Louisiana residents naturally think of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita when considering how they can protect their homes against wind-driven rain and flooding.
But it doesn’t take a hurricane to cause serious property damage. As storm season moves into its more active stage—which for Louisiana is September and October—the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urges home and businesses owners to consider retrofitting their property.
Retrofitting is the term used to describe how you can modify your home to resist storm damage. Even if you are not in a floodplain or an area prone to flooding, degrees of flood damage can occur. When you decide to retrofit, begin by consulting a building contractor and by finding out what your community’s building codes are.
Where you live will affect the extent of retrofitting necessary. If you are in a coastal area certain construction principles will give you the most protection. And if you live in an area prone to wind damage there are both inexpensive and more costly construction methods from which to choose in order to protect your property.
“Floods are the most frequently occurring and most costly natural disaster,” said Gil Jamieson, Deputy Director of Gulf Coast Recovery for FEMA. “We encourage property owners to find out what they can do to avoid heavy financial losses from floods.”
Before a home or business owner decides on what extent to retrofit a property, four things should be considered. You will want to know what damage-reduction methods are available, the degree of protection they offer, whether they meet your needs and their cost.
Here are some damage reduction methods to consider:
Elevation - Involves raising your house to bring the lowest floor above flood level. This is the most common way to avoid flood damage. If you are rebuilding following serious damage, be aware of the latest Advisory Base Flood Elevation Maps for your area. You may want to rebuild to the standards indicated.
Wet floodproofing - Protects a building by allowing floodwaters to enter uninhabited areas of the property—parking and storage areas for example.
Dry floodproofing - Sealing the house to prevent floodwaters from entering.
Relocation – Moving your house to higher ground or moving it outside of the flood hazard area.
Levees and floodwalls – Barriers constructed of compacted soil or manmade materials like concrete or masonry that block floodwaters.
Demolition – Demolishing your home and rebuilding on the property or elsewhere, to meet flood-resistant standards.
Determine What Methods Will Work Best
Inspect your property with the various damage-reduction methods in mind.
Check with local officials concerning hazards, codes and regulations, technical guidance and financial assistance.
Consult with a design professional and a contractor.
Once you have obtained as much information as possible on damage-reduction methods and know which will work for your structure, decide on how much you will have to spend to accomplish your retrofitting goals.
Don’t hesitate because of the finances involved. “Anyone who wants to protect their home or business by retrofitting should get in touch with FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
Policy-holders may qualify for Increased Cost of compliance coverage for substantially damaged properties, which helps pay for some types of retrofitting,” said Jim Stark, Director of FEMA’s Louisiana Transitional Recovery Office. Help with insurance payments may also be available.
For more information on floodproofing your home, you can order the Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting, Publication 312, by calling FEMA at 1-800-480-2520. For information on NFIP call 1-800-CALL-FLOOD ext. 304 or visit FEMA’s web site at www.floodalert.fema.gov .