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Flood Preparation

flood safety tips

Minot, North Dakota, USA. June 23, 2011.

Floods are among the most common and devastating types of natural disasters. They can happen in a wide variety of places and no two floods are exactly the same. Some happen gradually, during a long period of snow-melt or rain. Others, like flash floods, can occur extremely fast, seemingly without warning. Small creeks or dry streambeds can instantly overflow with water, acting as conduits for large floods. Although nearly everyone should prepare for floods, no matter where you live, it is especially important to be prepared if you live near water, dams, or in a low-lying areas.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for a flood:

  • Use check valves to keep floodwater from flowing backward into your home’s drains.
  • If you live in a high flood-risk area, elevate your furnace, electric panel, and water heater.
  • Consider getting flood insurance, since property insurance generally does not cover damage from floods.
  • Have water barriers prepared that you can deploy around your home to keep water from entering it.
  • Prepare a home emergency supply kit, including an emergency radio so you can get updates from authorities.
  • Use waterproofing compounds to seal your basement walls. Even if your house does not flood, the possibility exists that the ground around your house could become saturated, and this groundwater will likely attempt to enter your basement. Install a reliable battery backup sump pump or water powered sump pump to help keep your basement dry.

Be prepared to evacuate:

flood preparedness

Interstate 29, near Fargo, North Dakota, USA. April 10, 2011.

  • In the event of evacuation, how will you leave? Make sure your car is adequately fueled at all times. If you don’t have a car, think ahead - find another mode of transportation. Come up with backup means of transportation as well.
  • Consider where you would go – family or friends’ houses in different towns, hotels, or public shelters. Learn multiple ways of getting to these places.
  • Have your family agree on places to meet in the event of an emergency. Chose a place in your neighborhood and another outside of it.
  • Plan on how to take care of pets in an emergency situation – you can take them with you, but plan ahead, since they may not be allowed in emergency shelters.
  • When you leave, lock your house, and bring your emergency kit and NOAA weather radio. If you have time, contact a relative that lives in a different location and tell them where you’re going. Leave a note in your house, stating when you left and where you’re headed.
  • As you evacuate, watch out for floodwater. If possible, avoid the water, since it could contain contaminants or the risk of electric shock from downed power lines. In general, stay away from damaged power lines to avoid risk of electrocution. If you encounter moving water, avoid walking through it if you can – moving water can be much more powerful than it appears. Also, avoid driving into a flooded area, and if rising water surrounds your vehicle, get out of it and move to high ground, if possible, to avoid being trapped in your car. Be on the alert for flooding, especially if it has been raining steadily for hours or days. If you see a moving wave or “wall” of mud or debris, or if the water begins rising quickly, get to higher ground immediately.
  • Don’t return home until the authorities have declared that it is safe, even if the flooding has receded, since roads and buildings could be damaged and drinking water unsafe. As a general rule – remain extra cautious even after the flood water has dissipated.
  • Stay informed as much as you can, via TV, radio, internet, or NOAA weather radio. Keep in mind that authorities may not necessarily provide continuous updates, but it is still a good idea to check regularly for information and instructions.

Some terms that your local authorities may use:

flooding preparedness

Red River, near Fargo, North Dakota, USA. April 12, 2011.

  • The terms flood watch or flash flood watch signal the possibility of a flood or flash flood in your area. When you hear these, you should make sure you’re prepared to evacuate if need be. As long as sufficient time is available, you should:
  1. 1) Bring your lawn and deck furniture inside.
  2. 2) Move valuable items in your house to the upper levels.
  3. 3) Unplug your electric appliances and move them to higher areas of your house, if possible (However, do not touch them, if you’re wet or if there is standing water in your home).
  4. 4) Ensure that your car is fueled and ready in case you need to evacuate.
  • The term flood warning is used to communicate that a flood is likely to occur soon, or may be occurring already. You may be advised to evacuate - if so, do this immediately.
  • The term flash flood warning signals that a flash flood is occurring. Move to higher ground immediately – don’t wait to get additional instructions.
  • Helpful resources:

    Image sources: Sharida Jackson, Seth Johnson, and David Weydert of the US Coast Guard




    This article is intended for informational purposes only. Before beginning any construction project at your home or taking steps to prepare for an emergency, please ensure that you take necessary safety precautions; consult construction professionals, your local authorities, and disaster safety experts whenever necessary. Water Damage Defense accepts no responsibility for the actions you take during an emergency or as you prepare for one.