Floods are the most common natural disaster in the US. Anyone can be affected by flash floods and heavy rain. But being in a flood zone is a whole other level of danger. Nowadays, with our smart phones we can receive warnings quickly and hopefully get ahead of the danger.
Keep in mind the difference between a flood "Watch" and a flood "Warning"
Flash Flood Watch signals that there is possible flooding in your area so you should prepare to evacuate or move to high ground.
Flash Flood Warnings are either in progress or about to occur soon. Engage your emergency plan and evacuate under advisement
PREPARE FOR A FLOOD
FEMA has a great website that allows you to locate your address or an address of a home you are considering buying to see if it may be in a flood zone:
If your home falls into a flood map zone, the next important step is to get flood insurance. Also, keep in mind that flood insurance takes at least 30 days to take effect so the sooner you implement this insurance plan for your home, the better.
FEMA has also provided an official site to help assist you in getting Flood Insurance with the coverage you need:
You cannot prevent this disaster from happening but you can mitigate the damage if you're better prepared. When the flood is over and it's safe to return back to your home, your flood insurance can make all the difference in helping you and your family recover.
Once you have flood insurance, you'll want those documents to be safe and with quick access once the flood is over. Keep digital copies on your phone or emailed to yourself as well physical copies in a waterproof container in your home.
Here are some more recommendations for preparing your home before a flood occurs:
Have an emergency kit prepared. If a flood occurs, you most likely will not have time to pack a go-bag with food, medical supplies, medications, etc. If you are called on to evacuate, you'll be happy you have a bag full of the necessities to literally grab and go.
Invest in a sump pump. This device is used to pump water from your basement. Not only can a sump pump alleviate water build up during and after a flood, but it can also protect from deadly molds. Mold and mildew can only survive in moist environments.
Purchase an emergency weather radio. This keeps you connected with live updates while staying informed during the storm. In the event power lines are down, you may not be able to rely on your smart phones.
Turn off your propane tanks to prevent a potential fire risk.
Get a reliable generator. Flooding can cause power outages. In weather emergencies, there's no telling when you're power may come back on. Having a generator can kick your power back on and even run your sump pump in the case it is not battery operated.
Fill bottles with water for clean drinking water. There is a common misconception that you can fill your sink and bathtubs for drinking or cleaning during a flood. But the truth is, that water is not safe for those purposes. You can fill both your sinks and bathtubs for flushing your toilet during a flood however.
De-clutter your drains and your gutters. These are easily overlooked but clean gutters and drains can help move the water and prevent more build up during a flood.
Sandbags can act as a temporary barricade around your home. If there is a high probability of a flood in your area, sandbags are great for creating a small barrier around your home. At the very least build a small sandbag wall around areas like your doors and window wells. Some communities provide sandbags to their residents as well. But home improvement stores also carry sandbags to purchase a small stock for your home beforehand.
DURING A FLOOD
During a flood, there are number of things you should do and plenty of things you shouldn't. The first is to listen to your local authorities for important information and updates concerning the flood and what to do next.
If you are outside, seek shelter immediately. Do not try to walk or swim through any rushing water. Vehicles can easily be swept away in a flood so don't try to drive through standing water. If possible, turn around and move to higher ground. Get as far away from the low-lying points as possible.
Stay off bridges, the fast moving water can wash away the structure without warning. Underpasses, beaches, and near rivers can become hazardous outdoors during a flood quickly.
If you happen to be trapped in your car and when a flash flood occurs, remain inside. Only move to the roof of your vehicle in the event of water rising inside.
Move to the highest level of your building/home. Avoid climbing into an attic or any room that has no escape route.
Stay on alert for possible electrical dangers in your home. Flood water can rise to electrical outlets. If you hear snapping/popping or see any sparks, exit the room and away from any water immediately.
Make sure your pets or children do not drink any of the flood water. This water has a high potential to be contaminated. Avoid contact with the water as much as possible.
AFTER A FLOOD
Return home only when you've been notified that it is safe to do.
Stay on alert for possible new dangers. Downed power lines and electric wires in standing water can still be electrically charged. Snakes, or other animals could have found their way into your home.
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Take photos of the damage before preparing any sort of repairs or cleaning up. Make sure to wear protective clothing once you are ready to begin the clean up.
When the time comes to take care of your flooded basement, it's important to pump the water out gradually. The rule of thumb is about 1/3 of the water once a day. Pumping all the water out at once could potentially cause the wet and fragile walls to collapse and create a great deal more damage to your basement.
Hopefully these recommendations can help in the event you and your loved ones ever experience a flood and can recover quickly.