Flooding - the most common natural disaster
Flooding is a temporary overflow of water onto land that is normally dry. This can happen slowly or very quickly. Flash floods can come with no warning or rain in the forecast. This is a coast-to-coast threat to some parts of the United States and its territories nearly every day of the year. Failing to evacuate flooded areas or entering flood waters can lead to injury or death.
Areas Prone to Flooding
These areas have a larger amount of pavement which prevents excess water from being absorbed into the soil.
These areas file more insurance claims related to flooding than the rest of the country.
Here, storms come ashore from the ocean causing extreme rainfall and high tides can bring in more water than usual.
Flash floods can occur as excessive rainfall causes runoff to suddenly join streams or other channels that are normally dry.
Damage Caused by Flooding
High waters can inundate substations where electricity is distributed, damaging equipment. Utilities often shut power down as a preventative measure resulting in an outage as well.
Flooding can cause a weakening of a building’s foundation and structural integrity and significantly damage its exterior, interior, electrical systems, insulation, and finishes.
Flooding can cause extensive damage to roads and disrupt the transportation of passengers, goods, and services.
Prepare Your Home
Know your risks: Visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center to learn the flood risk in your area.
Purchase or renew a flood insurance policy: Homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flooding. It typically takes up to 30 days for a policy to go into effect so the time to buy is well before a disaster. Get flood coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
Lift it or lose it If you live in an area at risk for flooding, raise your furnace, water heater, and electric panel in your home. Elevation prevents these appliances from being damaged by flood water.
Avoid a backup: Consider installing check valves, or one-way valves that allow fluid to flow through in in one direction. This prevents sewege and floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home.
Fill sandbags: If you have access to sandbags and have the time, fill them and put them in place before the flooding occurs.
Food & water: Maintain a short-term food supply for you and your pets and water storage in case your drinking water becomes contaminated. Consider storing alternative fuels should you lose electricity.
Be Ready to Evacuate
Understand the alert system: Know the difference between advisory (be aware), watch (be prepared), and warning (take action).
Sign up for alerts & notifications Learn how the alert system works and how to sign up.
Evacuation Plan Have an emergency evacuation plan in place for your family and pets – you will have more options instead of being at the mercy of city plans. If you live in a flood-prone area, make this a priority.
Document Binder: Store copies of your important documents in a grab & go binder that you can take on your way out. If your home is flooded, you will have your information with you.
Leaving Your Home
Once a watch or warning is issued
Immediately start following your evacuation plan protocol. This is why you took the time to make this plan - it will do the thinking for you. It serves as a checklist so you can get out as fast as you need to.
Actively look for and listen to emergency information and instructions from EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alerting systems regarding flooding in your area.
Avoiding flood water
A car caught in swiftly moving water can be swept away in seconds. 12 inches of water can float a car or small SUV. 18 inches of water can carry away larger vehicles.
Never drive around barricades and stay off bridges as fast-moving water can wash away bridges without warning.
If you find yourself stuck in your car, call 911 so authorities know you need help. Stay inside the main compartment for as long as you can, then move to the roof as water levels rise.
If caught on foot
If you encounter flood water, turn around – don’t drown! The water may be deeper than it appears. It only takes 6 inches of moving water to knock you off your feet. It can also hide hazards such as sharp objects, washed-out road surfaces, electrical wires, chemicals, etc.
If you are trapped by moving water do not swim or wade through floodwaters. Move to the highest possible point and, if possible, call 911.
If you are forced to relocate while you're waiting for help, look for slower-moving waters. Test the ground in front of you with a stick to detect any threats below the surface.
If You're Not Evacuated
If you're area is not evacuated, you still need to be vigilant as things can rapidly change. Some disasters are brought on suddenly with no warning ever given. If you find your home flooding and it's to late to get out, there are a few safety protocols you can follow to make sure you stay safe.
Practice electrical safety
Don’t go into any room if water covers the electrical outlets or if cords are submerged.
If you hear buzzing, crackling, snapping, or popping, or see sparks – stay out of this area! An electrical current may be running through the water.
Getting to safety
Locate your grab & go bag. You can use the items you packed inside to keep you fed, hydrated, warm, and being able to see if the lights go out.
Head upward. Get to the highest level of your home, only getting on the roof if absolutely necessary. Do not climb into a closed attic to avoid getting trapped by riing floodwater.
Signal for help or call 911 as soon as you are situated in a safe place.
Tip: For real-time flood conditions across the United States, you may refer to resources like the U.S. Geological Survey’s WaterWatch Flood Map.
Outside Your Home
Look for damage to power and gas lines,foundation cracks, your home's exterior, and downed or unstable trees and poles.
Turn off utilities including water, gas, and electicity (this can pose a huge risk of electrocution inside your home).
Stay out of floodwaters as they can contain dangerous debris like broken glass, metal, dead animals, sewage, gasoline, oil, and downed power lines. They can also contain unwanted guests that are very much alive like rodents, snakes, insects, and other animals. They may be inside your home as well.
Inside Your Home
Do not enter your home until it has been inspected for damage to the electrical system, gas lines, septic systems, and water lines or wells.
Do not use a fuel-powered generator, indoors, in your garage, or near an open window. Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of post-storm deaths.
Use appropriate personal protective equipment to avoid injury from possible exposure to mold and bacteria including gloves, safety glasses, rubber boots, and N95 masks.
Look for mold growth and remove it properly.
Air out / dry out your home by opening all doors and windows whenever you are present. Leave as many windows open when you are not present as security concerns allow.
Remove porous items that cannot be cleaned or disinfected. This includes some flooring, paneling, drywall, insulation, mattresses, carpeting, upholstered items, stuffed animals, and other baby toys.
Clean and disinfect remaining hard surfaces like floors, countertops, and appliances with hot water and soap or detergent. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage, bacteria, and chemicals.
Food & Water
Throw out any food including canned items that were not maintained at a proper temperature or have been exposed to floodwaters. Do not eat food from a flooded garden. When in doubt, throw it out.
Do not drink tap water unless authorities say it is safe – do not assume it’s safe. Boil the water first and look for alerts from your city regarding the safety of your drinking water. Do not use it to wash dishes, brush teeth, or wash/prepare food.
Do not drink bottled water that has been submerged in floodwaters.
Stay off the roads
Avoid driving except in emergencies.
Avoid flooded areas or standing water as they can hide dangerous toxins, chemicals, sharp objects, snakes, and electrically charged water.
Avoid disaster areas - your presence may hamper restoration, rescue, or other emergency operations.