Floods happen all over the world and are the most common and destructive natural disasters in the world. The magnitude and damage caused by flooding are something many people do not understand until it happens.
Preparing for floods can be an overwhelming task with so much information out there, but if you know what you need to do before disaster strikes, you will have a better chance at survival when the time comes. This article will cover how to prepare for a flood as well as what to do during and after a flood.
How to Plan for a Flood?
Many people do not realize that they need to plan for a flood until it is too late. Floods can happen anywhere at any time, so it is important to be prepared.
Even if you do not live in a coastal area, doesn’t mean that you are out of the danger zone. Flooding can also come from, spring thaws, hurricanes, heavy rains, or a burst damn.
Suppose you are evacuated or decide to leave before a flood hits. In that case, you may not be able to return home for weeks or even months, so you need to make sure that you have a plan that covers everything you will need for you and your family for both short and long-term scenarios.
There are many things you can do to prepare for a flood.
We will go over some of the most important steps.
Create a family emergency plan
- Include an evacuation route and where you plan to go as well as a list of emergency contact
- Register for emergency alerts in your area.
- Know the warning signs of a flood and what to do when they are activated
- Know the levees in your area and how high they are rated.
- Find out which roads are open or closed, if public facilities are open, and the possibility of getting essential resources if needed.
- Keep updated on weather forecasts and warnings for your area.
- Decide on an emergency meeting spot
- Make a list of what you will need to take with you if you have to evacuate
- Plan for how you will communicate with family members if you are unable to reach them directly
- Have a backup plan in case your first plan does not work out.
- Keep important documents and belongings in a waterproof container.
- Pack an emergency kit
- Check your insurance policy
- Backup power source
- Turn off gas and electricity
1. Pack an emergency kit.
This should include food, water, first aid supplies, and other essentials. One of the most important things you can do to prepare for a flood is to pack an emergency kit. This should include food, water, and first aid supplies in an emergency kit that will last at least 72 hours.
Although that is more of a minimum guideline, disaster scenarios often last a lot longer than 3 days. However, three days is usually the period of time where there is a shift in conditions on the ground.
It’s generally good to have a few emergency kits. A more extensive one for your home, one that you can keep in your car and a survival go bag that you keep packed where you can grab at the drop of a hat.
See more: List of Bug out Essentials
2. Check your insurance policy.
Make sure you have flood insurance if you live in a flood-prone area. Flood insurance is not always included in standard homeowners policies. Flood insurance can be expensive, but it is worth it to have peace of mind.
There are many things to consider. One of the most important is knowing how much coverage you need. Federal insurance policies are capped at $250,000. You may get smaller policies if needed depending on your situation.
You also need to make sure that the policy covers your specific needs. Some policies do not cover contents, while others do not cover damage to the structure of your home, so be sure to check the fine print. As the devil is really in the details when it comes to insurance.
3. Backup power source for your home in case of a power outage.
One of the most important things you can do to prepare for a flood is to have a backup power source (along with food, water, medicine) for your home in case of a prolonged power outage. The severity of the flood will determine how long the floodwaters will remain, which will depend on the topical geography (whether it can adequately drain off) and continuing weather patterns.
Without a proper warning system in place, it is very difficult to predict the severity of a storm. Often, a storm can increase in intensity, suddenly leaving you with little time to prepare or get out of town. In such a situation, having an alternative power supply, like a diesel generator, will enable you to weather the storm if you must for days or weeks if needed. Solar and wind are a nice addition but not as reliable.
4. Know how to shut off your gas and electricity in case of a flood.
It may not be needed in all circumstances, but it may be wise to at least know how to turn off electricity and gas in your home. To turn off electricity, locate the circuit breaker for your home. To turn off gas you need to locate your main gas valve.
Never turn off the electricity while you are standing in the water. If your basement is flooded and you want to turn of the breaker. Don't. You can turn off the gas valve, often located outside your house, however, have a professional turn it back on.
What to do During a Flood?
Depending on the type of flooding:
- Evacuate if there is an order given by local authorities
- Move to higher ground or to a higher floor in your building
- Stay where you are.
Each piece of advice will be dependent upon the circumstances you are in.
Have access to radio, EAS, NOAA, local news, or police channels that give evacuation orders and flood updates
If You are told to stay in place
- Find shelter
- Do not attempt to drive or swim in floodwaters
- Stay off bridges
Tips to prepare
1. Prepare for the unexpected.
We know we should prepare for the most likely disasters in our areas, but we should also have a general plan to cover whatever hits. We should know the basics of what to do for flooding, tornadoes, terrorist attacks; have general supplies—including adequate medical supplies—and know what to do for the most likely medical problems.
2. Take flash flood warnings seriously.
The water may seem slow-moving and gentle. But it is deceptively powerful, and it can transition from a trickle to a flood in an instance.
