Officials Note Importance of Protecting Homes from Future Flood Damage

October 26, 2004

After the flooding wrath of Tropical Depression Ivan, New York and federal officials are encouraging disaster victims to take measures to prevent the same type of damage from happening in the future.

There are simple, inexpensive ways to prevent or reduce future flood damage. FEMA calls such actions hazard mitigation.

“It’s safer, less expensive, and ultimately much easier to limit future destruction than to repair it afterward,” Federal Coordinating Officer Ted Monette said. “The rebuilding phase of a disaster is the ideal time to consider ways to prevent or limit future damage.”

While some mitigation measures, such as elevating a building (which can reduce flood insurance premiums), are costly, there are simple home improvements that residents can reportedly make to help themselves.

“Although certain measures may require employing a contractor, some can be accomplished by a competent do-it-yourselfer,” said James Tuffey, director of the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) and State Coordinating Officer. “It is important, however, to talk to your local building officials before you start any work. They can provide information on local building codes.”

Several suggestions to keep damages from recurring:

* Relocate or elevate water heaters, furnaces, and major appliances. Water heaters, furnaces and appliances such as washers and dryers in the basement can be elevated on a masonry or pressure-treated wood base at least 12 inches above the previous high-water mark or the base flood elevation. Appliances can also be moved to the first or second floor. Some heating systems can be suspended from the basement ceiling.

* Elevate or relocate electrical systems. Electrical panel boxes, circuit breakers, wall switches, and wall outlets should be relocated at least 12 inches above flood level or moved to a higher floor. A licensed electrician familiar with local codes should be hired to do this work. An uninterrupted electrical supply will allow the homeowner to move back to the home more quickly after a flood.

* Install a sewer or septic backflow valve. Flooded sewer or septic systems can force sewage back into the home. Not only is this an unpleasant experience, it also presents a health risk. Backflow valves can be installed inside or outside the structure but must conform to local building codes.

* Build interior and exterior floodwalls. A watertight masonry floodwall can be constructed to enclose furnaces, utilities, and appliances on the lowest floor of the building. On the outside, a similar wall may be constructed around the perimeter of the basement opening to keep water from entering.

* Anchor fuel tanks. Fuel tanks, either inside or outside the home, should be anchored to prevent them from overturning or breaking loose in a flood. Metal straps and bolts should be non-corrosive, and wood structural supports should be pressure treated.

Funding for hazard mitigation projects may be available to victims of the recent floods who qualify for U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest loans. SBA may increase a disaster recovery loan by up to 20 percent if the funds are used for mitigation projects to protect the house from future flood damage.

For more information about hazard mitigation, visit the FEMA Web site at or

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