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Monday, 28 October 2013 15:16

One Year Later: Mitigation Technique Applied 30 Years Ago Survived Sandy

LINCROFT, N.J. -- The devastation Superstorm Sandy left behind changed the face of many New Jersey communities, perhaps none more so than along the Shore. With individual homes and businesses and even whole communities swept away, many people were left wondering if it’s even possible to live at the Shore.

But also along the Shore are homes that stand like lone sentinels, a testament to mitigation techniques that make structures stronger and safer. Mitigation construction practices such as elevation, berms and use of damage-resistant materials help reduce the risk of future damage. More and more, buildings throughout the country, and along the Shore, are constructed with these techniques.

Mantoloking home surrounded by Sandy floodwaters



When Mantoloking resident Ed Wright built his home 30 years ago, he used a classic mitigation technique: elevation. Last October, that decision proved to be a good one. The storm surge from Sandy swept away five neighboring homes and left his standing alone at the end of the Mantoloking Bridge.

Wright had seen photos of debris washing down the street and elected to elevate the home rather than build on a standard foundation. He built it on 35- to 45-foot pilings sunk into the ground and later enclosed the ground level with breakaway walls, which are designed to collapse in flood waters.

Elevation is a tried-and-true mitigation technique. After a major disaster declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency makes Hazard Mitigation grants available to the designated state for projects that reduce or eliminate losses from future disasters.

Projects eligible for hazard mitigation grants include retrofitting buildings to minimize damage from high winds and flooding; elevation of flood-prone buildings; minor flood-control projects; and the purchase of property at risk of repetitive flooding for conversion to open space. The state works with local communities to determine the focus of the Hazard Mitigation program.

Hazard Mitigation grants cover up to 75 percent of approved project costs. State and local governments pay the remaining 25 percent (in-kind donations of labor and materials can contribute toward this share). A project's potential savings must be more than the cost of implementing the project.

A completely restored Mantoloking home, one year after Sandy

While the state sometimes pays for mitigation projects through FEMA grants after a disaster, Wright paid for his home’s elevation as part of the construction cost. It was an investment in the future.

The day after Sandy struck New Jersey, a friend called Wright to tell him his home was the only one standing. When he returned home, he didn’t know what to expect.

“We had no clue,” he said. “It was very emotional to see it standing there all by itself.”

The home experienced minimal damage, losing the furnace, air conditioning unit, washer and dryer, and vehicles.

“We’re very fortunate,” Wright said. “We’re very happy to be here.”

Property owners who are interested in the Hazard Mitigation programs available in New Jersey after Sandy should contact their local emergency management office.

Video-links: Elevation Helps a Home Survive Hurricane Sandy,
What To Do About Mold (in American Sign Language)

Next, the One Year Later series examines the ways in which New Jersey’s private sector got down to business to aid in the recovery process.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Follow FEMA online at www.fema.gov/blog, www.twitter.com/fema, www.facebook.com/fema, and www.youtube.com/fema. Also, follow Administrator Craig Fugate's activities at www.twitter.com/craigatfema.