Flood Safety and Preparedness Tips
Flooding is the most common weather-related cause of property damage in the US, causing billions in losses each year. It can occur anywhere and with little or no warning. Flooding can result from a wide variety of causes: storm surge associated with hurricanes and tropical storms, sudden downpours and flash flooding, prolonged rainfall or rapid snowmelt, water main breaks, and more.
Most homeowners insurance policies don’t include protection for losses related to flooding – whether it is from a naturally occurring flood or a water main break. It is important to talk to your insurance advisor about securing a flood policy to safeguard against flood-related losses.
Understanding Your Risk
Floodplain and flood zone locations are identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), working with each municipality to create and update flood maps that show the flood zone for each part of your community. It is important to know the flood risk of your property by finding out what flood zone, from high to low risk, your property is in. You can view your local flood map by visiting FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center or contacting your city or county government. Your insurance advisor can also help you understand your risk.
Homeowners in high-risk areas with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders are required to purchase flood insurance. While flood insurance is not required for moderate-risk to low-risk areas, these areas submit more than 20 percent of National Flood Insurance Program claims. Flooding can occur anywhere and obtaining flood insurance provides you with valuable protection.
Flood Preparation for Your Home
Raise electrical components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12 inches above the base flood elevation for your area.
Protect HVAC equipment by moving it to an upper floor or having a flood-proof wall built around it.
Direct water away from your home by having the proper grade or slope to your yard.
Secure outdoor fuel tanks to the ground with anchors.
Install sewer backflow valves to prevent return flow into the house.
Inspect your sump pump to ensure it is working properly and the battery is fully charged.
Protect your water well from contamination by having it inspected and making required improvements.
What to do Before a Flood
Be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
Limit property damage by:
Raising furniture, electronics, and appliances off the floor.
Rolling up area rugs and moving them on a higher floor in your home if possible.
Shutting off electrical, gas, and water lines.
Keep and maintain a Go Bag – a collection of flood preparedness items you may need in the event of an evacuation – for each member of your household. Each Go Bag should be packed in a sturdy, easy-to-carry container such as a backpack or suitcase on wheels. A Go Bag may include:
Copies of your important documents in a waterproof and portable container (insurance cards, birth certificates, deeds, photo IDs, proof of address, etc.).
Emergency contact and meeting place information for your household and a small regional map.
Credit and ATM cards, and cash, especially in small denominations.
Extra set of car and house keys.
Flashlight, whistle, emergency radio, and extra batteries.
Cell phone charger(s) including one that can be used without electricity, such as a car charger, and an extra cell phone battery.
Bottled water and nonperishable food such as energy or granola bars.
Medication for at least one week and other essential personal items. Keep a list of any medications and dosages for each member of your household, or copies of all your prescription slips, as well as your doctor’s contact information.
Sturdy, comfortable shoes, lightweight rain gear, and an emergency thermal blanket.
Child care supplies or other special care items.
Personal items such as soap, feminine hygiene products, toothbrush, and toothpaste, etc.
What to do During a Flood
When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
Stay away from floodwaters. If you come across water flowing above your ankles, turn around, and take another route. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and take another route. According to FEMA:
Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most cars, causing loss of control and potential stalling.
A foot of water will float many vehicles.
Two feet of rushing water will carry away most vehicles, including SUVs and pickups.
If you get caught on a flooded road and water is rising around your vehicle but the water is not moving, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground.
If you get caught on a flooded road with moving water rising around your vehicle, you need to act quickly:
Roll the window down immediately. It may be your only way out.
Get on the roof of the vehicle.
Stay low and hang on.
If you are stuck in your vehicle underwater, you need to act quickly:
Find a pocket of trapped air, usually against the rear window or roof.
Roll a window down slowly, take a deep breath and be ready to swim.
If the window won’t open, break the window with a rescue tool such as a Swiss Army knife.
What to do After a Flood
Before entering your home, check outside for loose power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks, or other damage.
Parts of your home may be damaged or collapsed. Approach entrances carefully. Inspect porch roofs and overhangs for possible damage to supports.
Watch out for wild animals that may have come into your home with the floodwater.
If you smell natural or propane gas, leave immediately and call the fire department.
If power lines are down outside your home, do not step in puddles or standing water.
Make sure your food and water are safe. Throw away items that have come in contact with floodwater, including canned goods, water bottles, and utensils.
Contact your local or state public health department to see if your water supply might be contaminated. You may need to boil or treat it before use.
If you’re prepared for a flood, you’ll be more likely to make better decisions if faced with an emergency situation. Take steps as early as possible to prepare your property and your family for a potential flood event.