How to Make your Home Safer and Stronger

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Oklahoma City, OK – As Oklahomans rebuild and repair their homes and businesses damaged by the storms and flooding that occurred from May 7 through June 9, FEMA mitigation experts recommend taking steps now to make their structures more resilient in future disasters. 

Below are some tips on rebuilding safer and stronger and on obtaining extra financing for disaster- damaged property. 


Power Up
Raise electrical outlets. Check first to see what local codes allow, but most don’t have restrictions on the height of an outlet above the floor.  Consider moving outlets up at least one foot above the minimum flood level or 24 inches above floor level.

  • Cost: Free, if done after drywall has been removed. If drywall is still in place, costs can vary.
  • Benefits: Elevating outlets helps keep water from seepage or a low-level flood from infiltrating and damaging an electrical receptacle. Floodwater can cause damage to an electrical system and usually requires an electrician to repair or replace it.


Maintain your Gutters, Troughs and Downspouts
Keep gutters and downspouts clear of leaves and sediment buildup so water flows freely down and out. Roof shingles can shed granules that lead to silt buildup, resulting in water improperly draining away from a structure. Consider installing mesh leaf guards over gutter tops to minimize debris buildup. Thoroughly clean all gutters at least twice a year, especially before rainy seasons and in the fall, when debris might cause problems.

  • Cost: Free, if gutters and downspouts are routinely maintained.
  • Benefits: Well-maintained gutters and downspouts can double or triple the life of a roof drainage system, can keep water from getting inside a structure and can prevent ground saturation around the foundation, which can also lead to water leaking into the interior.


Elbow a Way Around
Add an elbow or drain sleeve to the bottom of downspouts to help divert water away from a structure. Elbows can come in aluminum or flexible heavy plastic tubing and are made to fit round or square downspouts. The flexible variety is especially good if water needs to be diverted some distance away from a structure. Place splash blocks directly under the lower end of a downspout to stem soil erosion and divert water away from a structure. Choose blocks large enough to handle the volume of water that could come through a downspout in a heavy rainstorm.

  •  Cost: Aluminum elbows start at about $4 each; metal about $6 each.  Flexible gutter elbows (heavy plastic tubing) range in size from 8 to 18 inches. Costs start at $4.
  • Benefits: Keeps rainwater from eroding foundations and from finding its way into crawl spaces or basements.


Caulk it Up
Use caulk to seal all exterior openings, such as holes where wires, cables and pipes enter or exit a structure (winds of 74 mph can blow water up a wall about 4 feet). Once only available in polyurethane and silicone forms, caulk now comes in many non-toxic varieties that are specifically designed for a number of different home-repair jobs.

  • Cost: All-purpose caulk, suitable for most jobs, is about $2 a tube; for doors and windows, less than $10 a tube.
  • Benefits: In severe storms, a well-sealed exterior helps to keep out wind-driven rain and overland flooding. Some caulks are designed for use in high-moisture areas. Caulk can be used indoors or outdoors; some types can last up to 20 years. Caulking also helps prevent heat loss around windows and doors.


Make a Drywall Buffer Zone
When floor-level water meets drywall, it wicks up into the wallboard, which can lead to mold if left untreated. So, when replacing drywall, create a small buffer zone by leaving a 1/2-inch to 1-inch gap between the bottom of the drywall sheeting and the top level of the floor. If adding carpeting, be sure the gap is above the carpeted level. Cover the gap with baseboard.

  • Cost: This technique does not add any cost beyond the price of replacing drywall and baseboards.
  • Benefits: Quicker, easier and cheaper cleanup in cases of low-level floods or common everyday spills, like liquids in a kitchen or bathroom.


Go Green
Plant trees to help stem erosion. Be smart about what and where trees are planted, taking care to keep them far enough from structures to avoid danger in high winds. If needed, consult a
tree professional for planting tips.

  • Cost: Prices vary depending on tree species, age and size but good deals do abound. For a $10 membership, the Arbor Day Foundation will send 10 seedlings chosen for your geographic area. Check the foundation’s tree store for more sizes and varieties by going online at
  • Benefits: Can provide shelter and shade from weather extremes, contribute to a healthy environment, attract wildlife and help fight global warming. Can increase house values up to 15 percent. Also, planting the right trees in the right places can reduce annual heating and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent.


Elevate Your Home
If you are rebuilding in a high-risk flood zone, you may have to elevate your home to meet your community’s minimum elevation standards for construction. It is necessary to check with local building officials before rebuilding in a flood zone to find out what the requirements are. 

  • Costs: Costs can be high, but benefits are considerable. See section below for extra sources of funding.  
  • Benefits: Rebuilding higher than the minimum requirement is always a wise decision.


Additional funds may be available to help defray the costs of elevating, relocating or, in other ways, bringing a building into compliance with state or community floodplain management laws or ordinances. Resources are listed below.  

  • Eligible homeowners who have National Flood Insurance Program policies and whose homes were substantially damaged may be eligible for Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage of up to $30,000. This can pay for all or part of the cost to elevate your home or other mitigation construction to meet local requirements.


  • You may be eligible for ICC if your home is substantially damaged by flooding (the cost to repair must be 50 percent or more of its pre-disaster market value), or if your property has sustained repetitive damage over 10 years, equal to 25 percent or higher of the market value prior to the flood damage.


  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers loans to businesses, private nonprofit organizations and homeowners for mitigation improvements needed due to a disaster. Projects may include building elevation, retaining walls, sump pumps and relocation of utilities. Applicants can visit their nearest disaster recovery center for one-on-one assistance or apply online using SBA’s secure website at


  • In addition, applicants can get more information on SBA disaster assistance by calling SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955, by visiting, or by emailing Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may call 800-877-8339.


  • The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program may be available in your area to help fund mitigation projects. While individuals are not eligible to apply directly to FEMA for HMGP funds, your state or local government may apply for funding on your behalf. For more information, contact your local building officials about HMGP grants.


FEMA's mission is to help before, during and after disasters.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private non- profit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service

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