Floods have become a common natural disaster in most parts of the globe, the U.S inclusive. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, floods in the U.S account for over 100 deaths annually, and damaged infrastructures worth $48.6 billion between 1998 and 2014. These statistics keep getting worse with millions of Americans living in flood-prone regions. Floods can take place in any area and at any time of the year. They are usually caused by heavy rain, fast melting glacial, icebergs or sometimes the failure of a natural or human-made dam. Most Rivers in the U.S overflow and can bring about flooding sometimes. The possibility of flooding is particularly high in cleared, flood-prone open lands.
A sudden flood, which leaves very little time to warn the population, is often caused by hurricanes, violent storms, tsunamis or the breaking of dams.
While all levels of government strive to mitigate the effects of flooding, individuals also play an essential role, with the responsibility of protecting our homes and families.
By planning and taking practical steps to prepare, you can play your role in helping to alleviate the impact of the floods. In this article, we have focused on the three necessary steps to prepare for floods:
- Teach you what to do before, during, and after a flood.
- Draft an emergency plan for your family, so that every member knows what to do and where to go if you have to leave the house.
- Have an emergency kit so that you and your family can live independently for at least 72 hours during a flood.
Preparing for a flood will also get you ready for other types of emergencies. After reading this article, it may be a good idea to print it and keep it in an easily accessible place, for example, in your emergency kit.
Step 1: Know the risks and prepare
As with all other types of disaster, it is crucial to find out if flooding is prevalent in your area. Do not be careless about anything; heavy rains or snowmelt can transform even a stream of water that may look small and peaceful to a torrential tide.
Before a flood
To reduce possible damage caused by a flood
- Seal around the windows of the basement and the bottom of the doors on the ground floor.
- Make sure the downspouts discharge water a long distance from the house to flow in the opposite direction.
- You could also install a suction pump in your basement and check floor drain valves.
- Avoid storing essential documents in the basement. Keep them on the upper floors, which will protect them against flooding.
If a flood is expected to occur
- Close the basement heaters and the gas valve outside the house.
- Take special precautions to protect the heaters from electricity, natural gas, or propane.
- If you have enough time, contact your electricity or gas supplier for instructions on how to proceed.
- Only turn off the power supply if the area around the fuse box is dry. When turning off the power, having a flashlight with you, stand clear of the fuse box and turn your face to avoid facing it directly.
If a flood is imminent
- Move furniture, appliances, and other property above ground level.
- Place toxic substances such as pesticides and insecticides in a safe place to prevent pollution of the flooded area.
- Remove the toilet bowls and block the drain pipe and the drain in the basement with wooden plugs.
- Separate the splint from the gutters, if it is connected to the sewer of the house.
- Sandbags or polyethylene barriers can be a great way to keep water out of the house. Follow the instructions given to you by local emergency operations officials.
- Do not attempt to cut off the electricity supply if there is water nearby. Contact with water can lead to fatal consequences. Evacuate your apartment immediately until authorities tell you there is no danger.
During a flood
- Listen to the radio to know which areas are affected and which roads are safe, as well as where to go and what to do if the local emergency team asks you to leave home.
- Keep your emergency kit handy in a portable container such as a travel bag, backpack, or wheeled suitcase.
If you have to evacuate
- Leave your home when the emergency management in your region advises. Ignoring this advice could endanger your safety and that of your family, as well as the safety of people who may eventually need to come and save you.
- Bring your emergency kit with you.
- Take the roads designated by the officials. Avoid taking shortcuts, which may lead you to a blocked road or dangerous places.
- Make the necessary arrangements for your pets.
- If you have time, leave a note saying when you left and where. If you have a mailbox, leave it there.
Never cross a flooded area
- If you are on foot, never cross a flooded area. The current could take you away.
- If you are driving, do not drive in flood waters or underpasses. The water can be deeper than it looks, and you could get stuck, or your vehicle could be washed away by a strong current.
- Also, avoid crossing a bridge if the water is high and the current is powerful.
- First, save yourself and your passengers when caught in an area where water rises very fast, and your car breaks down.
After a flood
Return to your home
- Do not go home until the civil authorities tell you that there is no danger.
- If the power supply has not been shut off before flooding, do not enter your home until a qualified electrician has determined that there is no danger.
- Be careful when you come home after a flood.
- Appliances that have been wet during flooding may create an electric shock or fire when switched on. Do not use electrical, heating, pressure, or sewer equipment until a qualified electrician has cleaned, dried, and inspected the unit.
- The power supply panel must be cleaned, dried, and tested by a qualified electrician to make sure it is safe.
- Depending on where you live, whoever is responsible for inspections is responsible for the permissions required from the electricity companies concerning the electricity supply of your home.
- Make sure you ascertain the structural integrity of your home.
- Pay attention to any sagging or deforming walls or floors.
- Watch out for holes in the floor, glass chips and other dangerous debris.
- Sewage and other pollutants can heavily contaminate flood waters. They can cause diseases and infections.
- If your home has been flooded and you have a well, do not consume the water until you have it analyzed and sanitized.
- Household items damaged by the flood should be disposed of following local regulations.
- Store all valuable documents that have been touched in a safe until you need them (after cleaning, contact your lawyer to determine if papers affected by the flood should be kept).
- If possible, document flood damage with a camera or video camera.
- The total damage to your property must be communicated without delay to your insurance agent and authorities.
Step 2: Prepare an emergency plan
Your home should have an emergency plan that will help you and your family knows what to do in case of an emergency. Remember that you may not be together if a flood or other emergency occurs.
Start by discussing what might happen and what you should do at home, at school, or work if an emergency occurs. Prepare a list of what needs to be done in advance. Important family documents, including passports, financial statements, birth certificates, wills, insurance policies, etc., should be locked away in watertight containers. Designate someone who lives outside your area with whom you will be communicating in an emergency.
Put your plan in writing and practice it with the whole family at least once a year. Make sure each family member has a copy on hand.
Step 3: Have an emergency kit
In the event of an emergency, you will need a few essential items. You may have to get by without electricity or running water, so you must get ready to manage your survival kit for at least three days.
Some necessary items may include flashlight, a battery-powered radio, food, and water e.tc. These items must be neatly arranged in a way that you can easily have access to them.
Your kit must also be easy to carry (in a backpack, travel bag, or wheeled suitcase) and put it in an easy-to-access place, such as the entry closet. Make sure every member of your family knows where they are.
Basic emergency kit
- Water – arm yourself with at least two liters of water to carry each person daily. Use small bottles that will be easier to transport in case of an evacuation order.
- Non-perishable foods such as canned food, energy bars and dehydrated foods (do not forget to replace food and water once a year)
- Manual can opener
- Hand crank or battery operated a flashlight (and spare batteries)
- Hand crank or battery operated radio (and extra batteries)
- First aid kit
- Special items such as prescription drugs, formula or equipment for people with special needs
- Additional keys of the car and the house
- Your contact information and copies emergency plan
- Cash in small denominations, such as $1-10 bills and coins
Take small steps today to begin preparing for natural disasters in your area. Meet with your family to devise a plan to get prepared.