Building Owner Mitigation Strategies

Coastal Storms/Flooding

Install backwater valves

Using backwater valves, check valves, and drain plugs prevents sewer water from rising up into a residence through its basement plumbing.
Backwater Prevention Valve
Backwater Prevention Valve. Source: Ready New York, Reduce Your Risk.
Source: Ready New York, Reduce Your Risk.

Elevate high-priority contents

Elevating a residential building’s contents and critical systems is the most common technique to avoid flood damage. Elevating high-priority contents protects items from potential flood damage. Raising  electrical, mechanical, and plumbing system equipment above anticipated flood levels to appropriate design standards also helps to flood-proof property.  Hiring a New York State-licensed Registered Architect or Professional Engineer provides building owners with the best options for altering and retrofitting a home either to reduce or eliminate the risk that it might be damaged by storms or floods.

Ensure roof water properly drains away from building.

To ensure roof water properly drains away from the building, owners should take several precautions -- install proper downspout and roof draining, clean gutters regularly, and connect downspouts to appropriate drains.

Install rain barrels to capture water

Home owners can take an additional step to facilitate roof water-drainage by installing a rain barrel to capture storm water and drain it after the storm. For more information, see the website for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s Rain Barrel Giveaway Program.

Install a green roof

A green roof is the elevated form of a rain garden. It provides the same benefits as a rain garden --diverting water from the City’s sewer system, reducing the urban heat island effect, and improving air quality. More information on how to create a green roof is available on the NYC Buildings website.
Rain Barrel Give Away Event
Rain Barrel Give Away Event. Source: NYC DEP.
Source: NYC DEP.

Install hurricane-proof windows

Hurricane-proof windows are designed to better withstand high winds and impacts from flying debris, so when they are struck, its glass will crack in place or break off into fewer larger shards. Building owners should replace glass that is not rated for high NYC winds, defined as 30 pounds per square foot for buildings under 100 feet high.

Purchase flood insurance

Coastal storms may result in significant precipitation or storm surges, leading to flooding that can damage your property or belongings. Flood protection is not included in standard homeowners or renter’s insurance, but can be obtained as a separate policy. Go to FloodHelpNY to learn more and to find out whether your property is in a flood zone. Property owners who hold a federally-backed mortgage or loan, or who have received federal disaster assistance in the past are required to obtain flood insurance. If you fail to purchase flood insurance when you are required to do so, you may become ineligible for federal disaster assistance.

Protect your property with flood-resilient retrofits

Protect your home from coastal storm damage by implementing flood-resilient retrofits. Raising your property or critical mechanical systems above flood water levels can prevent damage, while also lowering your flood insurance premiums. Other measures, like installing flood-resistant flooring or backwater preventers, are cheaper, but still effective at protecting your property. Learn more about potential retrofitting projects at FloodHelpNY.

Submit a tree service request

High winds can break off tree limbs or even knock trees over. Proper maintenance of hanging branches, leaning trees or related debris before a high wind event can reduce the risk of damage during high winds. Report poor tree conditions on public property to the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Forestry Services through their Tree Service Request system.
Extreme Heat

Install a cool roof

Installing a light-colored (green or white) roof lowers a building’s internal temperature and helps to reduce the urban heat island effect in the neighborhood. The NYC CoolRoofs program encourages building owners and residents throughout New York City to undertake this mitigation action. More information about this initiative is available on the NYC Small Business Services website.
NYC Cool Roofs Program
NYC Cool Roofs Program. Courtesy of DOB – Samantha Modell
Courtesy of DOB – Samantha Modell

Install high performance windows

Building owners who install high-performance windows provide several benefits that help mitigate the impact of extreme heat:
  • Multiple glazing layers (panes of glass that are spaced apart) increase and improve the window’s insulation and sound-reduction properties.
  • Low emissivity coatings – transparent layers of tin or silver oxide deposited on the glass surface -- allow light to pass through but block a substantial amount of heat.

Request a street tree from NYC Parks

Property owner can have a tree planted on their street for free if they submit a Service Request though the tree service request system or call 311. Property owners who request a tree receive an identification number to track its delivery status. More information about this program is available on the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation website.

Maintain or plant a community garden

Replacing asphalt lots with green gardens reduces the urban heat island effect  and improves air quality in a neighborhood. The NYC Parks’s GreenThumb program helps residents and communities navigate the process of starting a neighborhood garden.

Retrofit your building to improve cooling systems

Building owners can receive free personalized technical assistance to improve their property’s energy efficiency and upgrade cooling systems through the Retrofit Accelerator. Improving building envelopes can reduce energy costs and usage, while preventing air leakages and maintaining indoor temperatures.

