How to Be Prepared for a Flood

A flood can strike your home or neighborhood at any time and with little or no warning. A major flood may force you to evacuate your home. People cope with the threat of flood by preparing in advance. Knowing what to do in case of a flood will help you keep your family safe. The tips and suggestions in this article will help you prepare.

Gather information

It's important to be prepared for a flood wherever you live - floods happen in every state and territory. If you live in a low-lying area, near water, or downstream from a dam, you will want to pay particular attention to planning for a flood emergency.

  • Find out if you live in a flood-prone area. Contact your local emergency management or the National Flood Insurance Program for interactive maps and local information.
  • Learn about your community's warning signals. If you live in a flood-prone area, there may be a warning signal. Some communities have sirens, while others alert residents through phone calls and text messages. You may want to sign up for weather alerts at the National Weather Service or at one of several commercial weather websites.
  • If you live on a military installation, check with the housing office or the installation's Emergency Preparedness Officer for information on an emergency warning system and evacuation procedures.
  • Learn about potential road closures. Many flood-prone communities list roads that might close when flood waters reach a certain level. Be familiar with those potential road closures as you plan your evacuation route.
  • Find out about emergency shelters in your area. Where are the shelters? What is available for children, pets, older people, or people with disabilities in an emergency?
  • Familiarize yourself with the terms used to identify a flood hazard:
    • Flood Watch. Flooding is possible. Turn on the television or radio for information.
    • Flash Flood Watch. Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to evacuate to higher ground. Stay tuned to the television or radio for more information.
    • Flood Warning. Flooding is occurring or will occur soon. You may be advised to evacuate.
    • Flash Flood Warning. A flash flood is occurring. Seek higher ground immediately.
  • Find out about disaster plans at your workplace, your child's school or child care center, the senior center, and other places where you and family members spend time. Make sure all of your family members are aware of these plans.
  • If you have relatives who do not live with you, encourage them to find out about emergency plans in their neighborhood. Older adults may consider purchasing a personal emergency-response system.
  • Check your insurance. In most instances, homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Consider buying a separate flood policy.

Creating a disaster supplies kit

Assemble a disaster supplies kit and store these supplies in sturdy containers. Your kit should contain the following:

  • a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person, per day) and nonperishable food - include a manual can opener, and pet food and supplies if you have a pet
  • three changes of clothing and footwear per person and sleeping bags or blankets
  • first-aid kit that includes prescription medications or copies of prescriptions and each person's immunization records
  • emergency tools, including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, plenty of extra batteries, and a utility knife
  • extra set of car keys and a credit card, debit card, and cash
  • personal supplies (toilet paper, soap, toothbrush, medicine)
  • any special items or equipment for an infant, older, or disabled family members
  • cell phone with a solar charger or inverter
  • local maps
  • copies of important documents, such as insurance policies, identification, wills, deeds, and bank records in a portable, waterproof container

Creating an emergency plan

Meet with your family and explain the dangers of flooding and other emergencies. When talking to a child, use language he or she can easily understand. Explain that having a plan makes it easier for the family to stay together in an emergency.

  • Pick places to meet both inside and outside your neighborhood.
  • Ask an out-of-state friend or relative to be a contact. After a local disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Everyone should know the contact's phone number.
  • Discuss what to do in an evacuation. Plan how to take care of pets and each other. Have a plan for getting your children from school. Discuss with them where you will meet each other in various situations.
  • Know how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at the main switches. Keep necessary tools near gas and water shut-off valves. (Remember that once the gas is off, you must wait for a professional to turn it back on.)
  • Take a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class from your local Citizen Corps chapter.

Preparing your home for a flood

You may not be able to prevent a flood, but you can minimize the damage to your home by doing the following:

  • Elevate your furnace, water heater, and electric box.
  • Install "check valves" to prevent water from backing up in the drains of your home.
  • If possible, construct barriers to stop floodwater from entering your home. Seal walls in your basement with a waterproofing compound.
  • Make sure gas, electrical, and plumbing fixtures and connections are in good repair. If they are not, have a professional repair them.

Evacuating your home

In a flood emergency, you may be advised to evacuate your home. Be prepared to do the following:

  • Listen to a radio. Follow the instructions of local emergency officials. Evacuate immediately if told to do so.
  • Take your disaster supplies kit.
  • Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
  • Turn off the gas and electricity before you leave.
  • Let someone know where you are going. If you have time, post a note telling others when you left and where you are going.
  • Lock your home.
  • Stay away from electrical wires.
  • Do not drive in flooded areas or around barriers.
  • Use travel routes specified by local authorities. Don't use shortcuts as certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
  • Remain calm and follow your emergency plan.


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