As Puerto Rico rebuilds after the devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and María, communities have the opportunity to rebuild stronger than ever and mitigate the effects of future disasters. As people work on reconstructing their homes, here are tips to make homes safer and more secure.
Use Precautions When Cleaning Mold: Mold and mildew can pose serious health hazards, especially for those with asthma or weakened immune systems. Make sure to use protective equipment (gloves, mask, and goggles) to protect your eyes, nose, mouth and skin when cleaning. Neither caulk nor paint will kill mold, so make sure that surfaces are completely clean and dry before applying either one. For more information, go to https://www.epa.gov/mold.
Avoid Scams: There are fraudulent contractors that try to take advantage of survivors’ urgency to rebuild. When looking for a contractor, ask for referrals from trusted friends and family. Check their contracting license against municipality records and also ask to see their IDs and proof of insurance. When you do decide on a contractor, make sure to get all details of the work and pricing in writing.
Build Houses to Code: Avoid “informal” construction. This is construction done by someone without a license or construction that does not follow local building codes. Initial reports from the FEMA Mitigation Assessment Team Program show that buildings in compliance with Puerto Rico’s 2011 building code suffered significantly less damage than those that are not. You can find more information about building codes at https://www.fema.gov/building-codes.
Check If Your Home is in a Floodplain: Knowing your flood zone gives you important information on how to rebuild your home. This will also help you save money on flood insurance. To protect your personal property, you can modify residential portions of your home to ensure that electrical equipment, such as water heaters and fuse boxes, and other appliances are above potential flood levels. This will also help you save money on flood insurance. To find your flood zone information visit https://msc.fema.gov/portal.
Buy Flood Insurance: Understanding your flood risk allows you to make informed decisions about protecting your family and property. Flood damage is not usually covered in homeowner multi-peril insurance policies. The most common way to insure against flood damage to your home and contents is with a separate flood insurance policy. You can learn more about flood insurance coverage and costs at https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
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 800-621-3362 (voice, 711/VRS - Video Relay Service). TTY call 800-462-7585. Multilingual operators are available (Press 2 for Spanish).