ST. THOMAS, USVI -- As many Virgin Islanders were affected by recent floods caused by heavy rainfall, officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urge citizens to take steps to lessen damages in future flooding events.
"Implementing mitigation measures now can reap savings in time and money," said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Philip Parr. "We urge individuals and families to start making their homes safer now."
Some measures to reduce damages from floods are fairly simple and inexpensive; others will require a professional, licensed contractor. It is important to ensure any construction work meets current government building codes. That will decrease the chance of major damages from wind or water to your home. A professional home builder, architect, contractor or building supply retailer may provide invaluable information, as well.
Some tips to protect your property from flooding include:
- Raising Electrical System Components - Electrical system components, such as service panels, meters, switches and outlets, are easily damaged by floodwater and may require replacement. Short circuits in flooded systems are a significant danger. Raising electrical system components at least one foot above projected flood elevation enables faster clean up and speeds up repairs and returning home.
- Elevating Appliances - Appliances such as washers and dryers should be located at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation. Washers and dryers can sometimes be elevated on masonry or pressure-treated lumber; those appliances can also be moved to a higher floor.
- Raising HVAC - Heating, ventilating and cooling (HVAC) equipment, such as a hot water heater, can be damaged extensively if inundated by floodwaters. Exterior HVAC equipment should be elevated at least 12 inches above the home's projected flood elevation.
- Ensure solar heater, water tank and satellite antenna and any other equipment you have on the roof - Disconnect the TV before lowering the antenna and make sure it is not in contact with power lines. Remove them if you cannot safeguard their structure.
- Wooden houses – If this is your case, tie it with cables over the roof and into the ground.
- Install Sewer Backflow Valves - Flooding can cause sewage backflow from sanitary sewer lines into houses through drain pipes. Those backups will not only cause damage that is hard to repair, but can also become health hazards. Backflow valves are designed to block drain pipes temporarily and prevent flow into the house and should be installed by a licensed plumber or contractor.
- Important documents and objects - Keep them in a high place and in a sturdy container, where it’s less probable that water can reach them.
Homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding. FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program facilitates federally backed flood insurance to homeowners, business owners and renters. Flood insurance is easy to obtain and is sold by most insurance agents or companies.
FEMA's "How To" series at www.fema.gov/protect-your-property-or-business-disaster can be viewed, downloaded and printed, or copies may be ordered by calling 1-800-480-2520. The series features illustrated guides about such topics as reinforcing garage doors and anchoring fuel tanks. You can also visit www.fema.gov or www.ready.gov for additional Mitigation information.