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NYC Hazards - Flooding

Floods account for more than $1 billion in property losses in the United States each year. Everyone is susceptible to flood damage, whether from storms, water main breaks, or sewer backups.

Intense rain storms are the most common cause of flash flooding, and they also cause sewers to back up into residences.

Given New York City's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, it is also susceptible to coastal storms and tidal flooding. Coastal flooding happens when storm water flows from the ocean into coastal areas. Tidal flooding occurs when the tide's range is at its highest level (also called a spring tide), but it can also occur with no storm. New York City also can experience riverine flooding, which occurs when freshwater rivers and streams overflow their banks.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are used to determine who must buy flood insurance and where floodplain development regulations apply.

Before Flooding Occurs
  • Know your area's flood risk. To estimate your flood risk, visit To estimate your flood insurance premium, visit
  • Make an itemized list of personal property, including furnishings, clothing, and valuables.
  • Fill out an Emergency Reference Card, which will contain important contacts for you and your family in the event of any emergency.
  • Prepare a Go Bag that you can grab in case you need to leave your home in a hurry.
  • Learn the safest route from your home or workplace to safe, high ground in case you have to evacuate. This should be part of your household disaster plan.
  • If you live in a flood-susceptible area, keep materials, such as sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, and lumber, on hand to help protect your home.
Consider getting flood insurance. Protection against loss due to floods is not covered under a homeowner's policy. Contact your property/casualty agent or broker about eligibility for flood insurance, which is offered through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

*NOTE: In June 2013, FEMA Region II released preliminary revisions to New York City flood zones as a result of a new coastal flood study to update the information shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs).

As the next step in the flood map update process for New York City, FEMA will be issuing Preliminary FIRMs and a Preliminary Flood Insurance Study (FIS), a narrative report of a community's flood hazard. These maps and study are the official version of the Preliminary Work Maps that were released in June 2013, and will go through a public review and comment period as well as an official appeals period.

For more information on FEMA's flood map update process, visit

Before and during an emergency, OEM will send emergency alerts and updates to New Yorkers through various channels. Learn more

During the Flood
  • Keep a battery-operated AM/FM radio tuned to a local station and follow emergency instructions.
  • If you're caught inside by rising waters, move to a higher floor. Take warm clothing, a flashlight, and portable radio with you. Wait for help. Do NOT try to swim to safety.
  • When outside, avoid walking and driving through flooded areas. As few as six inches of moving water can knock a person over. One or two feet of water can carry away a vehicle.


  • Take your Go Bag with you.
  • Avoid flooded roadways. Parts of the road may already be washed out, and you could become stranded or trapped.
  • If your car stalls in a flooded area, abandon it as soon as possible. Floodwater can rise rapidly and sweep a car (and its occupants) away.


  • Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary. Do not touch any electrical equipment unless it is in a dry area, or you are standing on a piece of dry wood while wearing rubber-soled shoes or boots and rubber gloves.
  • Fill bathtubs, sinks, and jugs with clean water in case regular supplies are contaminated (you can sanitize these items by first rinsing with bleach).
  • Board up windows or protect them with storm shutters or tape (to prevent flying glass).
  • Bring outdoor objects, such as lawn furniture, garbage cans and other loose items, inside the house or tie them down securely.

After the Flood
  • Before re-entering a building, check for structural damage. Make sure it is not in danger of collapsing. Turn off any outside gas lines at the meter or tank, and let the building air out for several minutes to remove foul odors or escaping gas.
  • Watch for electrical shorts or live wires before turning off the main power switch. Do not turn on any lights or appliances until an electrician has checked the system for short circuits.
  • Cover broken windows and holes in the roof or walls to prevent further weather damage.
  • Throw out fresh food and previously opened medicines that have come in contact with floodwaters.
  • New York City tap water is safe to drink, including in areas with flooding, unless otherwise reported by City officials. If your water service was disrupted run the tap for at least 30 seconds and until the water runs cold and clear. Replace all ice machine filters and beverage dispenser filters, and flush all water lines for five minutes. Monitor for any updates on NYC drinking water.

Owners who want to reoccupy residences damaged by flooding should first hire a New York State-licensed Registered Architect or Professional Engineer to assess the building's safety. If the building is not safe to occupy, the owners should seek alternative housing arrangements while repairs are made. If assistance is needed to retrieve personal belongings from vacated buildings, owners should contact 311 online.

Owners should take pictures of all damage and flood impacts and keep receipts for all repairs if they intend to apply for disaster assistance or to make an insurance claim.

Learn how to make insurance claims when you experience flood damage

To make repairs, owners need to work with an engineer or architect who has the necessary City-authorized permits. The City adivses residents to obtain two or three quotes from different contractors before beginning the work, which can vary widely in price depending on various field conditions. If an owner needs assistance with applications for permits, he or she should contact 311 online.

See more flood recovery resources


When individuals are not able to reoccupy residences because of evacuation orders issued by the City, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development's (HPD's) Emergency Housing Services Bureau provides emergency relocation services. To contact HPD for information about eligibility or to learn about other programs after damaging storms, contact 311 online.

Download the Ready New York: Flooding guide
Ready New York: Flooding guide informs New Yorkers how they can lower their risk for flooding and recover from flood damage.
Learn more