How Do Floods Happen?
Floods are among the most frequently occurring natural disasters. Flooding occurs when natural and artificial watercourses exceed capacity, typically during periods of long or heavy rainfall. On the coast, flooding can be triggered by other natural events such as tropical cyclones or tsunamis. Flooding occurs most heavily in low-lying areas; however, flash floods can occur almost anywhere.
Flood Disaster Preparedness
Whether you live in an area that frequently sees flash floods or not, it’s a good idea to educate yourself ahead of time about flooding and to stock up on flood disaster supplies. Some of the most important items to ensure you have easy access to during an emergency include:
- Drinking water
- Food that does not require refrigeration or cooking
- First aid supplies
- Battery-powered radio
- Extra batteries
- Waterproof pouches to hold personal items and keep them dry
Make a plan with your family and for your pets about where you’ll go during a flood. Map out routes that are not prone to flooding in case you must evacuate.
What to Do During a Flood
When you first become aware of a flash flood watch (meaning flooding is possible in your area) or a flash flood warning (flooding is already occurring in your area or will soon), monitor your surroundings carefully and get to a safe area as soon as possible. If you are driving, fill up on gas but do not attempt to drive through flooded roadways or rushing water, even if it looks shallow. Flash floods are powerful and can sweep your car off the road as easily as they can knock you off your feet.
If you’re stuck at home and there’s a possibility water may get high enough to seep inside, you should board up your doors and windows as fast as possible. Cut off your utilities – turn off gas, electricity and water – and head upstairs with important items like legal paperwork and expensive electronics. If you have hazardous materials in a shed or your garage, such as oil, pesticides or even cleaning supplies, move them to higher locations so they don’t create even more hazardous water conditions.
Use your battery-powered radio to monitor the latest information and find out when it’s safe to leave again. If you are stranded and are in immediate danger from rising water, contact emergency services immediately.
How to Stay Safe After a Flood
If you’ve come in contact with flood water, be sure wash your hands with clean water and soap ASAP. Stay away from down power lines, watch out for washed out roads and stop kids from playing in areas that are still flooded.
If your home was flooded, check for damage that could affect your gas lines or electrical system. If there is damage, have a professional come check everything out before you turn utilities back on. Finally, take pictures of everything damaged for insurance purposes, throw away medicine, food and drinks that had any contact with flood water, and disinfect everything that got wet. If your home is in need of major repairs, check out the American Red Cross guide Repairing Your Flooded Home for help getting started.