1. Know your flood risk.Residents along the Winooski, North Branch, Dog, or Stevens Branch rivers may be in the floodplain, which is a low-lying area adjacent to a waterway, generally subject to flooding and often designated by FEMA as an area with a 1% chance of flooding each year. To help you determine where your property is in relation to the floodplain, contact the Planning Department. A staff member can look this information up for free. Flash flooding can also occur along any stream and many of these streams are not mapped as flood hazards by FEMA. Any quiet brook can become a raging river under certain circumstances, and you should plan ahead.
2. Build safety factors into your design.
- elevate your building above the base flood elevation;
- install closures and sealants around doors and windows;
- construct new watertight walls;
- install flood vents in existing walls or construct floodwalls or levees;
- elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if susceptible to flooding;
- replace electrical outlets with GFCI outlets;
- install “check valves” in sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home;
- seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage;
- store important documents, insurance cards, banking information, and items of sentimental value in a high location so they stay dry;
- replace existing building materials with materials less susceptible to damage.
3. Buy flood insurance.The most important flood protection device, after prevention, is flood insurance. If your property is in the floodplain and you do not have flood insurance, talk to your insurance agent. Homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies do not cover damage from floods. If your lending institution is requiring that you purchase flood insurance and you believe that you have little or no risk, there are tools available to determine your risk. Please contact the Planning Department for information on what tools are available. If your property is not within the mapped flood hazard area it doesn’t mean you are safe from flooding. Property owners outside of the mapped high-risk flood areas file more than 20% of all National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) claims and receive one-third of federal disaster assistance for flooding. Anywhere it can rain, it can flood.
4. Make an emergency plan – Build a kit.There are lots of tools online to help make emergency plans, including FEMA’s ready.gov/floods. Emergencies don’t always allow time to plan and gather resources, so having a plan and kit allows you to act quickly and have a common meeting point or communication plan for when your family is separated.
5. Be aware during flood watches.When flooding is likely, listen to the radio or television, sign up for VT-ALERTS, or follow the city on social media for information. Montpelier is vulnerable to flash flooding, and conditions can change quickly. Know where to go if you need to reach higher ground quickly by foot. You should get out your emergency kit and make preparations. Bring in outdoor furniture, move essential items to an upper floor, and turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances but do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
6. Take action during flood warnings.If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move. Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons, and other areas known to flood suddenly. Sometimes evacuation is necessary. If you have to leave your home, remember these evacuation tips:
- Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. A foot of water is enough to float many vehicles. Finally, two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, including SUVs and trucks. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away. Turn around. Don’t drown!
7. Return home only when safe.After a flood, it is important to listen to the news and to call city hall to see whether it is safe to return. During a flood a number of utilities and areas may not be safe. For example:
- The drinking water supply may not be safe.
- Remaining floodwaters may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage.
- Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
- Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
- Stay away from downed power lines and report them to the power company.
- Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters. Use extreme caution when entering buildings that had previously been flooded, as there may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations.
- Septic tanks and leaching systems may have failed and should be serviced as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards. Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from flood water can contain sewage and chemicals.