How to Prepare for a Flood
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If you live in a flood plain or other low-lying area near a body of water with a chance of flooding, it is vital for you to have a plan in case of emergency. Flooding preparedness is crucial not just in the event of a family evacuation, but to protect your valuables and minimize permanent water damage. Follow these recommendations for both long-range planning and short-term action to be ready in case of disaster.
If you move into a home located in a flood zone, make an evacuation plan in the event the worst-case scenario comes true. Preparing for a flood is especially important in these locations.
- Map out the evacuation route you’ll take to your planned destination, such as a friend or relative’s home. Plan alternate routes in case roads are blocked when learning how to prepare for a flood.
- Get a weather radio and learn the emergency radio stations from the National Weather Service as well as the available resources from FEMA and the American Red Cross. Also look into getting an emergency response kit for any emergencies that may arise.
- Run evacuation drills with your family in case a warning comes in the middle of the night or at short notice.
- Make sure your evacuation plans include your pets, their food and a carrier.
- Research flood insurance as standard homeowner's insurance policies often do not cover flooding.
- If your home is in a flood zone, consider making changes and renovations so the basement and the rest of the house will be less vulnerable to flood damage.
- One step for preparing for a flood is to have a professional install or move electrical outlets, panels and wiring to a foot above any flood levels.
- Elevate appliances and heating systems to a similar level, if possible.
- Waterproof your basement walls with a sealing product.
- Install a sump pump and have a battery-powered backup for the removal of standing water.
- Confirm that your plumbing has back-up or backflow valves installed to ensure that floodwaters water won’t enter your home the wrong way. If not, have a plumber make the necessary installations.
- A water alarm in the basement can also sound a warning if water is accumulating.
- If the news or weather services announce that a chance of floods exist, but you’re not yet under an official Flood or Flash Flood Watch or Warning, consider taking these steps before you evacuate.
- Gather any outdoor belongings that could be swept away in a flood: loose lawn furniture, toys, bicycles, gardening tools, trashcans, etc. Store everything indoors.
Clear all drains, gutters and downspouts to reduce the chance of overflowing. Overflow may cause more damage to your home as flooding occurs. Clearing drains will help let the water run through the gutter spout and out and away from your home.
Move the furniture you can carry to your upper floors, if possible, showing particular care to any valuables or sentimental items. Bring irreplaceable photos or documents with you if space in your vehicle permits.
- In case of power surges, unplug appliances and turn off the propane tank.
- Before evacuation, turn off electricity, gas and water service, especially if you see downed power lines on the ground.
- If your home has standing water above the levels of electric outlets, turn off electricity at the main breaker switch.
- If flooding occurs in your area but conditions are confirmed safe for you to stay at home, consider filling your bathtubs, sinks and containers with tap water. If water service goes out or is contaminated by floodwater, you can have clean water.
- If your area is under a Flood or Flash Flood Warning, leave as soon as possible, especially if local authorities issue a mandatory evacuation notice.
- FEMA advises people to remember “The Five Ps of Evacuation: People, Prescriptions, Paper, Personal Needs, and Priceless Items.”
- During a mass evacuation, drivers are advised to have 100 miles worth of gasoline already in the tank when told how to prepare for a flood. During evacuations, gas station see long lines, may raise prices and might run out of fuel. It's recommended you bring a gas can with you as well, to store gas in case you don't come across another station for awhile.
- Have an emergency kit or container for supplies such as three days’ worth of food and water, change of clothes, water purification tablets and phone charger.
- Don’t forget the can opener.
If your area gets flooded and you have to evacuate, only return when authorities announce that conditions are safe and water levels have subsided. Hopefully you won’t have to face such a situation, but flood preparedness is crucial if the waters start to rise. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States, and can range from just a few inches of basement water to a house submerged to the roof.