WARWICK, R.I. -- Firefighters and staff at the Hope Valley-Wyoming Fire Department relocated their eight fire vehicles, flipped the switch on a 750-gallon portable pump and stacked sandbags three feet high to protect the fire station from the severe March 2010 floodwaters.
While the sandbags blocked the floodwaters from filling the building, they did not stop torrential flows from Brushy Brook and Wood River from eroding 1,200 square feet of the station’s parking lot.
Because the department was focused on answering calls for assistance from residents, fire personnel could not stop all the destruction that was occurring right in their own back yard.
"We couldn’t do anything about it," said Hope Valley Fire Chief Frederick Stanley. "My crew was running round-the-clock pulling propane tanks out of the rivers, helping people stranded in cars and helping with mutual aid."
Once the calls for flood-related rescues stopped, Stanley contacted the department’s insurance agency, the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for assistance.
"We knew we would have to go to FEMA because of the amount of work that needed to be done," Stanley said.
Hope Valley Fire Department needed assistance from FEMA’s mitigation specialists in repairing the damaged parking lot and embankment and making it more disaster-resistant.
Hazard mitigation is performed in the hopes of protecting lives and preventing or reducing the loss of property from hazardous events. FEMA collaborates with state, local and tribal governments as well as businesses and certain private nonprofits to establish hazard mitigation practices that encourage building stronger and safer.
Following a disaster, FEMA’s Mitigation Hazards and Performance Analysis (HPA) group provides engineering, economic and scientific analysis in support of hazard mitigation programs. The group analyzes hazards and impacts and also conducts assessments of damage and losses. The analysis is used to ensure that mitigation measures are cost-effective. The group also ensures that technical hazard mitigation information is available to all local, state and federal recovery partners.
In Rhode Island, that was accomplished when RIEMA, with support from FEMA and the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Institute, hosted a hazard mitigation planning workshop. It was there that Stanley reached out to FEMA officials about the department’s damaged parking lot.
Mitigation officials responded immediately after the event and went to the site to assess the damage.
"I was thankful that FEMA specialists came down as quickly as they did," Stanley said.
At the recommendation of FEMA’s mitigation team, the Hope Valley Fire Department put several measures in place to provide better protection against future flooding. A cement block wall was erected to discourage stream erosion. Riprap (limestone and granite) was used in place of common fill, to fill the washed out areas and prevent future erosion of the embankment and parking lot; and a bituminous (coal-based) bumper was added to redirect runoff and to prevent fire vehicles from rolling off the pavement.
"It was valuable to bring FEMA’s mitigation people in," Stanley said. "We gained a lot from their direction."
FEMA personnel kept in contact with Stanley and visited the fire station once a week. Stanley said he welcomed meetings with FEMA mitigation specialists because they helped to guide the Fire Department through the process.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.