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FEMA EXAMINES HOW PEOPLE PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM NATURE'S WRATH

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), one year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, has released a new series of Mitigation Best Practices. The collection details steps taken by citizens, businesses and governments in the Gulf Coast region to build more strongly and safely.

“Mitigation -- strengthening yourself and your investments in the face of disaster -- is the keystone to emergency preparedness,” said FEMA's Director of Mitigation David Maurstad. “Studies show that for every dollar spent on mitigating disasters, four dollars are saved.”

Maurstad said the collection of projects and stories represents the best of many admirable mitigation efforts being made in the Gulf Coast and nationwide.

The following Best Practices highlight Gulf Coast mitigation projects that successfully protected properties and reduced financial losses during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There are more than 30 mitigation projects from Gulf Coast states highlighted at: http://www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/bestpractices/katrina.shtm.

A sample:

Dauphin Island Sea Lab Prepares for Hurricanes

After being repeatedly assaulted by hurricanes, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, in Alabama, decided to install hurricane shutters as a preventive measure. The sea lab, a marine science institution with academic and research distinction, was awarded Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds from FEMA for hurricane shutters. Following Hurricane Katrina, the sea lab was soon operational again, with classes resuming when roads became passable and power was restored.

Hospital Haven: Florida Facelift Provides Safe Hurricane Refuge for Young Patients

Miami Children's Hospital (MCH) underwent a state-of-the-art retrofit to enable it to withstand a Category 4 hurricane -- thanks to a $5 million FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant, which helped pay for the $11.3 million project. Medical and nursing care for the hospital's young patients continued uninterrupted throughout all phases of the renovation and MCH sheltered patients, staff and their families during Hurricanes Frances, Katrina and Wilma. MCH has proven to be a safe haven for sheltering sick children and those who care for them.

New Orleans TV Station Designs for Worst-Case Scenario

Through innovative building design, the 1000-foot broadcast tower at WWL TV in Gretna, La., broadcast without interruption during Hurricane Katrina. Five years ago, the station consulted with the Army Corps of Engineers for advice on incorporating protection from potentially catastrophic storm surges into the design of their new transmitter facility and tower. The station took that advice and hired a structural engineering firm known for its ability to design on Louisiana soil, which is 67 percent water. Katrina tested the hurricane-resistant building with winds of more than 120 mph. The design proved its worth as the 4,400 square foot, windowless building and tower went unscathed. Weekly testing of the emergency equipment ensured smooth operation during emergency conditions.

Strong Building Code Protects Louisiana Town

Mandeville, La., officials -- long aware of their city's vulnerability to hurricanes and flooding -- took steps to diminish damage before disaster struck. A member of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) since 1979, the city raised its building standards to reduce the flood risk in the community. In 1993, Mandeville voted to exceed the minimum NFIP requirement and increase its elevation standard to one foot above the Base Flood Elevation. Most elevated properties, including some of Mandeville's historic buildings, withstood Hurricane Katrina -- thanks to the city's strict building regulations.

Elevation is Not Enough: Utilizing Smart Building Practices

This home in Slidell, La., whose homeowner chose to elevate to 16.4 feet and incorporate several hurricane-resistant features into its construction, withstood the winds and waters of the 2005 hurricane season.

Although the floodwaters beneath the house rose to 15 feet (within about one-and-a-half feet of the floor joists), the breakaway walls survived intact, no water entered the home, and the roof was not damaged.

The homeowner declared “Get it up in the air and build it strong! It just makes sense to use good building practices when you know you're going to get a hurricane at least every other year.”

In Mississippi, Diamondhead Home Is A Mitigation Blueprint

Homeowners in Diamondhead, Miss.,, consulted the FEMA publication “Home Builder's Guide to Coastal Construction” when building their home and incorporated mitigation measures that kept the home safe when Hurricane Katrina hammered the Gulf Coast with 135-mile per hour winds. Reinforced laminated beams along the ceiling enhance the home's structural integrity and increase the roof's anchoring capability. And the homeowners exceeded minimum building codes when anchoring the house to its slab-on-grade foundation. Windows were installed with manual wooden shutters, and there is a safe room in the middle of the house, stocked with emergency essentials.

Mitigation Helps Mississippi Senior Center Survive Katrina

The Hancock County Senior Center was retrofitted with storm shutters in 1999 after an assessment determined that high winds could blow out its glass windows and doors. Partially funded by FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, the center rode through the storm with minimal water damage, while nearby structures were devastated by the storm surge. After Hurricane Katrina, the center eventually housed more than 200 people and operated as a shelter for 88 days.

Mitigation Efforts Help Mississippi Emergency Operations Center “Shut Out” Katrina

More than 200 city, state, and county emergency officials, Mississippi National Guardsmen, Navy Seabees and rescue workers took shelter and conducted 24-hour operations in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Gulfport during Hurricane Katrina. The EOC was retrofitted for metal storm shutters in 2003 using FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds, after an assessment revealed that high winds could blow out the glass windows and doors of the facility. Originally constructed as a civil defense facility, concrete was used for the building's frame, roof and exterior walls, and it was built to withstand high wind events. The facility's first floor sits at an elevation of just over 26 feet, which prevented floodwater from entering the EOC.

Mississippi Waterfront High-Rise Apartment Stares Down Katrina, Won't Blink

The 14-story Legacy Towers apartment building, in Gulfport, was one of only a few habitable buildings standing along the Mississippi Gulf Coast after the storm struck. It's ability to endure the storm's wrath is attributed primarily to the structure's break-away walls, windows, and doors designed to wash away during high wind and water events. Legacy Towers' survival has played a key role in the rebuilding process on the Gulf Coast. The Legacy was one of only a few places able to offer housing to construction and emergency workers immediately after Katrina.

FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.

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