The Great Flood of 2010: Are We Any Safer Today?

After a devastating flooding hit Rhode Island a year ago, state and local officials revamped their disaster preparedness plans. Today, authorities say they are better prepared and residents and businesses are now safer because of it.

According to a recent The Westerly Sun report by Temily Dupuis, since torrential rains sent swamped basements, knocked out power, and displaced residents and businesses last year, towns and agencies have rebuilt roads, bridges, culverts and Westerly's riverfront power substation; stockpiled equipment; opened and reinforced lines of communications; and identified weaknesses.

And according to J. David Smith, executive director of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, the state's agencies, municipalities and residents are now better prepared for another natural disaster. "… the professionals, citizens and volunteers took away something and learned a lesson," Smith said in the article. "… we're much more knowledgeable — all of us — and better prepared to deal with an emergency of that nature in the future."

To improve its preparedness level, local leaders built better relationships with businesses to provide everything from shelter to medical care during a disaster. Alternate routes to vital locations were created for use during different disaster scenarios, and National Grid employees now know how to better work out of boats to reach power stations partially submerged in water.

The Charlestown Fire District secured additional pumps and hoses, and the Richmond police purchased a surplus Army Humvee and a four-wheel drive Explorer and designated the Richmond Senior Center as an additional emergency shelter. Homeowners have since purchased water pumps and installed basement drains, and are registering in greater numbers to receive automated emergency phone calls in area towns. They've also become familiar with what their flood insurance covers.

Official planning for the future is vital. Local Rhode Island towns are revising their hazard mitigation and emergency operation plans, which are required by state and federal governments. The state is working with local officials to look at building codes, construction techniques, critical infrastructure, and decisions to build in certain areas. Taking into account area conditions is also important; for instance, a prevalence of hard surfaces like pavement and rooftops can compound flooding.

The state is also developing a law enforcement resource guide and a database of vehicles, boats and other equipment owned by Rhode Island departments. Authorities will also use new data maps to model potential flooding and develop detailed flood hazard planning maps. The data will better show areas vulnerable to flooding in hurricanes or inland storms, and it can be used to help guide development and help emergency management agencies plan for the next storm.

For more information about Rhode Island's flood recovery, lessons learned, and new disaster preparedness plans, read the full article: