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Steps to take before the snow melts

Before you start to worry about flooding, take a deep breath.
John Tlumacki /globe staff
Before you start to worry about flooding, take a deep breath.

We New Englanders have taken a relentless, snow-filled pounding this winter, and the worries keep piling up. The advice seems to be running on loop: Check for ice dams. Shovel out hydrants. Clear vents. But what happens when spring finally arrives, and these drifts melt?

Before you start to worry about flooding, take a deep breath. The outlook isn’t as dire as it seems. “People assume that we’re going to have a horrendous spring because we have all this snow on the ground,” said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. “Some people look at this as a certainty, but what happens between now and the warm weather is the key.” Best-case scenario? We end up with a controlled melt where the temperature goes up a little bit during the day and then drops below freezing at night, Judge said. Worst-case scenario? A stretch of warm temperatures and a 4- to 5-inch rainstorm.

MEMA offers this advice:

Know the risks in your area

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Find out how susceptible or flood-prone your property is. Consult your local office of emergency management about risks in your area and what kind of warning you can expect if there is a problem. Is there a siren? Does your community use the reverse 911 system? If you live by a dam, what’s the protocol for warning residents should it overflow or burst?

Get things off the basement floor

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“If you’re going to have [spring] flooding, odds are pretty good that your basement is where it will occur,” Judge said. “Look around your basement – what’s in harm’s way?” Think about moving keepsakes and furniture to a higher level. If your home is prone to flooding, buy a sump pump and consider hiring someone to elevate your utilities.

Protect your drains

Judge recommends installing a check valve to protect your drains. Flood damage can occur from a backed-up sewage pipe. This handy and inexpensive piece of hardware, also known as a nonreturn valve, can be installed by a plumber and protects against backflow, allowing water to drain out of your house through a one-way opening and preventing anything from coming back in.

Shovel, shovel, shovel

The farther away you can move the source of the water, the better. Shovel snow away from your home and clean your gutters. Just make sure to stay hydrated and take lots of breaks.

Check your insurance coverage

Standard homeowner insurance policies do not cover flooding.

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If you think your home could be in danger of flooding for any reason — cracks in the foundation, proximity to a body of water, its location at the bottom of a hill — call your insurance provider and ask about the pros and cons of taking out a separate flood insurance policy.

Policies with the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP, are an additional cost but could save you big if you think your risk is great. “If you have flood damage to your house and you don’t have a flood insurance policy, you’re going to have trouble getting your claim paid,” said Michael F. Barry, vice president of media relations at the Insurance Information Institute .

The lowest flood premiums with NFIP start at an annual rate of $129 for residents in moderate- to low-risk zones who want to protect both their home and its contents. This premium provides $20,000 coverage for the building and $8,000 for its contents. Renting? You can get contents-only coverage starting at $57 per year.

Just be aware that typically there’s a 30-day waiting period from the date of purchase before your policy goes into effect, so start those talks with your insurance company now. Just a few inches of water from a flood can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Emeralde Jensen-Roberts can be reached at emeralde.roberts@globe.com