Flooding is the most common and widespread of all natural disasters. It can happen anywhere and at anytime, with devastating results to life and property.
Tropical storms, cyclones and tsunamis (giant sea waves) produce heavy rains and can flood coastal communities. Inland, floods can occur in valleys, near rivers and streams, and even in small creaks and dry streambeds. Flooding along rivers can occur seasonally. Rains that come in winter or spring combine with melting snow can quickly fill river basins beyond capacity. In urban areas, land loses its ability to absorb rainfall as fields are converted to roads. When this happens, streets and roadways become swift-moving rivers. It's important to know what to do before, during, and after a flood.
Find out the elevation of your property to determine whether forecasted flood levels are likely to affect your home. Move the main breaker or fuse box and utility meters above the flood level determined for your neighborhood. Move appliances and valuables out of basements or flood-prone lower levels. Learn how to shut off electricity, gas and water to your home.
Have a plan
- Develop an evacuation plan. Make sure family members know where to go in the event of a flood. The plan should include how family members will contact one another if separated. Establish an out-of-area contact (such as a relative or family friend) who can coordinate family members' locations and information. Make sure children learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.
- Prepare a family disaster supplies kit. Families with children should have each child create their own personal pack.
Be alert for flood indicators such as rapidly rising water and flooding of highways, bridges and low-lying areas. During a flood warning, take the following precautions:
- Evacuate to an area of higher ground immediately if advised to do so.
- Stay away from flooded areas, even if the water seems to be receding.
- Do not walk, swim or drive through moving water.
- Watch for snakes in flooded areas.
- Use flashlights instead of candles.
- Be aware of potential flash flooding.
- Keep an eye on children and make sure they don't play around high water, storm drains, ravines, or culverts.
- Throw away food that may have come in contact with floodwater or perishable food that was not refrigerated at a safe temperature. Use water from safe sources (such as bottled water) until you know that your tap water isn't contaminated. (Boiling, disinfecting, or distilling can purify water.)
- Before re-entering a home damaged from a flood: turn electricity off at the fuse box or main breaker until your home has adequately dried; check for gas leaks; examine your home for fire hazards; inspect the floors, doors, windows and walls for cracks or other damage to make sure the home isn't in danger of collapsing.
Source: FEMA, NOAA/NWS (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service), USGS (United States Geological Survey)