Mitigation: How to reduce the cause, impact and severity of disasters around your home
I read through some FEMA information this morning about the four phases of the emergency management cycle.
The four phases are: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
I considered some of the projects that have been done around my home and property over the years that have mitigated disasters or the effects of one.
The trees on my property were in terrible shape when we moved in. Most of them were planted close to the house and planted too close to each other. Some of the trees were dying and partly rotted and others had huge branches over the top of the roof of the house.
We get can get high winds and tornadoes and I was very concerned about the potential for how my home and a neighbour’s home could be damaged by such an event.
Trees have a life cycle and it is important to know that when selecting them for your property, especially a town or city lot. Watch also for roots systems that can infiltrate sewer lines.
Tree branches over a roof or close to a roof are not good for a variety of reasons. Branches that actually touch the roof can destroy your shingles. The branches can become too close when they are heavy with ice, snow or moisture and then sag lower and touch the roof.
Squirrels and other critters are fun to watch from a distance, but give them a tree branch close enough to your home and they will scurry up that branch and find a way into your attic. Squirrels are amazing high wire acrobats and can jump 15 feet (some sources say more or less), so that needs to be considered when pruning back branches or planting.
Aside from damage to the home, squirrels can carry diseases. Some of the more common diseases they carry are tularaemia, typhus, plague and ringworm which can be transmitted through a bite or other forms of direct contact with infected squirrels.
I called in a tree service and had all the trees removed.
High wind, tornado and potential for rodent damage mitigated.
Next, there was the issue of poorly graded property. We can get heavy rains, more so now in recent years with “once in a 100, (insert years – it keeps changing) events.”
During a heavy rain, I discovered water pouring into one of the basement windows.
I had both basement windows replaced with properly installed window wells around them. I then installed window well covers.
I noticed after the heavy rain exactly where the water was pooling on the property. The next project to tackle was the issue of our poorly graded residential lot.
Residential lot grading is shaping and grading the land to direct surface runoff away from your home in a way that doesn’t affect neighbouring properties. .
Aside from standing water and flooding, improperly graded residential lots can cause foundation settlement or damage and basement dampness. Dampness is not good for prep storage.
Here is a link for an overview of lot grading. Each community will have their own rules. Where I live, no permit was necessary. However, some communities require a permit.
After 5 truck loads of soil, and becoming very acquainted with my landscape rake, the lot was correctly sloped and graded. Swales and drainage channels were the final component to ensure that rain water and moisture from melting snow drained away from the house. The water now flows to the street and back lane via grade and drainage channels on each side of the lot.
I also had larger drainage pipe from the gutters installed to allow for better and more rapid flow of water during storms and heavy rains. No more overflowing gutters. Risk of flooding and water infiltration around the home and property now mitigated.
After the water table rose due to heavy rains, I had my plumber install a sump pit and pump to move water away from below the foundation and ease hydrostatic pressure. There are other methods, but this was recommended as a good first line of defence and it has worked very well over the years.
At the same time, I also had a sewer back flow valve installed on my sewer line. Our town has the storm drains tied into the sanitary sewer system. This is not the correct way to do it and not all communities may be built that way. It is wise to check especially in older rural towns with municipal sewer and water.
If however, your sewer lines back up for any reason, this valve is well worth having in place. One woman I knew with heavy rains in another town, had over four feet of sewage in her basement. Her massive, fully stocked chest freezer was floating.
During heavy rains, some homes in town had flooded basements. Many people were trying to hide the fact that their homes were being flooded. Instead of correctly pumping the water out of their basement and away from their property, they were pumping into their basement storm drains.
The problem is that when so many of them did that, they overloaded the sewer lines causing sewage to flow back into basements. My basement stayed clean and dry. Installing that sewer back flow valve on my home has paid for itself many times over.
We have had many heavy rain years and I don’t have to worry about sewage backing up into my basement. Preps safe and sound and potential for disaster mitigated.
Those are a few of the steps I have taken over the years to practice hazard mitigation. What kind of steps or projects have you done to mitigate disaster causes, impact or severity around your homes? Are there still projects you want to do to reduce the effects of a disaster?