Many people die in a flash flood because they make bad decisions, either by panicking or due to lack of knowledge. You may not know this but flooding is the most commonly occurring natural disaster you can experience. When a flood occurs you have to be prepared to act quickly and get your loved ones to safety.
You’ve probably seen on the news what a severe flood can do and how devastating it can be. A severe flood will bring down entire communities, destroy crops, shut down vital services and cause serious illnesses.
The worst part about floods is that they can develop in several ways. It can happen very fast or it can build slowly without you noticing. Steady rains will cause rivers to overflow and it’s one of the main causes for floods. They build up slowly and affect large communities causing great propriety damage. However, when sudden torrential rain occurs, the saturate soil cannot absorb water and it creates the perfect conditions for a flash flood. Even rapid melting of the snow can cause a serious flood in various parts of the country. Regardless how a flood builds up, you have to be prepared and act to get out of harm’s way.
Every region in our country has some flood risk and you should be prepared if the home you live in has the following characteristics:
- It is situated in a coastal area or in a river basin
- It is located in a very low-lying area
- Your home is located downstream from a dam or flood bank
There will be times in which you will have a fair warning before a flood hits your area and there will be times when you have only a few minutes to act. Preparedness is about being able to take actions now, when there is no sign of danger, to protect your family.
Here are the precautionary measures you should take if you live in a flood prone area:
- Make sure you have a flood insurance because the regular homeowners insurance doesn’t cover you for losses due to flood.
- Plan evacuation routes and make sure these routes take you to high ground. Always have more than one alternative when it comes to evacuation routes.
- Have an up to date inventory of your household goods and valuables. Store all your valuables in a safe if possible.
- Have copies of all vital documents.
- Be prepared for evacuation and make sure you have everything you need in your car (like food and water supplies, clothing, batteries, etc.). You can even add a live vest for each family member, they do not cost much and they can make a huge difference if you have to abandon your car.
- Install a check valve in the sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into your home.
- Make sure you know where all the shut-off valves of your utilities are and how to shut them down.
- Have a battery or crank operated radio to receive information about weather alerts.
- Place sandbags in areas that can be contaminated by flood waters, such as a root cellar or pantry.
What to do when a flood watch has been issued for your area:
- Stay always tuned to your NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) station or your local radio station
- Do a quick check-up on your car and make sure it’s in good shape. You should have a full tank of gas to begin with.
Related reading: Prepping your car for an emergency evacuation
- Place your evacuation kit or bug out bag in your car.
- Make sure your pets are inside the house and locate them fast in case of an evacuation. Some animals can be scared due to bad weather and will quickly hide from it.
- Move all your valuable and irreplaceable items to an upper floor.
- Bring in all your outdoor furniture
- And the most important thing: If you have any doubt, Evacuate! You can always return home if you were wrong and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
What to do if flooding hits your area and you must leave your home:
- Wear adequate clothing and footwear. An impermeable jacket and a pair of sturdy rubber boots is what you need.
- Pay a close attention to downed electrical wires and do not approach them. Stay away from any water into which a downed line has fallen.
- Never walk through moving water because even six inches of moving water can topple and adult. If you have no other choice, make sure you probe the area in front of you with a long stick.
- Never drive into a flooded area. You might think you are safe in the car but you don’t know what lies beneath the water surface.
- If flood waters rise around your car, abandon it and move to higher ground. Don’t take anything with you unless you’re in good shape and you know you can carry it. A heavy bug out bag will slow you down and you don’t have that luxury.
- Make sure to take with you a couple of flares or a flashlight. You might need them to signal for help.
Related article: How to signal for help
Things to do after the flood:
- DO NOT DRINK from the municipal water supply or from your water well until you know it is safe. Make sure you can filter the water or produce your own.
- Avoid standing water as it may be contaminated with raw sewage. It may even be electrically charged due to downed power lines.
- If you have any animals on your propriety (including stranded ones) make sure you approach them with extreme caution. Fear and stress caused by the flood will make most animals aggressive and unpredictable.
- Check the integrity of your house. If the building is surrounded by floodwater the foundation could be damaged. Enter a building only if you established it is safe to do so.
- Most probably you will have to deal with not having electricity for a few days and you will need an alternative solution. No electricity will add up to your stress levels and having a power generator will do wonders on your morale.
- Tune in and listen. Once the local authorities have declared the zone safe you may return home.
- Be prepared to do a lot of cleaning and disinfect everything that got wet before using it. Wash all clothing and fabrics and dry at the highest temperature. You survived the flood and the last thing you need to worry about is not keeping a proper health.
- Check out for damaged goods and make sure to take pictures of everything for the insurance company.
- Learn from the experience and analyze what went wrong and what you did right. This is a harsh lesson, but next time you will be better prepared.
A flood can occur at any time and it’s better to know how to handle the situation. Family preparedness will keep you safe and you will have the chance to rebuild. You can put a price on things, but a life is priceless.
Stay safe and God Bless!
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