Hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural calamities get considerable media coverage when they strike, but flooding remains the most common natural disaster nationwide. Floods affect all areas of the country and can occur at any time, sometimes with little to no warning.
While you don’t have the power to stop floods - often caused by torrential rains or the breaking of levies - you do have everything you need to increase the safety of your family and property during a flood. Get peace of mind by learning these basic steps on how to prepare for a flood.
How to Prepare for a Flood:
- Know Flood Risks: educate yourself on the causes of floods, risks in your area, and flood alert systems.
- Protect Your Property: take measures to safeguard your home against a flood and protect important documents.
- Know What to Do During a Flood: evacuate when told to, don’t walk through floodwater, and never drive through floodwaters.
1. Know Flood Risks
Education is power when it comes to flood preparation. Know the causes of flooding and where flood waters could arise in your neighborhood or on your property. Ensure the whole family is on-board with flood readiness by talking with them about these points.
Learn the Causes of Flooding: Being aware of the causes of flooding will make you that much more vigilant against a flood. This awareness will help for when you are at home or while traveling to a location that may have different flood risks than your local area.
- Excessive rain or snowmelt that the ground can’t absorb
- River or lake overflow, usually due to excessive rain or snowmelt
- Urban drainage basins unable to handle an influx of water
- Levy or dam breaks
- Storm surges (tropical storms or hurricanes) that push seawater onto land
- Tsunamis that carry seawater ashore
- Slow-onset flooding occurring after several days of rain
Learn the Flood Risks in your Area: It is especially important to prepare for flooding if you reside:
- In a floodplain
- In low-lying terrain near a body of water
- Downstream from a dam or levee
- Along a coast at risk for hurricanes or tsunamis
Residents of flood-prone areas should have a flood emergency kit prepared in case a flood requires them to quickly evacuate to higher ground. Your flood preparation kit should contain:
- Enough non-perishable food for each person and pet for three days
- Three gallons of water per person
- A first aid kit
- Medications and prescriptions for one week
- A Swiss Army knife or other multi-purpose tool
- Important personal and financial documents in a water-resistant container
Sign Up for Flood Alert Systems: Be sure to sign up for local emergency alert notifications and have access to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) broadcasts, either online or the radio.
- If you are under flood or flash flood watch, then a flood or flash flood is possible near you. Take needed precautions and be prepared to move to a safe shelter at higher ground.
- If you are under a flood or flash flood warning, then a flood is already underway near you. Go to a safe shelter at higher ground immediately.
TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Consult your county’s emergency services to find out if you live in a flood area and sign up for their alert system.
2. Protect Your Property
Fewer events are more destructive to personal property than flooding. Swift-moving water can lift and damage even the heaviest of objects. Still water is just as harmful, soaking through your home and personal items and causing irreparable rot and mold.
Safeguard Your Home Against Flooding: If you live in a flood plain or another area at risk for flooding, be flood smart and minimize flood risks to your property. You can do these items as part of a home remodel too:
- Put your water heater, furnace, and electric panel on elevated floors less likely to flood.
- Raise electrical outlets, switches, and circuit breakers at least one foot above flood level.
- Install check valves in your plumbing system to prevent floodwater from backing into the drains.
- Apply coatings and sealants to your foundation, walls, doorways, and windows to prevent floodwaters from seeping into the house.
- Elevate and reinforce your home at a height above flood level.
- Install foundation vents or a sump pump to allow water to flow through your home instead of pooling around it during a flood.
- Grade your landscaping away from the house to prevent water from pooling against your home.
- Construct levees and floodwalls to prevent floodwaters from entering your home.
- Use sandbags, when flooding is expected, to create barriers against flood waters around your home.
Protect Important Documents: Keep important documents, like passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc. in a waterproof container, and preferably on a higher floor.
TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Get a waterproof container and move your existing important documents there for safe storage.
3. Know What to Do During a Flood
Knowing how to survive a flood is as easy as staying calm and following basic directions. Be confident about your family’s resilience in the face of rising flood waters by doing the following:
Evacuate to higher ground: If you are under flood warning and/or are told to evacuate to higher ground, do so immediately. Turn off your utilities in advance, if told to do so. Bring your disaster kit with you if you can. Do not leave the higher-ground shelter until you are told to do so.
Do not walk through flood waters: Even a few inches of flood waters can knock you off your feet. Only walk through flood water if you have no other choice. Never walk through moving water. Never allow children to walk through water. Bring a stick or another light, long object with you to feel the ground before you step.
Do not drive into flood waters: Sadly, half of all flood-related drownings happen when a vehicle is driven into flood waters. Turn around if you encounter flood waters while driving. Just six inches of flood waters will reach the bottom of most cars. A mere foot of water will lift most cars off of the ground. If you get stuck in water while in a car, abandon the car and go to higher ground if it is safe to do so.
TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Talk to your family about the simple steps to stay safe during a flood.
In learning how to prepare for a flood, taking the time to educate yourself on floods and property-protecting measures will make all the difference in keeping your family safe and minimizing property damage. A little flood preparedness goes a long way.