Be Prepared for the Most Common Natural Disaster — Floods

Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States.  Are you prepared?

Flooding is the overflowing of water over land that is otherwise dry.  Although they are likely to happen near a body of water, such as a lake or river, floods can happen just about anywhere.  They can even happen in a desert when a rainstorm abruptly arises on dry land.

In some parts of the country, they can be most likely to happen during the spring, when snow melts and swells rivers and streams.  As the river continues its flow downstream, more and more melted snow flows into it, creating rising water and potentially even a flood.

Never underestimate the seriousness of a flood.  They can put both your life and your property at risk.  The flood water itself can carry people and things away.  The water can get contaminated and cause disease when you come in contact with it or when you drink tap water or bottled water or eat food that has been contaminated with it.  The moving flood water can damage the foundation of your home, leaving it structurally unsafe.  It can contain animals, especially snakes, that can harm you.  It can cause gas lines to break, allowing gas to escape.  And it can cause power lines to fall or break, with the result that live power lines can be hidden under water, a substance that conducts electricity.  Coming in contact with an electric line can cause death by electrocution.

The appropriate preparation for a potential flood is to evacuate to higher land as soon as a flood warning is issued for your area.  This is when it’s crucial to have an emergency weather radio, so that you can always monitor the situation.

When you need to evacuate, you will be glad to have completed the first two steps of your preparedness plan — have a bug-out bag ready to grab and go, and have an evacuation in place that gives you alternate routes to alternate destinations away from your town.  To read more about creating your evacuation plan, see What’s Your Evacuation Plan?  And to read more about bug-out bags, please see my series:

Anyway, back to floods . . .

As you evacuate, you should be aware that you can lose control of your car in about two feet of water.  Be especially careful after dark, when it can be harder to see water cover until you are actually in it.  If you come upon high water, turn the car around and find another route.

Be equally cautious when you return to your home after the flood has receded.  First of all, don’t return until the authorities have announced that it’s safe to do so.  When you get back to the house, inspect it before you enter it, looking for structural damage, downed wires and broken gas pipes.

When you enter your home, be alert to wild animals that may have been displaced and found refuge in your house.  Watch out for snakes that may be poisonous.

Pay attention to your sense of smell.  If you smell gas or hear a hissing sound, leave immediately and call the fire department.

Don’t trust that the packaging of any product that has been through a flood.  Cleaning products, paint, pesticides and other hazardous products may have escaped their packaging and contaminated the water.   Consult with the fire department for assistance in cleaning and disposing of contaminated objects.

On the other hand, flood waters may have contaminated even unopened containers of food.  If so, don’t eat the food.  Simply throw it away.  Watch out, too, for dishes, pots and pans, baby bottles and nipples.  Metal or china objects can be washed thoroughly, preferably in a dishwasher.  Plastic objects should be discarded.

And you certainly don’t want to drink flood water.  Check with your local authorities to learn whether your drinking water supply has been contaminated.  Follow their directions when it comes to any need to boil water or otherwise treat it before you use it.

Finally, you should know that regular home owner’s or renter’s insurance doesn’t cover damage caused by flood.  So you should educate yourself about your insurance coverage and your insurance risk and choose rationally what coverage you need.  That decision should be done well in advance of any threatened high water situation.

If you have any more advice for surviving a flood, please share it in the comments.  And if you found this post informative, please share it on social media.

 

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