Floods are a dangerous event, often occurring with hurricanes and heavy rains. Significant rainfall can also trigger flash flooding, which occurs when streams and other bodies of water rise rapidly and go over their banks. Flood waters can rise quickly and encapsulate low-lying lands, homes, and vehicles in a matter of minutes. Knowing what to do in a flood can save a life; having the right flood emergency supplies will go a long way to surviving this natural disaster.
According to the American Red Cross, the number one cause of deaths related to weather events are flash floods. While flooding incidents can happen anywhere, even during regular rain storms, it is possible – and necessary – to be prepared ahead of time. Take heed of the following flood preparedness tips to save yourself and your family from the dangers of floods.
Preparing Your Home for Flooding
In the event a storm is approaching with potentially heavy rainfall and you live in a flood-prone area, it is important to take preventative action to minimize the damage. Preparing your home for a flood requires quick action, including:
- Furniture removal – All furniture and appliances, especially those items in the lowest parts of the home, need to be raised off the ground. Concrete blocks or other sturdy materials can be used to jack up heavy items off the floor. Remove patio furniture and other items from outside. Store moveable items at the highest point of the home for the duration of the storm and until water subsides.
- Build a barrier – Setting up sandbags and other flood deterrents around the perimeter of your home can help prevent water from coming inside. Outside barriers can be expensive but can also help prevent costly damage to your property and belongings.
- Electrical concerns – Water and electricity do not mix. Make sure to unplug all non-essential items before the storm hits. If flooding does occur, turn off the main power source to the home and avoid all electrical equipment. It is also important to turn off or disconnect gas connections to your home to prevent explosions. Have working fire extinguishers in several areas of the home in case of an electrical fire caused by the flood waters.
Stay alert to any downed power lines near your home during the storm. Downed power lines can electrify the flood waters, which can electrocute anyone who steps in the affected water. Stay indoors if you do not have to evacuate. Report downed lines to the proper authorities or call 911.
- Secure personal items -Important documents, heirlooms, photos, and other irreplaceable items should be stored in a water-tight container to prevent damage. Place them in the highest part of the house, such as the attic or a high closet shelf.
- Contact your insurance company – Before a hurricane or heavy storm, contact your insurance company to discuss coverage. Flood insurance is a separate policy from your typical homeowner’s policy. Make sure you understand what is covered in the event of a severe storm. If you don’t live in a typical flood-prone area but are anticipating a severe weather event, make sure you have flood coverage.
Preparing Your Family for a Flood
- Power failures – If you plan to ride the storm out at home, prepare for the likelihood of power failures. Keep a fresh supply of batteries for flashlights or lanterns. Have a plan to run a generator if you need to run specialized medical equipment, for cooking, and to keep the refrigerator operational.
- Stay up on weather – Without power, it will be impossible to keep up with weather alerts on your cell phone. Keep a battery-powered weather radio on hand for updates during power failures. You will also have access to special area alerts, such as mandatory evacuations.
- Emergency food supply – Even if the storm only lasts for a few hours, the effects of flooding can last for days or weeks. Have food rations for every family member for at least 5 days by stocking up on non-perishable foods like canned foods, MREs (meals ready to eat), dried fruits, granola, freeze-dried meals, and baby formula, if necessary. Consider any special dietary needs of family members. Pack emergency food kits in an easy-to-carry backpack in case of evacuation.
Flooding can cause contamination to the local water supply. Stock up early on bottled water, allocating one gallon of water a day to each family member. Additional water will be needed to prepare baby formula, for pet care, for bathing, and washing dishes.
- Practice emergency exit strategies – During a natural disaster, anything can happen. It is important your family knows how to get out of the house safely. Once inside your home, flood waters can rise quickly and every member of the family needs to know what to do. Teach everyone how to break out the windows, where to meet up, and how to handle flood waters. Keep flotation devices accessible for everyone, especially small children and the elderly, and teach everyone how to use them.
- Stay out of the water – Flood waters contain a lot of contamination due to flowing sewage and other pollution so it is important to keep all family members out of the water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preparing a disaster preparedness kit can help prevent contagious disease and infection from spreading. Your disaster preparedness kit should contain:
- Hand sanitizer
- Rubbing alcohol
- Baby wipes
- Antiseptic/antibiotic creams
Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer frequently. Pack a travel kit if you need to evacuate your home due to flooding. If you have to be outside during a flood, be alert for wild animals. Snakes and alligators traveling through the water can bite and cause severe injury.
Preparing to Travel During a Flood
- Flood evacuation preparedness – Heavy storm forecasts are often accompanied by flood warnings. Even if you don’t anticipate leaving home during a storm, it is vital to have an evacuation plan at the ready in case the situation leaves you no choice. An emergency evacuation plan during a flood should include:
- Filling your vehicle’s gas tank
- Packing an emergency preparedness kit with flashlights, batteries, food, water, phone charger, and cash
- Packing clothing and toiletries for all members of the family
- List of shelters, hotels, or family members available to take you in during an evacuation
- Plan ahead for pet care. Find shelters or loved ones who will accommodate your pets during evacuation. Do not leave your pets behind to fend for themselves in flood waters.
If you have to evacuate the area due to flooding, traveling can be extra dangerous. Rising flood waters can quickly sweep away a vehicle. It is vital drivers avoid moving water. Standing water is also dangerous, as the flood waters can cause damage to your vehicle’s engine. Leave as early as possible to avoid flood waters on the road and traffic jams due to evacuees.