It only takes 6in of moving water to knock you down and another 6in before the water can sweep your vehicle away.
More than one person on foot has been killed recently trying to cross the running water. We’ve even had deaths of people trying to save the ones in danger.
3. Floodwater is polluted.
Remember, flood water is not freshwater, as it is composed of whatever it comes into contact with, including chemicals, sewage, and remnants of anything and everything else floating around.
Needless to say, drinking flood water is a big no no. Finding reliable drinking water can be a major issue. The first resource will be bottled water, and the second would be boiling water and then using activated charcoal, or filtering it. Boiling water and filtering water will kill most bacteria, the main issue will be chemicals that have higher boiling points. As many chemicals do not get properly filtered with a water filter, your best bet is to use a distillation.
4. Always be prepared for an unexpected quick getaway.
Many people have to flee during the night with very little notice. Keep that bug-out-bag ready and loaded in case you have to move quickly when floodwaters change.
5. Have the Right Gear Ready
Have stored drinking water, nonperishable food, medical supplies, and essential medications prepped just in case.
You can be cut off without warning, within hours. Roads can get washed away and without any cellphone service, electricity, or stores, you are on your own until the water subsides.
Flood Water Dangers
One big concern is not being able to get to a hospital in a disaster situation. Roads and infrastructure can get completely destroyed with little ability to get to emergency medical services if they are needed.
One of the first dangers is obviously water. Ironically even though you might be surrounded by water, it is totally undrinkable, and finding drinking water is perhaps the single most important good, after immediate medical issues.
Ready.gov recommends storing three days’ worth of water—at least a gallon per day per person—in case of emergency. Which is a bare minimum.
Although the water may look like a river, it’s more comparable to sewage-filled with germs and chemicals. Don’t go get in the floodwater, if you can avoid it.
Steps to Minimize Flood Damage
Minimize any potential losses by taking the following steps:
Anything Electrical, including, gas, any equipment or appliances, should be elevated and secured in place.
Get a water alarm with a pump that can be used to protect your basement from flooding.
Keep furniture and valuables in a safe place elevated off the ground when flooding is imminent.
Gear You might Need During a Flood
- For your house
Sandbags, plywood, plastic bags
First aid, medical kits
Thermal blanket, Blankets, sleeping bags, dry suit, gas stove
Generator or solar panels with battery storage
Gas stove, canned foods for at least 3 days (7 days is more appropriate) or Nonperishable food items, If you are making a go-bag, then take lighter food items
At least 3 days worth of bottled water, chlorine drops, water filter
- Life-saving supplies
Life jacket, Whistle to call for help, Boat, raft, canoe
- Important documents
- Misc supplies
Flashlight, Extra batteries, Radio, Local map, Personal hygiene items, Garbage bags, duct tape, and rope
What to do After a Flood?
Just because a storm is over and the water has receded a bit, doesn’t mean you’re out of danger. Not by a long shot. Even if you’ve done everything right, prepared like a pro, and survived without a scratch, you still need to know what to do after the flood.
Because the dirty floodwater has contaminated anything it’s touched, name your bacteria, virus, fungus, amoeba, it loves to live in this sort of primordial sludge. There are likely many germs we have never even heard of lurking in these waters.
Anything that’s touched the floodwaters is contaminated with potentially disease-causing germs and must be disinfected.
Anything that has been touched by floodwater in your house needs to be cleaned. The CDC recommends using one cup of bleach to five gallons of clean water to do this.
Anytime you’ve touched contaminated water, wash your hands with soap and clean water.
Anything that can’t be washed, needs to be thrown away. All surfaces of your house need to be disinfected. Until the utility service says your water is safe, you need to clean by hand, and do not use flood water.
All of this prep that you did beforehand is to avoid the possibility of getting mold. Mold usually forms in areas that have been exposed to water for longer than 24hrs.
Mold can be a huge problem, if the flood water isn’t deal with quickly and can cause a host of problems with your health.
Tips for What to do After a Flood
These tips were taken from the FEMA website
- Return home only when it is safe and you are given the ok from local authorities
- Avoid driving except in medical emergencies as roads might be unstable and filled with debris
- Use gloves and protective clothing during clean-up together with face coverings or masks, especially if you are cleaning mold.
- Do not touch electrical equipment if its damp or there is still flood water. Turn off the electricity if you see that it is possible and safe.
- Use a generator outdoors
For more on Water Survival: How to Survive in Freezing Cold Water
Preparing for a flood is complicated. There are so many variables involved, but with the right preparation and knowledge, you will be able to survive any flood that comes your way.
Thankfully there are steps you can take now which will help mitigate some damage later on. With just a little bit of prep, you’ll have what you need when disaster strikes. If a flood hits your home will you be ready?