FEMA launches Project Impact; Deerfield Beach, Florida, first pilot community
Project Impact, recently initiated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), shifts the focus of emergency management from responding to disasters to helping to prevent potential damage by taking actions beforehand. “We`ve got to change the way we deal with disasters,” says FEMA Director James Lee Witt. “We have to break the damage-repair, damage-repair cycle. We need to have communities and business come together to reduce the costs and consequences of disasters.”
Under this national initiative, seven pilot communities will demonstrate the economic benefits of predisaster mitigation to state and local governments, businesses, and individuals. Deerfield Beach, Florida, will be the first pilot of a “disaster-resistant” community. Under a memorandum of understanding signed in November 1997, Deerfield Beach will receive from FEMA up to $1 million in seed money for disaster-resistant actions, such as installing hurricane straps in the auditorium and cafeteria of the local high school and wind shutters on all its windows. The high school serves as a shelter during disasters.
Local and national businesses have pledged their help. Among them are Florida Power and Light, the Promus Hotel Corporation, and the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. Home Depot in Deerfield Beach has unveiled a display on disaster resistance and will offer “Product Knowledge” courses for local homeowners, which will cover the steps they can take to protect their homes against potential storm damage.
The other six Project Impact pilot communities are Allegheny County, Maryland; Oakland, California; Pascagoula, Mississippi; Seattle, Washington; Tucker and Randolph counties, West Virginia; and Wil-mington, North Carolina.