Flood waters can change a life just a quickly as they can change the banks of a river. The more you know about flooding and the better prepared you are, the safer you, your family, and your belongings will be. By being prepared you are also putting yourself in a place to be of assistance instead of in need of assistance.
A flood, as defined by Merriam Webster, is “a large amount of water covering an area of land that is usually dry.” They can happen very slowly over time or can happen in a flash. They can be caused by just about any storm. They can occur near rivers, in coastal areas, or even over blacktops where the rain can not run off quickly enough.
So what can we do to prepare?
Before the Flood
We live in an age where we are bombarded with information. You no longer have to wait for the 10 o’clock news or read the morning paper to see what the weather has in store. That information is now at our fingertips and is updated by the second!
I know not everyone has a smart phone but I would venture to say that the majority of people these days do. Get a good weather app! I personally use Weather Underground. A handy feature is that it will send you push notifications for any weather advisories that are active in your current location. This means it will notify you of weather advisories even while you are traveling.
Having said that, most cities and counties have Facebook pages set up for local information for your particular area. You can also check out your local emergency services pages to stay up to date on current situations.
Weather radios are a great tool to have on hand. Similar to the weather advisories sent out on your phone, your weather radio will alert you of emergencies happening in your county. I personally use the Midland WR 300 Weather Radio and love it! For more information on weather radios, check out my post, Why You Need a Weather Radio.
Of course there is always the good ol’ local news station. A simple dollar store AM/FM radio goes a long way in keeping you informed. And if TV is more your thing, invest in a good ol’ rabbit ear antenna. That’s right, we are going old school here. It is very common for your local cable provider to go down just when you need them most. Having an antenna will keep you on the air though. And not to mention, they can save you a ton in your monthly budget by helping you get rid of cable all together. But that is a topic for another blog post.
No matter which way you choose to get your information, the access to this information is important to have on hand not only during the storm but before hand as well. This information will help you make an educated decision as to weather you should take action and get out early or ride it out.
Flooding is only one reason you should have all of your important documents backed up. If your house were to flood and you were not able to move your important papers to higher ground, you will still need access to them in the aftermath. This includes everything from SSN cards, important numbers, account information, pictures, etc. For more information, read my post on Documentation Backup.
Move Yourself, and your belongings to higher ground
Whether you have decided to get out of dodge or stay and ride it out, it is best to get to higher ground. If you have a 2 story house, move everything you can to the second floor. You may not be able to move everything but you can at least move your valuables and items that cant be replaced such as photo albums, important documents, etc. If you only have a 1 story house, take out at least the bottom 3 drawers in your dressers and place them on a tall shelf or on top of your bed to save those clothes from getting ruined.
Have a Safe Place
Whether it is a friends house or a hotel, have a few pre-planned locations that you can go to in case of an emergency. Make sure you have their phone numbers written down in a notepad ahead of time. In a flood situation, you may not even be able to make it home due to road closures. This makes having multiple locations pre-selected an excellent idea.
In a recent flood event, we had a friend that was working in Austin when the flooding happened. The road to his house and family was completely shut down and un-passable. Thankfully he was able to make it out to our house for the night instead of having to pay for a night in a hotel.
During The Storm
Grab Your Go bag
Your go bag is a very important item to have. I have set mine up to keep me going for 3 days. Whether you have to leave your house quickly due to a disaster or that same disaster keeps you from ever getting back to your house, your go bag will help keep you comfortable during this trial and will lessen your burden on anyone you may be staying with.
The friend I mentioned above only had the clothes on his back. While he was no burden to us at all, and I sincerely mean that, I’m sure he would have been more comfortable if he has his own set of clothes to sleep in.
So you’ve decided to leave
If your are leaving because you believe your house is going to flood, turn off your power. This is very important. When water starts reaching the outlets it could very well cause a fire. Your already dealing with flooding, why add a fire to your troubles?! This means you will need to know how to shut off the power to your house beforehand.
Turn around don’t drown
If there is water on the road, turn around. I don’t care if your house is on the other side, it’s not worth the risk. At the very least, your car can stall. At the very most your car can be swept away with you inside. Our first responders put their lives on the line day in and day out and they are already helping others already in need. Don’t put them in harms way because you made a bad judgement call. It is also good to keep a seat belt cutting and window smashing tool mounted in your car somehow. While I have never used this product, the LifeHammer sees like a good option. If you know of another good product that has been tested, please let me know in the comments below.
On a side note, while you are driving, keep an eye out for downed electrical lines. I don’t think I need to elaborate as to the reasons why water and electric don’t mix.
After the flood
Hopefully you can get with an organization that can help you with your clean up but the first thing you need to do is get that house dried out to inhibit the growth of mold. Get that water out ASAP. Buckets, shop vacs, squeegees, use what you have. Take out your trim and cut out about 4 feet of drywall. Remove the insulation. Remove any flooring that you can. Scrape out any muck that you find on the floor between your studs. And get some high powered fans to start drying it out. Once your house is dry, you can start spraying it down with something to inhibit mold growth. Bleach works better than nothing but they also sell chemicals specific to jobs like this.
Boil any water you use from the tap unless or until told otherwise. Flood water is nasty stuff and can contaminate wells and municipal water sources. You do not want to be drinking it. A water filter will also come in handy for times like these as well. Don’t trust your built in refrigerator filter either. While it is still on my list of things to buy, I would go with a Berkey Light Water Filtration System. They are a little pricey but worth the investment. I would run my daily drinking water through them. There are some DIY videos out there that use their filters within two 5 gallon buckets but to me it is worth the one time investment for their system.
Exhaust from generators
If you are running a generator during a power outage, make sure you run them outside. Carbon monoxide poisoning is not something you want to mess with. They do have something called a suicide cord that allows you to power your whole house from your generator but they are called a suicide cord for a reason! It is much safer to run it as intended.
Connect with others
Get connected with others. Churches, friends, family, neighbors. This is not the time for the lone wolf mentality. This goes for both individuals who have had their homes affected as well as people that made it out without any damage.
After a flood, there is a ton of work that needs to be done. Houses need to be mucked out. Spoiled goods need to be removed. Drywall needs to be cut. Debris needs to be moved to the curb and sorted. And this is just what needs to be done to get ready for the rebuilding process.
Even the simple things like helping mow someones grass because their lawnmower was swept away by the flood will help tremendously. And yes, that is a true story.
There are the emotional needs that need to be looked after as well. While PTSD obviously happens in foreign lands it can also happen in our very own neighborhoods and cities. This is a time to let you light shine.
Take pictures of your property before a flood happens. Take pictures of EVERYTHING! The exterior of your house, the interior, major appliances, valuables, etc. call your insurance company and ask for best practices before disaster strikes.
Watch for looters/scammers
Unfortunately even after the major disaster is over, there are still dangers to watch out for. Looters and scammers.
- Even if you are staying elsewhere, have someone that can keep an eye on your property. This may mean a trusted neighbor or it may mean that you need to stay at your property yourself.
- It may be harder to spot a scammer. Trust your gut and try to give to known local churches and charities instead of individuals.
Get prepared now! One step at a time. Maybe this month you work on your documentation backup. Or maybe this paycheck you purchase a seat belt cutting tool. Whatever you do, make a plan and start executing it.The steps that you take to get prepared for a flood will also help you in other situations that may arise in life. Remember, if you are prepared in these major events you will not be a drain on resources and will be more likely able to be a resource and help someone else in need.
What have you learned from a recent flood event? Leave your comments below!