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Posted 11/16/2015

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By Sarah Gross


DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA - The District of Columbia’s interagency flood-fighting team completed a tabletop exercise to test the effectiveness of plans laid out in the District’s revised Flood Emergency Manual Nov. 3, 2015. This manual details how federal, District, and public agencies will respond to flood emergencies in the District and the nearby vicinity, including emergency closures and the operation of the 17th Street NW closure structure that is part of the Potomac Park Levee.

The updated manual will feed into a project to develop a citywide flood emergency plan.

Stacey Underwood speaks at Silver Jackets exercise
 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Silver Jackets Coordinator Stacey Underwood speaks to participants at a flood risk management tabletop exercise in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 3, 2015. Silver Jackets hosted the exercise to bring together various local and federal partners to discuss potential flooding scenarios that could happen in the District. (U.S. Army Photo by Chris Gardner)
“Without the proper implementation of a flood emergency plan, flood risk in the District is high,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Silver Jackets Coordinator Stacey Underwood. “There are numerous agencies that have roles and responsibilities during a flood, and they all must be fully prepared to respond in order to reduce the risk of flooding to residents and the critical downtown infrastructure.”

The revision to the flood manual, last significantly updated in 2006, is being prepared and coordinated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District. The Corps is a member of the interagency District of Columbia Silver Jackets, which leverages resources to identify and implement comprehensive, resilient, and sustainable solutions to reduce flood risk around the District and to assist local communities. Several other DC Silver Jackets participating agencies played a major part in the exercise, including the DC Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) as the lead Silver Jackets agency for the District; the National Park Service, the co-lead federal Silver Jackets agency; the National Weather Service; and the DC Department of Homeland Security.

The agencies worked through realistic storm scenarios to determine what would trigger a flood response action, which agencies would respond, and how. This exercise was executed in accordance with the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program.

One such action would be when to erect the 17th Street closure structure, which is a removable flood risk management element consisting of aluminum panels between steel posts. Operated and maintained by the National Park Service, the structure can be erected in the event of high water to attach to the floodwalls on both sides of 17th Street NW at Constitution Avenue. The Corps completed construction on the closure structure in the fall of 2014.

Three types of flooding can impact low areas of the city: river, coastal storm surge, and interior. The District of Columbia has a long history of flooding, dating back to the 19th century. The most significant riverine flood of record was in 1942 when the Potomac River stage reached 17.7 feet. Another major event occured in 2006 that flooded the Federal Triangle.

“Flood risk management is critical in the District,” said DOEE Director Tommy Wells. “This exercise meets the Sustainable DC Plan's Climate and Environment Goal to better prepare the District of Columbia's emergency services in order to improve processes and measures that will help save lives, protect property, and reduce future expenditures.”

The Silver Jackets team will use lessons learned from the exercise to update and finalize the District’s flood manual.

“Exercises like this one where emergency managers and other representatives from different agencies can work together through the various aspects of flooding scenarios are invaluable and pay dividends during future emergency events,” said Baltimore District Chief of Emergency Management Dorie Murphy.

For more information on the District of Columbia Silver Jackets and a list of additional participating agencies, visit, http://silverjackets.nfrmp.us/State-Teams/Washington-DC

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