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Be Prepared for Floods

Being prepared for a flood means taking steps before flooding occurs to reduce the damage to your home and property.

Are you at risk?

Detail from a flood insurance rate map showing a section of Cohoes, NY
A Flood Insurance Rate Map shows you the risk for
flooding at your property.

If you live near a river or stream, or in a low-lying area, you may be subject to flooding and storm damage. To know if you are at risk and how likely you are to be flooded, consult a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) or "flood map."

Find the Flood Insurance Rate Map for your address

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) produces FIRMs. These maps will tell you if you are in a flood-prone area, and how likely your area is to flood. Use FEMA's Map Service Center (see "Links Leaving DEC's website at right) to look up the FIRM for your address.

It's a good idea to take FEMA's tutorial (see link at right) on how to read and interpret flood insurance maps before you look up the map for you area.

Do you have flood insurance?

Many people assume that their homeowner's insurance policy covers damage from flooding, but this is usually not true. Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program to homeowners, renters and owners of commercial properties, whether or not your home is in a mapped flood zone, and whether or not it has flooded in the past. See our Flood Insurance Fact Sheet (PDF) 43 KB, for answers to common questions about flood insurance and the link to "Flood Insurance Information" at right.

Also visit the National Flood Insurance website "" (see link at right) for excellent information about protecting yourself or your business from flooding.

Ice Jam Flooding

Winter in most areas of New York State is usually cold enough to cause ice to form on rivers. But when the cold weather causes the ice to thicken and pile up in early to mid-winter it can block water from flowing underneath it, resulting in what is called a freeze-up jam.

Ice jam flooding on road in Warrensburg, NY

Another more common ice jam is referred to as a break-up jam, which occurs in mid to late-winter when warming temperatures, heavy rains, and snow melt cause water levels to rise breaking apart the ice. The moving ice then accumulates in river bends, obstructions and in shallow areas of the river restricting water flow and increasing the potential for flooding either upstream, if the water builds behind the jam; or downstream, if the ice jam breaks. Both of these types of winter ice jam floods can occur with little warning causing water levels to rise quickly. Even areas beyond the designated floodplain, thought to be safe from flooding, can be severely damaged. What emergency information can DEC share about ice jam flooding?

Protect stream banks from erosion

A failed concrete retaining wall lies in pieces at the base of a streambank
Even large and expensive retaining walls can fail.
A natural approach to holding the stream-bank
in place may be more effective and less costly.

Swiftly flowing floodwaters can quickly erode embankments and undermine roads and nearby structures. Learn how to protect stream banks in an ecologically sound manner. See the following resources:

  • Shoreline stabilization techniques - Basic principles and best practices to prevent erosion and provide wildlife habitat.
  • Stream Processes: A Guide to Living in Harmony with Streams (See link to Chemung County Soil and Water Conservation District at right and look for the link to the "Stream Guide" near the bottom of the home page of their website). Note: the Stream Guide is a very large (65 MB) PDF file and may take a while to download.
  • Stream Crossings and Stream Crossings, Guidelines and Best Management Practices show how you can prevent flooding, and other undesirable outcomes, with properly designed and constructed bridges and culverts.

If your property has already been flooded...

How you repair and rebuild after a flood will affect what happens to your property when the next flood occurs. Consult the Post-Flood Stream Reconstruction page for guidelines on how to repair flood damage, remove debris from stream and open stream channels.

Do you own or live near a dam?

DEC has information on how to inspect, construct and properly maintain dams.

Reducing flood damage at the municipal level

Planners, building inspectors and other municipal officials involved in the use and management of floodplains, should consult the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFM) "No Adverse Impact" web page (see link at right).

Under "No Adverse Impact" floodplain management, the actions of one property owner are not allowed to adversely affect the rights of other property owners. The adverse impacts can be measured in terms of increased flood peaks, increased flood stages, higher flood velocities, increased erosion and sedimentation, or other impacts the community considers important.

DEC contacts for more information

Questions about floodplain development standards, assistance with understanding flood maps, and guidance with flood insurance requirements should be directed to our Bureau of Flood Protection and Dam Safety: 518-402-8185 or

Contact our Bureau of Public Outreach: 518-402-8044 or for information on shoreline stabilization techniques and best management practices for post-flood stream restoration.

More about Be Prepared for Floods:

  • Ice Jam Flooding - Ice Jam information for local government officials and emergency response teams; including how can state and federal governments help?