Be Prepared When Flood Waters Rise
Mother nature can be lethal in many different ways, and floods are a major one. With the exception of heat-related fatalities, no weather event is deadlier. Flooding, on a 10-year average (2008-2018), has killed more Americans than lightning, winter storms and exposure to cold combined. A single event has been known to change the course of a river, including the Mississippi in 1876.
Floods are serious, life-threatening events. Fortunately, outside of the sudden catastrophic failure of a levee or dam, the risk of a major flood is usually known well in advance. The National Weather Service (NWS) will issue watches and warnings for areas in the projected danger zone. The easiest way to stay alive is to heed any evacuation orders and get out! Here are some tips to help you keep you and your family safe should you face one.
First Steps During a Flood
If you live in an area prone to flooding, having a plan in place can help save not only your life but also your home and your valuables. The most important thing you can do at the first sign of flooding is to turn off your utilities at the source if possible. This includes gas, electricity — at the main breaker — and water. This simple step can help keep your home safe before, during and even after a flood.
If, and only IF, you have time, move your valuables like photo albums, jewelry and important papers (which should be sealed in plastic zipper bags) to higher ground. Do not put them in your dishwasher as some people recommend. While they may stay dry in the initial flood, they often backfill with sewage or black water as the flood recedes.
Flood Prepared Go-Bags
When the NWS or local authorities start talking about flood stages, that’s the time to think about leaving your home for a safer area. When it’s time to evacuate, having a go-bag ready can save you valuable time.
Also known as bug-out bags, these are kits prepared in advance for emergency situations. You should keep one packed for each member of the family (including pets) at all times, not just when a weather warning is issued. There are prepackaged bags available at retailers, or they can be homemade. Some essentials might include:
- An AM/FM/Shortwave radio
- Ration bars or long shelf-life foods
- Potable water
- Mylar blankets and bivouacs (tents)
- First Aid Kits
If you live in an area known for flooding you’ll want to make sure the bags are 100% waterproof, sometimes called drybags (kayakers use these, so look for them at watersport retailers), and include rain gear, extra socks, blankets and even an inflatable airbag that can be used as a personal flotation device. These are typically marketed as boating supplies but in a flood, they save lives.
Riding Out a Flood at Home
Of course, there are people who ride floods out at home. This isn’t the wisest of choices; to reiterate, if a flood is coming, leave! It’s the best way to keep breathing. That being said, if you do decide to stay, everyone should move to the top level of the building (with their go-bags); that includes the roof, if necessary.
On your highest indoor level, stash away some of the same supplies found in a go-bag, plus extra clothes, rope and hand tools to help if it becomes necessary to abandon the structure. Also, an emergency strobe light or flare gun might come in handy in case it comes down to a rescue by first responders.
Being prepared — or as it’s become known, prepping — isn’t only about worries over potential civil war or the Chinese dropping nukes, complete with a bunker mentality and a roomful of rifles and shotguns. It’s simply about being ready in times of emergency, like a hurricane, blizzard or tornado — or, of course, a flood.