A flood is a large overflow of water beyond its normal confines that covers normally dry areas. Flooding occurs in every state in the U.S. and in every region of Canada. According to the National Weather Service, the average loss of life to flooding is 89 individuals a year and an astounding $8.2 Billion in damages. Steps can be taken now to lessen the danger and damage posed by flooding. The following is an introductory guide, resource directory and Safety tips to assist the reader in being ready.
Safety Tips for Before Flooding Occurs
Some things one can do before a flood are:
- Prepare you home beforehand.
- Modifications to the home can be done to reduce the damage caused by flooding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) publishes a free guide entitled Protecting Your Home And Property From Flood Damage that will help a homeowner make decisions on how best to avoid property damage and personal risk posed by flooding. Some state level agencies also publish similar guides.
- Avoid building new homes in floodplains. If the building is situated in a floodplain, it must be elevated and reinforced.
- Construct barriers (e.g., beams, floodwalls, etc.) to stop waters from entering your home.
- Research and know the areas prone to flooding in your area.
- Seal basement walls with waterproofing material.
- Make sure gutters and drains are always clear.
- Be sure to elevate electrical panels, switches, sockets, furnaces, fuel tanks, etc. if the area is susceptible to flooding.
- Note that flood losses are not normally covered under homeowner’s insurance polices, so have proper flood insurance for your home or business. Flood insurance is available from most local insurance agents.
- FEMA also offers the The National Flood Insurance Program that is worth reviewing.
- Educate yourself on the dangers and how to avoid them.
- Install the free American Red Cross Flood App on your mobile device. The app is a comprehensive resource that can be studied at any time that is convenient. It is available on both iOS and Android.
- Read and prepare yourself and home with the free American Red Cross Flood Safety Checklist.
- Consider taking the free course work related to flooding (e.g., Flood Mitigation Basics for Mitigation Staff) available at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute.
- Obtain a NOAA Weather Radio so that you will be notified in the event of an emergency.
- Have the necessary items ready before hand. These include:
- An emergency kit for your home.
- A 72-hour bag (colloquially known as a “bug out bag”) and related items for your vehicle.
- If forced to evacuate, take important documents with you.
Safety Tips for During a Flooding Event
There are steps that can be taken shortly before and during a flooding event that will greatly reduce the risk to life and reduce damage to a home.
- Listen to radio, television, or Internet news reports for information of weather that could result in flooding.
- In the event of the warning of flash flooding, evacuate the area immediately and head for high ground. Flash floods can develop and occur very rapidly, so waste no time.
- Should you be instructed to do so by emergency officials, turn off main utilities and valves.
- Do not attempt to operate or even touch electrical equipment that is in standing water.
- Avoid any contact with flood water. The water may be contaminated with raw sewage, petrochemicals (e.g., oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, etc.), and harmful microbes.
- Be mindful of children as they may attempt to play in flood waters.
- Do not walk through moving water. As little as six inches of moving water can make a person fall. Two feet of rushing water can move a vehicle such as a car or light truck.
- If a mandatory evacuation order is issued and it is safe to go, do so without delay.
Safety Tips for After a Flooding Event
After a flood has occurred, there are important steps to take in recovery in addition to the steps outlined in the previous section.
- Only return home or to your place of business when authorities have stated it is safe to do so.
- If the power is still out, only use flashlights when entering your home or business as flammable material may be present.
- Continue to monitor the radio and other media sources for updates.
- Stay out of any structures still surrounded by flood waters.
- Note that damaged sewage and septic systems are very dangerous to human life. They should be repaired as soon as possible.
- Stay clear of downed power lines and report any to the electrical company or cooperative.
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect any article that came in contact with flood water. Discard articles that cannot be properly cleaned.
- Do not consume any food, beverage, or tobacco product that came in contact with flood waters as they are likely contaminated.
- If absolutely necessary, drinking water may be made safe by boiling and filtering.
While floods are a daunting challenge, with the right preparations and know how, one can protect their life and property. If the reader would like to discuss floods, survival tips or any other disaster, consider joining the free Disaster.com forum. Sign up is quick and easy.
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- Are you ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness (pp. 55-57). (2002). Washington, D.C.: FEMA.
- Public Safety Canada: Floods. (2014, March 4). Retrieved February 19, 2015, from https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/mrgnc-mngmnt/ntrl-hzrds/fld-eng.aspx
- Protecting Your Home and Property from Flood Damage: Mitigation Ideas for Reducing Flood Loss. (2010). United States: U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency.
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- The National Flood Insurance Program | FEMA.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2015, from https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program
- Missouri State Emergency Management Agency. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2015, from http://sema.dps.mo.gov/plan_and_prepare/flooding.asp
- Floods. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2015, from http://www.floridadisaster.org/EMTOOLS/Severe/floods.htm
- My Hazards Awareness Map. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2015, from http://myhazards.calema.ca.gov/