The year 2004 was a year most Floridians are happy to have behind them. The unprecedented damage – both physical and emotional – resulting from four major hurricanes crisscrossing Florida has taken its toll on citizens throughout the state.
The task of disaster recovery can be a daunting one but the stark reality is, Floridians now also must turn their attention to preparing for possible future events.
Preparation for future storms takes time and now is not too soon to begin. Prominent forecasters are predicting an active 2005 hurricane season. The beginning of the 2005 hurricane season on June 1 is slightly more than 11 weeks away.
“The citizens of Florida understandably have been preoccupied with recovering from the devastation caused by last year’s four hurricanes,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Bill Carwile of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “The pressing issue now, however, is to make sure we are fully prepared for this year’s hurricane season, which begins in less than three months.”
First and foremost, victims of the 2004 storm season who have not made necessary home repairs should take steps now to ensure the integrity of their damaged homes. A leaking roof can accelerate structural damage, as well as destruction of personal property within the home. For example, FEMA-provided blue roof material, although effective in providing temporary protection, will not last indefinitely. Homeowners and business owners must seek out and implement long-term solutions.
Floridians have an opportunity to build or repair in a much safer, stronger and smarter way. Measures taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and property from hazards can range from constructing “safe rooms” to simpler steps of elevating or relocating electrical panels, or correctly utilizing hurricane clips and metal straps. Always contact the local building official before undertaking such measures. Local officials know the retrofitting methods that meet local and state government requirements.
Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Craig Fugate said, “There are several measures people can take when building or rebuilding after a disaster to better protect themselves and their property, and these measures are fully described in publications developed by both FEMA and the State Emergency Response Team (SERT). These publications may be obtained at any of the 21 FEMA/SERT Disaster Recovery Centers.”
FEMA, along with the State of Florida and Florida State University, has created a new tool to make construction decisions much easier. Consumers can find a list of state-licensed contractors plus a variety of relevant articles and resources by logging on to the Disaster Contractor Network (DCN) www.DCNonline.org
State licensure also may be verified through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation by calling (850) 487-1395 or visiting www.MyFloridaLicense.com. More tips regarding hiring a contractor can be obtained by visiting www.MyFlorida.com/dbpr.
FEMA also is conducting informal demonstrations at selected Home Depot and Lowe’s retail outlets, Mondays through Saturdays, until further notice. Individuals can meet with FEMA representatives, one-on-one, and receive technical assistance with their particular repair projects. The times and locations of the demonstrations may be obtained by logging on to www.DCNonline.org and clicking on the “News & Events” tab.
Those with access to the Internet can find the titles of additional publications by going to www.fema.gov. Click on “Preparation and Prevention” under the “Library” tab and scroll down to the “Hurricane” section. At that location are several publications related to rebuilding and repairing after a hurricane. Those individuals who do not have a computer may check with their local libraries to see if computer service is available there.
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