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Buildings and Sites

If any substantial changes are planned to prepare a historic building for a disaster please refer to the Secretary of Interiors Standards for the Treatment of Historic Structures and check with all local and state authorities before making any changes.


The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. (www.photolib.noaa.gov)

  • Anchor the building to resist flotation
  • Raise utility components & other equipment above flood level
  • Ensure proper foundation drainage
  • Strengthen wall against flood waters and debris

3“Protecting Your Property from Flooding”, FEMA, 25 Jan 2007.

As The Flood Waters Recede- A Checklist of Things To Do

From Treatment of Flood-Damaged Older and Historic Buildings (PDF)

The following checklist will help you respond to flood damage in historic and older buildings. Read the steps through carefully and take time to plan. While it is tempting to wade right in with a shovel and mop, it is very important to develop a plan for cleanup and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, overly zealous cleanup efforts can result in historic materials being carted away, excessively rough cleaning methods, and the unnecessary loss of historic fabric. The best way to prevent additional damage to historic structures and materials during a time of duress is to use caution and plan ahead.

  • Follow all emergency rules, laws, and regulations
  • Turn off all utilities
  • Document building damage
  • Wear protective clothing
  • Stabilize any unstable structures with temporary bracing
  • Use caution when pumping basement water
  • Keep building properly ventilated
  • Clean everything that got wet with a disinfectant
  • Allow saturated materials to dry using natural ventilation
  • Check for foundation damage
  • Replace soil around foundation
  • Save historic materials if possible
  • Use caution when removing lead-based paint or any products containing asbestos
  • Clean and repair roof and roof drainage systems to protect building from future damage

High Winds

Aluminum shutters on home in Vero Beach, FL. (www.photolibrary.fema.gov)

High Winds

  • Protect doors and windows (shutters or covers)
  • Reinforce double doors
  • Reinforce garage doors
  • Remove hazardous trees and potential wind-borne missiles
  • Secure siding and roofs
  • Brace gable end roof framing
  • Know & protect historic character1

Truss Bracing (“Against the Wind”, American Red Cross, 01 Feb 2007, .)

1“Protect Your Property from High Winds”, FEMA, 26 Jan 2007.



Flood water and gas fire in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. (www.photolibrary.fema.gov)

  • Protect and reinforce all roof, windows, doors, and garage doors
  • Secure exterior objects that could become wind-borne missiles
  • Install stronger door hardware2
  • Apply wood adhesive along roof deck and roof support
  • Install Hurricane Straps

2 “

Reinforcements (Photograph 1135, FEMA, 31 Jan 2007, <http://www.photolibrary.fema.gov>.)

Hurricane Strap (“Against the Wind”, American Red Cross, 01 Feb 2007, <http://www.redcross. org/services/disaster/beprepared/Agnstwd.pdf>.)



San Bernadino, CA after 2003 wildfire. (www.photolibrary.fema.gov)

Wildfire in Virginia Lake. (www.photolib.noaa.gov)

  • Remove combustible materials away from structure
  • Create a “safety zone,” depending upon surrounding tree species
  • Remove all dead plants, shrubs, and trees
  • Locate shrubs a min. 20 feet away from structure
  • Select high-moisture plants that grow close to the ground
  • Be sensitive to historic landscape features
  • Cover exterior openings (vents, air intakes, etc.) with metal mesh screens
  • Identify nearby water sources
  • Add fire proof shutters to large windows
  • On the interior, remove flammable materials or use fire resistant  materials near window openings
  • Ensure HVAC system will automatically shut off or reverse fans5

4“Protect Your Property from Fire”, FEMA, 25 Jan 2007.

5 Michael Trinkley, “Protecting Your Institution from Wild Fires”, Preservation Services Leaflet, SOLINET, 29 Jan 2007.




  • Bolt sill plate to foundation
  • Reinforce crawl space or “cripple” walls under floor joists
  • Connect rim joists to top plates with metal brackets
  • Anchor large equipment
  • Use flexible connections on gas and water lines
  • Brace large openings on lower story6
  • Brace heavy exterior elements7

6“What You Can Do”, Structural Engineers Association of Northern California, 25 Jan 2007.

7 “FEMA Hazard Mitigation Handbook Series”, Conservationtech, 01  Feb 2007.

Bolt Sill Plates to Foundation illustration. (www.fema.gov)

Earthquakes, Magnitude 3.5 and Greater, 1974-2003. (Earthquake Hazard Program, www.usgs.com)

Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt. (www.fema.gov)

Building and Site Reference List

Building and Site Reference List

Repairing Your Flooded Home, FEMA Library
Step-by-step advice on for homeowners after a flood.

Risk Management Series Brochure, FEMA
Security Risk Management Series (RMS) Publications
Design Guide for Improving Critical Facility Safety from Flooding and High Winds – Training Course; Design Guide for Improving Hospital Safety in Earthquakes, Floods, and High Winds

Protect Your Property or Business from Disaster, FEMA

Protect Your Business from All Natural Hazards
Protect Your Property from an Earthquake

Protect Your Property from Fire

Protect Your Property from Flooding, FEMA Library
Install Sewer Backflow Valves, Anchor Fuel Tanks, Raise Electrical System Components, Build With Flood Damage Resistant Materials

Protect Your Property from High Winds
Protect Windows and Doors with Covers, Reinforce and Replace Garage Doors, Brace Gable End Roofing, Secure Composition Shingle Roofs, Secure Built-Up and Single-Ply Roofs, Remove Trees and Potential Wind-borne Missiles, Maintain EIFS Walls

Strengthening Walls for Wind Resistance, LSU Ag Center
Mainly applies to new construction, but informative if an addition or new structure is planned for a historic site.

Strengthening an Existing Roof, LSU Ag Center

Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt Poster
Poster assists homeowners with identifying problem areas.

Avoiding Wildfire Damage: A Checklist for Homeowners, FEMA

Fire Safety: Creating an Awareness of the Fire Threat, Historic Scotland
Provide basic information on how fires start and spread in historic buildings.

Originally published May 23, 2011.

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National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]nps.gov
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119