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U.S. Calls for Preparation as Disasters Increase

May 24, 2000|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Natural disasters are getting more frequent and more severe, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt said Tuesday, preaching a gospel of preparation and prevention for Americans.

"We are trying to change the landscape of America . . . to make our communities more disaster resistant," said Witt.

Some communities have passed ordinances blocking development in wetlands and other dangerous areas, he said, but "we have a long way to go."

Witt cited Project Impact and FEMA's buyout and relocation programs as major efforts in preventing future losses in disasters.

The buyout and relocation programs, launched in 1993, move people away from dangerous areas, especially flood plains, and turn that land into parks that cannot be built on in the future.

Project Impact, which is two years old, has become active in both hurricane- and tornado-prone areas, providing builders and homeowners with plans and assistance in making homes and buildings more resistant to disasters.

FEMA provides $300,000 in seed money to each community and helps them organize public-private partnerships, with businesses contributing about $4.50 for every federal dollar involved, he said.

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