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Prepare for Flooding

Prepare Now! Get Ready for Flooding!

Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States. New England is consistently threatened by severe storms and heavy rains throughout the spring and summer seasons. While heavy rains themselves can pose a significant threat, the combination of spring rainfall and winter snow melt can lead to hazardous flooding conditions thorughout the state. Some floods develop slowly, sometimes over a period of days. Other floods, flash floods, can develop quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes and without any visible signs of rain. As with most potential disasters: preparedness, monitoring the Media and common sense can minimize the danger to you and your family if your are faced with a flooding hazard. The following tips can also help you protect you before, during and after a flood event.

Before a Flood Threatens

  • Know the terms used by weather forecasters:
    • Flood Watch – Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
    • Flash Flood Watch – Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
    • Flood Warning – Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
    • Flash Flood Warning – A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.
  • Learn more about the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Purchase flood insurance.
  • Avoid building in a floodprone area unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
  • Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if susceptible to flooding.
  • Install "check valves" in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Contact community officials to find out if they are planning to construct barriers (levees, beams, floodwalls) to stop floodwater from entering the homes in your area.
  • Seal the walls in your basement with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
  • Everyone should have supplies which would prepared them to survive on their own for at least three days. There should be some non-perishable food, bottled water, flashlights and extra batteries around the house, along with a portable radio or NOAA Weather Radio in case of power outages or other emergencies caused by a winter storm.
  • Additional items that should be included on your Flood Preparedness Kit are a freshly-stocked first-aid kit, essential prescription medicines, non-perishable foods (those that require no refrigeration such as canned goods, dried fruits and nuts), a non-electric can opener, water (one gallon per person, per day), baby-care items, extra blankets, sleeping bags and a fire extinguisher.
  • Those who already have an All-Hazard Emergency Supply Kit, as RIEMA continues to suggest, should be in fine shape already.
  • As always, make sure you have a ‘Family Emergency Communication Plan.’

Be Prepared for Dam Failures

There are are 672 inventoried dams in the state of Rhode Island, according to the 2007 Dam Safety Annual Report. Approximately one third of these pose a "high" or "significant" hazard to life and property if failure occurs. Dam failure or levee breeches can occur with little warning. Intense storms may produce a flood in a few hours or even minutes for upstream locations. Flash floods occur within six hours of the beginning of heavy rainfall, and dam failure may occur within hours of the first signs of breaching. Other failures and breeches can take much longer to occur, from days to weeks, as a result of debris jams or the accumulation of melting snow.

Before a Dam Failure

  • Know your risk. Do you live downstream from a dam? Is the dam a high-hazard or significant-hazard potential dam? To find out, check out the Rhode Island Dam Inventory and the latest Annual Safety Report. For national information visit the National Inventory of Dams (NID) or the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO).
  • Find out who owns the dam and who regulates the dam. This information also should be available from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, NID, or ASDSO.
  • Once you determine that you live downstream from a high-hazard or significant-hazard potential dam and find out who owns the dam, see if a current Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is in place for the dam. An EAP is a formal document that identifies potential emergency conditions at a dam and specifies preplanned actions to be followed to reduce property damage and loss of life. An EAP specifies actions the dam owner should take to take care of problems at the dam. It also includes steps to assist the dam owner in issuing early warning and notification messages to responsible downstream emergency management authorities of the emergency.
  • If there is a dam failure or an imminent dam failure and you need to evacuate, know your evacuation route and get out of harm's way. In general, evacuation planning and implementation are the responsibility of the state and local officials responsible for your safety. However, there may be situations where recreational facilities, campgrounds, or residences are located below a dam and local authorities will not be able to issue a timely warning. In this case, the dam owner should coordinate with local emergency management officials to determine who will warn you and in what priority.
  • NID for RI
  • ASDSO for RI


Be aware of flood hazards no matter where you live, but especially if you live in a low-lying area, near water or downstream from a dam. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds, or low-lying ground that appear harmless in dry weather can flood. Every state is at risk from this hazard.