and County Officials Team Up With FEMA to Promote Disaster Resistant
By Kimberly Peterson
Joint Center for Sustainable Communities signed a new partnership
agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington
December 13. Highlighting the opening plenary session of FEMA's second
annual Project Impact Summit, FEMA Director James Lee Witt, Boise Mayor H.
Brent Coles and Howard County Executive C. Vernon Gray ceremonially signed
an agreement designed to build a closer working relationship between the
two local government organizations and the federal agency.
disaster resistant communities is becoming increasingly important as the
nation weathers more catastrophic storms and natural disasters. Without
such efforts and plans underway, a community is not really sustainable.
Project Impact is FEMA's program aimed at the local level to help
communities become resistant to disasters through such efforts as ending
incentives to build in flood plains, retrofitting buildings and adopting
model building codes.
and counties are finding disaster resistance an easy topic to rally
behind. According to Director Witt, "Communities once divided over
sprawl are coming together behind disaster prevention." In fact,
Tulsa, Deerfield Beach, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and others are
putting their money behind disaster prevention and have approved bond
issues for disaster prevention infrastructure. Witt added, "Disaster
prevention has become an economic engine."
Alvarez, Director of the Small Business Administration (SBA), addressed
the Summit participants on creating a disaster resistant economy. The SBA
plays a large role in helping communities recover from natural disasters
by providing loans to disaster victims. The SBA has undertaken a five-year
pilot program aimed at making small businesses disaster resistant. Alverez
said, "In a typical disaster, 30 percent of small businesses never
reopen their doors. Imagine what that would do to the sustainability of
your community if nearly one-third of your small businesses
Mayor H. Brent Coles has seen first hand how disaster resistance has
helped his community. Boise has been selected as a Project Impact
Community and has targeted its efforts toward preventing forest fires in
the foothills surrounding the city. Coles cited lightning strikes as a
potential disaster for his community saying, "If we can stop a fire
before it takes out 1,000 acres, we won't have to worry about floods in
the Spring." He has worked with local fire responders on a plan to
address this problem. Boise
is also faced with another potential disaster - it sits on a fault line.
By partnering with the university and school districts on earthquake
education, the city has used Project Impact to save lives if an earthquake
should ever hit. All of these efforts are cost-effective too. As the mayor
said, "For a few dollars we can save lives if an earthquake
more information on how to make your community disaster resistant, visit
FEMA's website at www.fema.gov or
call (202) 646-4600.