Flooding threatens regions in the United States from coast to coast – nearly every day. And when a disaster like this strikes, panic and confusion often follow close behind. The key is to be prepared; knowing what to do before a flood will increase your chance of survival.
In general, it is important to understand the difference between the warnings you see and hear. According to the National Weather Service, here are the warnings they issue and what they mean:
Flash Flood Warning: Take Action! A Flash Flood Warning is issued when a flash flood is imminent or occurring. If you are in a flood prone area move immediately to high ground. A flash flood is a sudden violent flood that can develop in just minutes or hours. It is even possible to experience a flash flood in areas not immediately receiving rain.
Flood Warning: Take Action! A Flood Warning is issued when the hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening. A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.
Flood Watch: Be Prepared: A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a specific hazardous weather event to occur. A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding. It does not mean flooding will occur, but it is possible.
Flood Advisory: Be Aware: An Flood Advisory is issued when a specific weather event that is forecast to occur may become a nuisance. A Flood Advisory is issued when flooding is not expected to be bad enough to issue a warning. However, it may cause significant inconvenience, and if caution is not exercised, it could lead to situations that may threaten life and/or property.
Here are some quick tips on what to do before a flood:
Create a Communications Plan – Communication with your family and friends is important. Have a specific contact person designated for status updates or a safe location to meet up with family members.
Assemble an Emergency Kit – It is good practice to have enough food, water and medicine on hand at all times to last you at least 3 days in the case of an emergency. You should also have batteries, blankets, flashlights, first aid kit, rubber boots, rubber gloves, and a NOAA Weather Radio or other battery operated radio easily available.
Know Your Risk – Know if you are near a floodplain or if water is likely to collect on the roadways near you. Also, make sure you know the fastest way to get to higher ground.
Sign Up for Notifications – The Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service provides RSS feeds for observed forecast and alert river conditions to help keep the public informed about local water conditions.
Prepare Your Home
If you have access to sandbags or other materials, use them to protect your home from flood waters if you have sufficient time to do so. Filling sandbags can take more time than you may think.
Have a professional install check-valves in plumbing to prevent flood waters from backing up into the drains of your home. Make sure your sump pump is working and consider having a backup. Make sure your electric circuit breakers, or fuses, are clearly marked for each area of your home.
Since standard homeowners insurance doesn't cover flooding, ensure coverage by contacting your insurance company or agent to purchase flood insurance. This must be done before there is even a threat of flooding as insurance companies stop issuing policies if there is a threat of flooding. (i.e. an approaching hurricane). Many flood insurance policies take at least 30 days to go into effect so even if you can buy it as a storm is approaching, it may not protect your investment.
Prepare your Family and Pets – You may be evacuated, so pack in advance. Don't wait until the last moment to gather the essentials for yourself, your family and/or your pets.
Charge Your Essential Electronics – Make sure your cell phone and portable radios are all charged in case you lose power or need to evacuate, and don’t forget to have back-up batteries on hand.
Leave – If it is likely your home will flood, don't wait to be ordered to leave; evacuate yourself! Make alternative plans for a place to stay. If you have pets, take them with you or make arrangements to board them at a facility well away from the flooding danger.
It is extremely important to understand what to do in an emergency situation. The key to an efficient emergency response is proper planning and preparation.
Stay safe out there!