG HAUS projects. The small-scale buildings depict ‘Disaster Avoidance with Good Home Attenuating-Unionization Systems.’ Two of the DAWG HAUS models were built by carpentry students at North Quincy High School and two were built at Home Depot stores by resident staff. The four fi...