Flooding can happen anytime, anywhere. In the past five years, all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods, according to the NFIP. In the past decade, the damages cost the US an average of $2.9 billion per year.
Flooding is the number one natural disaster in the US, and that’s not too surprising considering all the possible ways floods can occur: heavy rain, hurricanes, and other tropical storms. They can also be caused when cyclones displace water and when snow thaws in warm weather, especially during the spring.
Since it is Flood Awareness Week, we’ve put together 14 flood safety tips to help you prepare, react, and recover from a flood.
Preparations for a Flood
- Find out the flood risk of your home. Rivers and other bodies of water that are on higher ground, even if they’re far away, can overflow and create a flood that heads straight for your home. Land development and construction can also alter routes, so take notice of that as well.
- Create a plan by outlining a strategy for the entire family. It should include specific details about evacuation protocols, location of important documents, and where to meet in the event of separation. Write down any plans along with contact information for children.
- Prepare a disaster kit. When evacuation becomes necessary, a disaster kit can help you last for a few days until help arrives. A good disaster kit includes water, food, and first aid. It can also include a flashlight, battery-powered radio, tools, maps, and other supplies.
- Secure your home to minimize the chance of flooding and to reduce the amount of damage a flood could cause. Clean out debris from gutters so water flow is unobstructed. Keep electrical appliances and valuables off the floor and move them out of the lower floors. If your home is at high-risk, construct barriers and seal walls in the basement.
- Check environmental sensors. Water and flood sensors can alert home security system owners the moment flooding begins, so it’s important to make sure they have working batteries. Check on other environmental sensors too, since floods can be accompanied by fires, gas leaks, and freezing.
- Monitor the weather. Follow developing weather events on TV, radio, and online, and be ready to react when warnings are issued. There are different types of warnings that require different actions. Learn more here. Be aware that the power can go out at any time during a flood, so invest in a battery-powered radio to stay in the loop.
Safety during the Storm
- Do not walk through water. Moving water is deceptively strong. One slip and the flood waters can sweep you away. If you absolutely have to walk through water, locate areas where it is still, and use a stick to check the depth and firmness of the ground.
- Be cautious of damage and debris, such as downed power lines, leaking gasoline, and sewage. Report dangerous conditions and any damages to the authorities.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If you’re evacuating in a car and come across a flooded area, do not try to go through it. Also do not try to go around it, water may have turned what appears a dry patch of land into a mud pit and you could get stuck. Be prepared to abandon your car if floodwaters rise around your car.
Recovering After a Flood
- Continue monitoring the weather. Pay attention to the news and weather reports, as announcements of safe routes and areas will be made, along with the status of the weather.
- Do not drink from the water supply. This includes water from the faucet, fountain, and other taps. Flood waters can mix in with the clean water supply, contaminating it and making it unsafe to drink. Officials and news outlets will inform you when the water is safe to drink again.
- Wait for the authorities to give you the okay before returning home. It may appear to be safe, but there might be lingering dangers that you are unaware of.
- Repair high-priority items as soon as possible. A flood can cause equal damage to things above and below ground, and it’s the latter that needs to be taken care of first. Damaged septic systems and nearby pools of sewage and waste are serious health hazards, and require your immediate attention.
- Clean and disinfect your home. Once high-priority items are taken care of, focus your attention on sanitizing your home. Anything that got wet needs to be cleaned and disinfected, as flood waters carry harmful chemicals, parasites, and bacteria.
Encountering a flood can be scary, but follow these safety tips to help you remain calm and collected, and most importantly, safe. For more safety tips on flooding and other severe weather events, visit FloodSmart.gov.