It's another beautiful day in the Hawaiian Islands. The palm trees are swaying, the ocean is calm, but like many places in the United States, the island of Maui is always under the threat of a hurricane. But did you know that most families are unprepared to deal with such a disaster?
In the past 10 years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has spent $20 billion to help people repair and rebuild their communities after natural disasters. That is not the total cost. Insurance companies spent additional billions in claims payments; businesses lost revenues; employees lost jobs; other government agencies spent millions more. Worst of all, however, is the loss that can never be recovered: human life.
The increasing number and severity of natural disasters over the past decade demands that action be taken to reduce the threat that hurricanes, earthquakes, severe storms, floods and fires impose upon the nation's economy and the safety of its citizens. Project Impact is FEMA's nationwide initiative to create common-sense approaches to damage-reduction. Project Impact's work and planning is based on three simple principles: Preventive actions must be decided at the local level; private sector participation is vital; and long-term efforts and investments in prevention measures are essential.
Earlier this year, Maui County was invited by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to become a disaster resistant community. On May 3, 1999 representatives from FEMA's regional office in San Francisco joined County of Maui and state officials along with representatives of private business and non-profit groups in a ceremony to sign a Memorandum of Agreement, marking the beginning of a two year disaster mitigation program.
Project Impact Maui County seeks to better shield the fives and resources of the County from natural disasters by pooling and coordinating the mitigation measures of Maui's government, businesses, and citizens. Financial support for the project is provided by a two-year grant from FEMA to the County of Maui for $300,000 and from a match of $100,000 in contributions, cash, and in-kind services from the County and its community-partners.
These goals can only be accomplished with the help and support of our community partners. To date, 35 businesses and organizations have become Project Impact Partners, joining forces with other county and state initiatives to reduce hazards on our island. Citizens are being asked to become informed on what they can do to help Maui become more disaster resistant and to take action in their own homes and businesses to protect themselves, their families, and their employees.
The FEMA-funded Project Impact program will be coordinated by the County of Maui Office of Economic Development, with assistance from the Maui Pacific Center.