Mitigation Outreach Teams Help New Yorkers

June 24, 2005

Customers at several building supply stores in presidentially-declared New York disaster areas recently came away with more than repair materials. They also received information that may help protect themselves and their families and homes against future flood-related damages.

State Emergency Management Agency (SEMO) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Mitigation Outreach Teams reached out to 1,819 New Yorkers shopping at these stores from May 7 to June 19.

The teams set up in partnership with Lowe’s, Home Depot and local home building stores in seven towns in the hard hit flood counties of Broome, Cortland, Orange and Ulster.

“We want to thank Lowe’s in Binghamton, Middletown and Kingston, Home Depot in Johnson City and JTS Lumber Company and Best Builders Do It Center in Cortland for partnering with us in this effort,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Marianne Jackson of FEMA. “This is a model of public-private partnership working to help in time of need of which we can all be proud.”

State Coordinating Officer and SEMO Director James Tuffey said, “Promoting disaster resistant communities is a top priority for us and getting the mitigation message out where people shop and live is a real plus. This was a tremendous effort by all involved and the state commends all participants.”

As flood victims began rebuilding their homes, cleaning up and recovering from the devastating storms and floods that left thousands homeless in early April, the outreach teams provided information on disaster recovery issues.

“The purpose of the outreach at home supply stores is to be quickly and conveniently available to citizens where we can do the most good after a disaster,” said FEMA Mitigation Outreach Coordinator Jay Michaud. “That place is at a local store where people come to purchase lumber and other supplies to start rebuilding their homes.”

The teams offer a wide variety of information, books, pamphlets and leaflets that describe techniques on how to mitigate homes and businesses to better withstand disasters. Mitigation, in that context, is one of FEMA’s strong points in leading the nation in preparedness for future disasters.

“The team members are well-trained and knowledgeable about mitigation and can discuss the techniques with a customer right in the store where he or she might purchase the materials needed for a rebuilding project,” Michaud said.

“The most important thing a person can do to prepare for a possible disaster is to assess their personal risk and take necessary measures to mitigate risk of any peril to which they may be susceptible,” Michaud said. “That may be elevating the mechanical components of a structure, elevating the house itself, ensuring proper drainage, brush control, or attaching wind and seismic fasteners, and most of all, a disaster plan.”

The mitigation experts can help with all of that and more. Not only do the teams assist individuals with building techniques, they also offer information to help them begin the cleanup process, from safety tips to how to deal with mold and mildew. They also direct individuals to the FEMA registration process.

“Many times the contact with a team member is the first time that person knows that federal and state assistance is available,” Michaud said. “We make sure that individual knows how to register for assistance.”

Although the teams greeted and spoke to more than 50,000 customers between May 7 and June 19, they tally only mitigation-legitimate discussions customers have with a mitigation expert.

A tally of the results of the seven mitigation outreach teams that traveled throughout the area in response to the April 19 presidential declaration follows:

* 1,819 disaster related discussions
* 739 discussions about mitigation building techniques
* 598 with questions concerning the National Flood Insurance Program(NFIP)
* 1,194 with issues about mold and mildew
* 143 individuals interested in elevating their home.
* 690 individuals who had suffered damage and had not yet registered with FEMA.
* 721 individuals were referred to a Disaster Recovery Center where they could get further information and assistance.

Some of the things residents can do to lessen flood damage in the future include:

* Relocate main electric switchbox above potential flood waters
* Relocate electric outlets and switches above potential flood waters
* Move washer and dryer to a higher floor
* Elevate furnace and water heater
* Have licensed plumber install a backflow valve to prevent sewer backup
* Purchase flood insurance

For more information, or to order FEMA’s free literature about disaster mitigation, preparedness, NFIP and other publications, visit

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