Apply for assistance to install cooling systems in your home

Eligible low-income New Yorkers can receive financial assistance to buy and install air conditioners or fans through the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) or GetCool Air Conditioner Program.
High Winds

Know the safest place to seek safety

Building owners should inform residents and workers about the safest place they should go to if a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning is issued --  typically a basement or a windowless interior room, such as a bathroom, closet, or inner hallway on the lowest level of the building.

Install hurricane-proof windows

Hurricane-proof windows are designed to better withstand high winds and impacts from flying debris, so when they are struck, its glass will crack in place or break off into fewer larger shards. Building owners should replace glass that is not rated for high NYC winds, defined as 30 pounds per square foot for buildings under 100 feet high.
Building diagram showing roof ballast
Building diagram showing roof ballast. Courtesy of NYCEM.
Courtesy of NYCEM.

Replace small gravel covering the roof

Roof ballast is designed to use its weight to anchor the roof to the structure. Pea gravel or small stones are commonly used to anchor roofs; however, during a tornado or high winds, these materials can quickly become high-speed projectiles. Building owners need to replace small roof gravel with roofing ballast that conforms to sizes indicated in the NYC Building Code.
NYC Housing stock
NYC Housing stock. Source: nyc.gov.
Source: nyc.gov.

Submit a tree service request

High winds can break off tree limbs or even knock trees over. Proper maintenance of hanging branches, leaning trees or related debris before a high wind event can reduce the risk of damage during high winds. Report poor tree conditions on public property to the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Forestry Services through their Tree Service Request system.

Implement routine building maintenance

Severe weather like tornadoes or windstorms can happen with little to no warning, which can pose serious risks in New York City’s dense urban environment. Regularly maintaining your property can mitigate potential damage, while also protecting building occupants and neighbors from flying debris. Implement routine maintenance by ensuring roofs, cornices and other building elements are secured, fixing all cracks, and installing whole-house surge protectors. For more maintenance strategies, check out Ready New York’s Reduce Your Risk guide.
Earthquakes
 

Anchor appliances and large items securely to walls

Owners should take the following precautions to safeguard residents from harm during earthquakes:
  • Strap water and gas heaters to a nearby wall to eliminate the risk that a falling gas water heater breaks the gas line and starts a fire.
  • Anchor large appliances to walls with safety cables or straps.
  • Bolt or strap cupboards, bookcases, and shelves to the wall and place heavy objects on the lower shelves.
  • Lock the rollers of any large appliance or piece of furniture.
  • Brace commercial fire protection systems so that sprinkler system lines do not tear away from their connection points.
  • Apply safety film to windows and glass doors.
  • Secure ceiling lights, suspended ceilings, and other hanging items, such as chandeliers and plants, to the permanent structure of the home.
  • Install latches on drawers and cabinet doors.
  • Securely mount flat-screen televisions, pictures, and mirrors.
Diagram of a water heater anchored to the wall
 Diagram of a water heater anchored to the wall. Source: Ready New York, Reduce Your Risk.
Source: Ready New York, Reduce Your Risk.

Take precautions to reinforce and secure older masonry and wood buildings

Owners of older wooden and masonry buildings, which can be less stable than more recently constructed buildings, need to take additional precautions to mitigate risk of damage during earthquakes. For older brick or wooden buildings that lack reinforcement, a New York State-licensed Registered Architect or professional engineer should be hired to assist building owners to:
  • Anchor all wood buildings to their foundations
  • Replace unreinforced masonry parapets with reinforced masonry parapets and anchor them to the rest of the building.
  • Replace all leaning parapets and unstable masonry chimneys.
  • Add bracing to anchor building parapets using diagonal steel struts and repair the parapet mortar.
  • Repair all masonry structural cracks by replacing the cracked bricks.
  • Anchor the roof frame to bearing walls.
  • Install bolts to connect the home to its foundation.

Hold drills and identify safe locations

Building owners can organize earthquake preparedness drills and help residents to identify safe places to be during an earthquake, such as under a solid piece of furniture and away from windows, hanging objects, or tall furniture that could fall and hurt them.
Parapet anchored to the roof
Parapet anchored to the roof. Source: FEMA.
Source: FEMA.
Winter Weather

Building owners need to take the following precautions to eliminate risks to people’s safety in wintry, icy conditions:

  • Promptly remove ice and snow from tree limbs and other structures. If snow/ice accumulates, either it should be removed with a snow rake with long extension arm so it can be removed safely while standing on the ground, or a snow removal contractor should be hired.
  • Clear tree branches that could potentially fall on your home or power lines.
  • Clear leaves and other debris from gutters.
  • Insulate pipes with sleeves or wrapping so they do not freeze.
Pipe Installation
Pipe installation. Source: Ready New York, Reduce Your Risk.
Source: Ready New York, Reduce Your Risk.

Utilize daylight as passive lighting technology

To maintain light in a home or other building during times when the power goes out, windows and reflective surfaces should be positioned strategically to optimize the amount of light that flows through the space during daylight hours.