SAUGUS, Mass. -- Arthur Rumson and Frank McKinnon have known each other for years. As the plumbing inspector for the town of Saugus, Rumson has worked with McKinnon, the town's conservation officer, many times to review construction projects. But little did Rumson know the positive impact McKinnon would have on his business.
It began in 1991 when Rumson wanted to build a new home for his business, Lynhurst Plumbing & Heating. Because his property borders the Saugus River, he would need approval to build from the town's Conservation Committee. It was then that McKinnon informed Rumson that because his property was located within a designated floodplain, he would have to comply with the town's floodplain management guidelines. Most importantly for Rumson, this meant building his office at or above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).
McKinnon recalled bumping into Rumson recently after the devastating May floods and the two laughing about the past. "He told me, 'Frank, when you made me put those pilings under the building, I cursed you. But, boy after those storms we had, I had to come in and thank you'," said McKinnon.
Initially, Rumson wasn't satisfied with the committee's decision and decided to appeal to the state. The state informed him that he indeed would have to comply. After two or three years of working with the state to satisfy their concerns, he went back to the town with plans that complied with local building codes for construction in a floodplain.
In 1995, Rumson received the necessary permits and began construction. The two-story building was completed in 1996 with a reinforced concrete foundation and at an elevation above the BFE. In addition, he was required to have a gravel driveway in order to allow for additional groundwater drainage in the event of a flood.
"The whole process really gave me an education," Rumson said. After complying with all the guidelines of floodplain management, Rumson finally had his new office building.
It's been a decade since the office was completed and Rumson has weathered several storms and floods, but nothing like the May 2006 floods. "We've had other storms where the river has spilled the banks, but this was by far the worst I've ever seen," he said.
After days of continuous rain throughout mid-May, the Saugus River spilled onto Rumson's property. Adjoining his office is another business built at ground level prior to current floodplain management ordinances. That business had 18 inches of water inside their store and was inaccessible for three to four days. Rumson's office experienced no damage.
The experience has made Rumson a proponent of mitigation and he now shares that knowledge with his customers. "The first question I ask myself now when I go onto a job site is 'where does the storm water go?'" he said. He is quick to point out to his customers simple, pro-active steps they can take to address potential flooding including installing sub-pumps or backflow (backwater) valves (which in his community requires a permit and a licensed plumber to install).
Rumson, initially frustrated by the process, is now determined to impart the wisdom and practicality of floodplain management from his own personal experience. As he told McKinnon, "If it wasn't for you, I would have been floating away."
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.