Emergency Operations Center

(206) 764 - 3406

Emergency Operations

The mission of Emergency Operations is to provide assistance, within its authorities, when natural disasters or other emergencies occur.

Emergency preparedness and response is primarily a state and local responsibility. However, in instances when the nature of the disaster exceeds the capabilities of state and local interests, the Corps of Engineers may provide help to save human life, prevent immediate human suffering or mitigate property damage. The Corps gives emergency assistance top priority and provides immediate response using every resource and expedited procedure available. Assistance is limited to the preservation of life and protection of residential and commercial developments, to include public and private facilities that provide public services.

Emergency Management provides engineering services to respond to national and natural disasters to minimize damages and help in recovery efforts. Public Law 84-99 enables the Corps to assist state and local authorities in flood fight activities and cost share in the repair of flood protection structures. Public Law 93-288 authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to task the Corps with disaster recovery missions under the Federal Response Plan.


Emergency Management Brochure

Important Emergency Information

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Conducting Flood Fighting Operations



Preparing to undertake a flood fighting event requires prior planning and an understanding of basic flood fighting techniques. Each flood event is different, but is similar to past events. Time, weather conditions, river stages/conditions, resources, hours of darkness, and lack of trained personnel will all impact your flood fighting effort.


The KEYS to every flood fighting effort include:

·         Development of a site specific plan that outlines the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW of flood fighting.

·         Key personnel training in the "ART" of flood fighting.

·         Early warning, recognition, and identification of a flood event.

·         Command, control, and communications within you flood fighting team.

·         Traffic control and traffic patterns to and from the work site(s).

·         Sandbag filling operations should be staged away from the work site but close enough to reduce transportation requirements and cycle times.


Concept of Operations:


Primary and Alternate Assembly Areas:

·         Assembly area should have adequate parking.

·         Volunteers should report to a designated assembly area.

·         Request volunteers bring their own flash light, work gloves, rain gear, shovel, and snack.

·         Alternate assembly area should also be identified.

·         Sign in roster for volunteers - personnel accountability (name, home phone number, address, work group assignment).

·         Recommend that volunteers be transported from assembly areas to staging areas.


Staging Areas:

  • As close to flood fight location as possible, but must also have good access and egress and good trafficability.
  • Recommend that 4 X 4 pick-up trucks be used to transport filled sandbags.


Site layout of staging area:

·         sandbag filling

·         carrying and loading

·         materials stockpile

·         rest/break area

·         first aid area



Work Site:

Plan the Work Site: The work site is where the sandbagging operations occur. The traffic pattern again is extremely important and must be will planned. It is recommended that if conditions permit that one way traffic patterns be established. This is extremely important on the levee system. Remember, the higher the sandbag levee the wider the base will be. All Federal levee systems within the Kansas City District were constructed with a 10 foot levee crown. Consequently, this may require backing the vehicle up or down stream to the laying party.


Rules of Thumb: It is extremely important that the work site is well supervised by a trained individual. Labor and resource requirement can be decreased and efficiency increased by following some simple "rules of thumb":


·         Construct on a firm foundation

·         Sandbags should be filled 1/2 to 2/3 full

·         Sandbags should not be tied, but folded

·         Always have the butt of the bag facing up stream

·         Each bag should be placed with 1/3 overlap and be well mauled into place


Command & Control at the Work Site: How do you control a flood fighting effort? First someone has to be in charge of the operation. Since coordination between many agencies is a must, it is recommended that an Emergency Operations Center be established and operated 24 hours daily until the emergency is over. When operating the EOC, consider the following:

·         Radio and telephone communications systems

·         Television and/or radio monitor weather and river forecasts.

·         Emergency generator in case of power outages

·         Administrative supplies

·         Levee Operations and Maintenance Manuals

·         State, County, and local maps

·         Flash lights, telephone books, emergency phone rosters

·         Listing of local contractors, Red Cross, Salvation Army, hospitals, polices, State/County Emergency Operations center, etc.


