N.J. Officials Offer Guidance to Reduce Damages from Future Disasters

May 19, 2005

Mitigation means taking action to reduce the risk of loss of life or property from a future hazardous event. There is no way to prevent natural disasters, but there are steps individuals and businesses can take to lessen damage and losses caused by them.

New Jersey has endured severe storms resulting in three major disaster declarations during the previous nine months due as the result of severe flooding in some areas.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA) and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM) offer information for individuals and homeowners on measures they can take to protect their home and family from such events. As the threat of disasters continues, officials recommend that residents take actions to protect the lives of their loved ones, friends, neighbors, and property.

Simple measures taken before a disaster strikes may help residents protect their life and property. FEMA has produced a publication called, Are you Ready? An In depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness. It is offered in both English and Spanish and is FEMA’s most comprehensive source on individual, family and community preparedness. It urges every citizen to make a plan, make a kit and get informed.

The book is free of charge by calling 1-800-480-2520 or on FEMA’s Web site at www.fema.gov. Below is a sample of some of the actions a person can take to protect themselves and their property:

* Develop and rehearse a family disaster plan—what to do if one is forced to leave home.
* Include a communications plan—how to contact each other if individuals become separated.
* When severe weather threatens, turn on the radio to a local station to stay informed of imminent danger.
* Put together emergency supplies, one set for the house and one for the car. Emergency kits should include food, water, a first aid kit, flashlights, a radio, and plenty of batteries. The kit in the car should also have flares and jumper cables.
* Know how to turn off utilities, and keep the necessary tools at hand. Make sure other members of the family know how to do this also. If one turned off the gas, do not turn it back on. Call the gas company.
* Make copies of vital documents, such as wills, birth certificates, financial records, insurance policies and credit card numbers. Keep the originals in a safe deposit box.
* Make a detailed inventory of one’s personal belongings, home or an apartment, garage and surrounding property, with photographs or videotape. Store it in a safe place.

When living in an area subject to flooding, the following steps can be taken to help protect a home from the next flood:

* Elevate the furnace, water heater and electrical panels in the home.
Install “check valves” in sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into the home.
* Purchase flood insurance to protect one’s financial future. Typical homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding losses.
* Construct protection barriers to stop floodwater from entering the home.
* Find out where the community stores and distributes sandbags and how to use them.
* Develop a flood response plan based on one’s flood protection level, local warning procedures, and the amount of warning time one will have to respond before the flood comes.
* Be prepared to care for one’s animals in the event of an evacuation.
Know and rehearse the evacuation route.

For more information on disaster recovery, visit FEMA’s Web site at www.fema.gov and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM) disaster Web site at www.state.nj.us/njoem

Anyone living in one of the declared counties and adversely affected by the April severe storms and flooding may still register for assistance, check the status of their application or update their information by calling 1- 800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1- 800-462-7585 (TDD/TTY). The FEMA application/Helpline remains open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., until further notice. Multilingual operators are available to assist callers. Registration is also available at www.fema.gov.

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