A flood is nothing to trifle with. High waters can create an astonishing amount of damage. At the same time, it comes with great risk to people’s safety — more so than even the most placid surface would indicate. That’s why it’s important to arm yourself with information and be prepared to keep yourself and your family safe in any flooding event.
What causes flooding?
Weather is one of the most common causes of flooding. Sometimes, people get plenty of warning, such as when a long, sustained rain fills streams, creeks and storm sewer systems to overflowing. Flooding also occurs when hurricanes push vast amounts of ocean water inland. Other powerful storm systems that dumps several inches of rain in a single evening can usher dangerous flooding in a matter of moments, especially in an urban area.
What to do before the flood
If your region is prone to flooding, it’s wise to do some preventive maintenance on your home. After filling cracks in your walls and floors, add a coat of waterproofing masonry cement. Install a sump pump with a battery backup, and invest in downspout extenders to direct storm runoff away from your home. Keep the right supplies on hand for the next event, such as lumber, nails and sandbags.
Wherever you live, check your insurance policy. Flooding isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, but you can purchase a separate policy through the National Flood Insurance Program.
If flooding is predicted, one of the first things you should do is prepare an emergency kit for your family and pets. This should include a change of clothing, nonperishable food, clothes, cash, paper maps, emergency phone numbers and at least a week’s supply of medications. Also, have a battery-powered radio with spare batteries along with a power bank for your mobile phones.
Stay tuned to local radio reports and follow instructions from local officials. In the meantime, move valuables, furniture, documents and photographs to a safe place. As for the exterior, make sure gutters and downspouts are clean, and secure outdoor furniture, large plant containers, or any other outdoor items that can float away.
Since water supplies could be contaminated in a flood, have plenty of drinking water on hand. Don’t, however, store drinking water in the bathtub, since lead can leach into the water from the bathtub glaze. Instead, use bathtub-stored water for flushing toilets and cleaning. Drinking water should be kept in plastic, food-grade containers.
Finally, make sure you have a full tank of gas, some cash, and plan evacuation routes ahead of time, with some alternatives in mind.
What to do during the flood
Listen to the news and keep in the know in case evacuation is necessary. If you evacuate, before you leave your house, turn off utilities, if local officials recommend it. But a word of warning: Don’t attempt this when standing in water.
Remember that water has some serious muscle to it. When evacuating, don’t attempt to drive through standing water. As little as 6 inches can cause a car to flood, and a vehicle floats in 2 feet of water. Turn around and try a different route. In the worst-case scenario, get to a high building and take refuge there.
Remember that flooding causes erosion, which can wash away roads and collapse buildings and bridges with no warning. Keep an eye on the conditions and proceed carefully.
What to do after the flood
If your area was evacuated, return only when officials give the all-clear. When you do return home, use utmost care in examining the damage. Don’t use a kerosene lantern or any flame-based light source in the house in case there’s an undetected gas leak. Instead, use a flashlight or a battery-operated lantern.
If you have any tripped breakers, do not turn them back on. This could be a sign of water-damaged wiring. Contact an electrician.
Water is a ready conductor of electricity. If you see downed power lines in or near standing water, do NOT touch the water with your body or even an object. Now’s the time to back away and call the authorities.
If your gas main is turned off, only a professional can restore it. Do not attempt to turn it back on yourself.
Avoid contact with any remaining floodwater, and make sure children and pets keep away. These waters could contain sewage and other contaminants.
When experiencing a flood, be prepared and cautious to keep your family safe.