Common Misconceptions In Flood Fighting: The efficiency of undertaking a flood fight can be increased by avoiding some of the common mistakes and misunderstanding about the process. Many people think that sandbagging is a mindless endeavor; just fill the bags and throw them in place. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Sandbagging operation is an "art" that requires understanding and thought. Remember time, weather conditions, hours of darkness, and limited resources are your enemy.


Plan Development: In the development of your flood fighting plans, you must consider the characteristics of the adjacent river or stream. Flashing streams and rivers require rapid response, while moderately rising streams and rivers allow greater reaction and warning time. Therefore, it is essential that you flood fighting plans are based on the available "reaction time".



Flood Fight Information


Glossary of Terms

Water that is held back or stops moving due to currents or physical constriction such as a dam.

A break in a levee. The most frequent form of levee failure is a breach. A levee breach is when part of the levee actually breaks away, leaving a large opening for water to flood the land protected by the levee. A breach can be a sudden or gradual failure that is caused either by surface erosion or by a subsurface failure of the levee.

Air or another type of gas escaping the water.

Sand Boils
Levee breaches are often accompanied by boils or sand boils. A sand boil occurs when the upward pressure of water flowing through soil pores under the levee (underseepage) exceeds the downward pressure from the weight of the soil above it. The underseepage resurfaces on the landside, in the form of a volcano-like cone of sand. Boils signal a condition of incipient instability which may lead to erosion of the levee toe or foundation or result in sinking of the levee into the liquefied foundation below.

Movement of water beneath a levee—the upward pressure of water flowing through soil pores under the levee.

Levee overtopping can be caused when flood waters simply exceed the lowest crest of the levee system or if high winds begin to generate significant swells in the ocean or river water to bring waves crashing over the levee. Overtopping can lead to significant landside erosion of the levee or even be the mechanism for complete breach.

The highest river stage passing any given location.

The distance between the water surface and the top of the levee

Freeboard Gage
A gage which measures the distance between the water surface and the top of the levee.

A hole in the ground surface which occurs when material below the surface is removed by water.

Cubic Feet Per Second
As the term implies, this is a common unit of flow measurement based on the number of cubic feet (12”X12”X12”) of water passing by a point in a second. It is abbreviated “cfs.” A flow rate of one cfs is equivalent to 449 gallons per minute.

River Stage
A site-specific measurement of river-level referenced as the height in feet above a designated zero reference point, called the gauge zero, at the site. The zero reference point is sometimes, but not always, chosen as the elevation of the river bottom. Normally, stage values are always positive. Drought conditions could cause the river level to fall below gauge zero, and the stage reading at that time would be negative. Since each gauge was established independently at each location, the stage reading is good for that location only and cannot be compared to other locations. For example, a stage of 30 feet at Fargo, N.D., cannot be compared to a stage of 30 feet at Grand Forks, N.D. The only way direct comparisons between two gauges can be made is by converting river stage to elevation by adding the stage to the gauge zero elevation.

Flood Stage
The National Weather Service, based on the desires of the local community, establishes the “flood stage” gauge height for any given community. The flood stage gauge height is often the stage where damages begin to occur. Many communities desire to use the flood stage gauge height as an early warning alert, prior to the onset of significant damages. Significant damages may not occur until river levels are several feet above flood stage. Additionally, conditions along some rivers may have changed since the gauge and flood stages were established and reaching the flood stage may or may not result in actual flooding. Again, stages are site-specific, so feet above flood stage at one location can’t be compared to another.

Acre Feet
A measure of volume typically used to describe how much water is in a reservoir or how much storage capacity is available. An acre-foot of water is the equivalent of a volume of water that is one-foot deep, covering an area of one acre. An acre has an area of 43,560 square feet. Therefore, an acre-foot of water contains 43,560 cubic feet of water. A flow of one cubic foot per second equals a volume of approximately two acre feet every 24

Reservoir Inflow
A measure of how much water (usually in cfs) is entering a reservoir. Inflow is calculated by using a reservoir storage-inflow-outflow formula, where inflow equals outflow plus the change in storage. The Corps’ water control section in Kansas City uses the known outflow (discharge from the dam) and the known increase or decrease in the amount of water stored in the reservoir (based on changes in pool elevation) to calculate the inflow.
Often, a gauge upstream of the reservoir will provide baseline data on inflow. However, the upstream gauge will not include smaller tributaries and runoff from the land near the reservoir or rain falling directly on the reservoir surface. Actual measurements of upstream flows serve to verify the validity of calculated reservoir inflow.

Additional Resources

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Advance Measures Program

Advance Measures Program

Addressing flood impacts before there’s a flood


Under the Advance Measures Program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) may provide assistance to non-federal governments, prior to flooding events, to protect life and property. There must be an imminent threat of unusual flooding from adverse conditions. This assistance is limited to those actions necessary to prevent or reduce impacts of floods that (1) pose a significant threat to life and/or public infrastructure, and, (2) the proposed assistance is beyond the capability of local interests and the State to perform in a timely manner. This assistance may be technical or direct.

What is an "imminent threat of unusual flooding"?

The imminent threat of unusual flooding from adverse conditions is a subjective determination that considers the potential for flooding to approach the flood of record, a catastrophic level of flooding, or a greater than 50-year level of flooding for a given location. Adverse conditions include, but are not limited to, record level snow packs, forest fire-burned areas, or the potential failure of a dam. The threat must be established either by the National Weather Service (NWS) or the Corps.

Limits to Advance Measures assistance

Corps emergency and/or disaster assistance is limited to the preservation of life, and public infrastructure. Further:

 The threat must be established either by National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts or Corps determination.

 Exclusive Direct Assistance to individual homeowners, property owners, or businesses is not permitted.

 Exclusive Direct Assistance to a single public or publicly owned facility (e.g., a water treatment plant) is permitted.

 All assistance is temporary in nature, must be technically feasible, designed to deal effectively with the specific threat, and capable of construction in time to prevent projected damages.

 All projects must be economically feasible, with a favorable benefit-cost ratio (BCR) greater than 1.0 as the key factor.

 Permanent work may be considered when it is significantly more cost effective than a temporary solution.

Technical Assistance

This provides technical review, advice, and/or recommendations to non-federal governments before an anticipated flood event. These are examples of Technical Assistance:

 Inspecting existing flood-risk-management projects to identify potential problems and solutions.

 Providing hydraulic, hydrologic and/or geotechnical analysis.

 Providing information to non-federal governments for use in preparing local evacuation and/or contingency flood plans.

 Providing assistance in the preparation of contingency flood plans.

Direct Assistance

This includes supplies, equipment, and/or contracting for the construction of temporary and/or permanent flood control projects. Direct Assistance may only be provided as part of an approved Advance Measures project, supplemental to state and local resources.

How to request Advance Measures assistance

Establish a threat. The threat must be established either by National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts or by Corps determination of unusual flooding from adverse conditions. The threat must be such that substantial damages will be incurred if preventive/protective action is not taken prior to the forecasted event.

 Consider other authorities. Other Corps authorities must also be considered. If any other standing Corps authority is applicable, then Advance Measures will not be undertaken. The authorities of state and other federal agencies will also be considered, especially if the threat involves state or federal lands (e.g., hydrophobic soils due to wildfire).

 Identify state and local efforts. Advance Measures assistance is in support of state and local ongoing or planned efforts. All activities will be coordinated with the State Emergency Management or tribe. Non-Federal interests must commit available resources (i.e., work force, supplies, equipment, funds, National Guard forces, etc.).

 Request submission. The state submit a written request for assistance to the Commander of Seattle District, as noted below. The request must contain the following information:

o A description of the state and/or local efforts undertaken.

o A statement that the state has committed all available resources.

o The specific location(s) and type of assistance needed (if Direct Assistance, provide a scope of work).

o The name of the project sponsor.

o Additional commitments to be accomplished by the state.

Who requests Advance Measures assistance

Advance Measures requests always come from the state or tribe, as follows:

 Direct Assistance requires a written request from the Governor or the tribal executive.

 Technical Assistance may be requested by the State emergency management director or the tribal executive.

How to reach us

The Corps is unable to assist private home or property owners. They should contact their local government. Local or county governments can contact Seattle District for assistance by calling 206-764-3406.

 When contacting us during an emergency, please be ready to discuss your current situation, your response operations and what support you need. Our staff is also available to answer questions prior to floods.


Requesting Emergency Assistance

Requesting Emergency Assistance

Information for non-federal emergency management agencies

How Seattle District supports the region

Counties may apply directly to Seattle District for flood support, but the State Emergency Management (State) must be involved to insure that maximum non-federal resources are applied to the situation before federal aid is provided. Tribes may apply directly to the District, but are encouraged to cooperate with county and state officials. All other agencies and special districts must work through county and state governments. Seattle District coordinates with non-federal emergency management agencies out of flood season to insure their plans include our capabilities and limitations.

Flood support guidelines for Seattle District

Seattle District is a not a first-response agency. Under federal policy, the impacted non-federal government is the primary responder to a flood event.

 Seattle District cannot assist individual homeowners, property owners or businesses.

 There must be an imminent threat to lives and property, with confirmation by the National Weather Service (at a river forecast point) or other sources (e.g., a state agency, or the owner of a dam).

 An emergency declaration must be made by the impacted government, in accordance with their laws.

 The District must be requested by elected leaders, or an emergency management agency on their behalf, to support their flood operations.

 Cities, special districts, and other local agencies must apply through the county or state.

 The requesting government is the lead for protecting lives and property, and must be capable of managing the incident, including requesting external resources.

 Coordination with the State by the requesting government is required (tribes excepted). The District may be contacted directly by the impacted government to expedite the request, but the state has to be involved as soon as possible.

 All District support is supplemental to the resources and efforts applied to the event by the impacted government(s). The requesting government must have made a reasonable effort to use their available resources prior to any U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) support being authorized.

 All District flood-support operations terminate when flood waters recede.

What type of flood support does Seattle District provide?

Technical Advice: Answer specific questions for officials by telephone.

Technical Assistance: Deploy subject matter experts to study a situation and develop specific recommendations.

Material Assistance: Issue supplies (including sandbags and plastic rolls) for temporary flood protection structures.

Direct Assistance: Build temporary flood protection structures, and/or repair existing structures through contracts. This requires a Cooperative Agreement between the requesting government and Seattle District, with all rights of entry and easements provided by the requestor before work begins.

How long does it take to get flood support from Seattle District?

Flooding must addressed immediately. However, the District needs time to obtain funding, and then mobilize personnel and/or contractors. Technical assistance generally takes one to two days to be on the ground, while direct assistance may take a little longer. Every effort will be made to expedite all requests.

Because of this, non-federal governments are encouraged to develop flood response plans (and we can help) that include:

 Identify potential flooding conditions as far out as possible.

 Conduct pre-flood season coordination with local agencies, the State, and Seattle District.

 Coordinate with the State during potential flooding conditions.

 Routinely coordinate preparedness activities with Seattle District.

What does Seattle District flood support cost?

District support operations are generally 100 percent federally funded. These exceptions are the responsibility of the supported government:

 Costs related to the Cooperative Agreement and rights of way/easements.

 Possible reimbursement for sandbags and placement, either in kind or by payment.

 Removal or upgrade of all temporary structures built under Direct Assistance.

How to reach us

The Corps is unable to assist private home or property owners, or businesses. They should contact their local government. Local or county governments can contact Seattle District for assistance by calling 206-764-3406.

 When contacting us during an emergency, please be ready to discuss your current situation, your response operations and what support you need. Our staff is also available to answer questions prior to floods.