Flood Safety and Preparedness Guide

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Flood Safety and Preparedness Guide

Flooding may not be something you give a lot of thought to, but you should. It’s estimated that 90% of all natural disaster declarations involve flooding.

Just a few inches of floodwater in your home can be disastrous. During the span of a 30-year mortgage, you have a one in four chance of experiencing a flood in your home. You’re five times more likely to go through a flood than a fire.

So what can you do? How can you proactively prepare for the potential of a flood? This guide will highlight the key things you need to do to keep your home and family as safe as you can if you ever face the threat of a flood.


Know Your Risk

If you don’t already know, having an idea of your level of risk is a good starting point to prepare for a flood. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a tool that you can use to look up your address and figure out if you’re in a flood zone. You can visit the Flood Map Service Center to find out not just about flood zones but your overall risk level.

Flood zones are alphabetically labeled. The flood zones are:

  • Zone A: This is the most common flood zone. It means that you’re in a flood hazard zone that’s not considered coastal.
  • Zone B: If you find that you’re in this zone, you face a moderate risk of flooding.
  • Zone C: This indicates a minimal flood risk.
  • Zone D: There’s a possibility of flood risk, but the exact threat level isn’t determined if you’re in this zone.
  • Zone V: This is a designation of high-risk flood areas in coastal locations.

Just because you found out your flood zone when you originally bought your house doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check again. There are often changes in flood zone designations based on factors like floodplains and construction. Make it a point to check every few years.

When you’re aware of your risk, it helps you know how in-depth you should be with your planning and preparation and what flood insurance you should have.

Additional resources:

Have Flood Insurance

There are two main ways that you can get flood insurance. You can go through the National Flood Insurance Program. This is a collection of FEMA-approved providers that sell policies. You can also get private flood insurance if you want more comprehensive coverage.

When you’re choosing flood insurance, you need to be aware of what a potential policy covers and doesn’t.

For example, in general, flood insurance will cover damage to the structure of your home and belongings as well as the removal of debris. Flood insurance usually won’t cover damage to outdoor property, injuries that occur because of the flood, or belongings stored in your basement.

If you want coverage beyond what you buy through federally-approved providers, you can buy private flood insurance or excess insurance separately. In almost all cases, private flood insurance has more coverage than federally-approved policies.

Floodproofing Your Home

There are some things that are out of your control as far as flooding, but there are a few changes you can make to your home’s interior and exterior that might minimize the damage if there is flooding.

· Raise your home: If you’re in a coastal or very high-risk area, one of the best things you can do is raise your home. It’s expensive, but if you can put it on piers or stilts above flood level, you’re going to protect it.

· Install a sump pump or foundation vents: A sump pump can get water out of a basement that floods. You might want a sump pump with a backup battery so it will still work if your power is out. You can also consider using foundation vents, which let water flow around your house instead of pooling. It can alleviate pressure on your walls, and there’s an outlet for the floodwater.

· Elevate electrical outlets: Any circuit breakers, outlets, or sockets should be at least a foot above flood level, which will reduce electrical damage if there’s a flood.

· Put check valves on pipes: Make sure that any pipes that come into your home have valves that prevent sewage from backing up into your home.

· Use sealants: There are coatings and sealants you can put on your foundation, windows, doorways and walls that will help alleviate the leakage of floodwater through cracks.

· Make sure there’s space between your mulch and your house: if you have wet mulch, it can lead to rotting of your siding, which then creates an opportunity for leaks.

· Raise appliances: If you can raise large appliances including air conditioning units, water heaters, washing machines, and dryers above flood level, you’ll reduce damage in the event of a flood.

Resources to help you flood-proof your home include:

Make a Plan

You always want to have a plan in case there’s a disaster, even if the hope is that you’ll never have to use it. You want your entire family to be on the same page with your plan in case there’s a flood and know how you’ll communicate with one another if you’re separated. You should consider your pets in your plan as well.

When you’re creating a flood plan or any disaster plan, remember to think about:

· The different ages and needs of people in your home

· Dietary or medical needs

· Any disabilities or equipment that may be needed

· Pets and service animals

The following are good resources to utilize as you’re making a plan.

Along with a plan, it’s always a good idea to have an emergency kit on hand. This doesn’t have to be something just for floods. It can be a kit your family relies on in any disaster situation.

You’ll want to put everything in plastic bags that are airtight and then store those in a container you can carry easily.

A basic emergency supply kit should include water and food, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, and a first aid kit. You should also include a whistle, extra batteries, moist towelettes, a manual can opener and plastic sheeting and duct tape in case you need shelter.

Remember prescription and non-prescription medicines, infant care supplies, matches, and a warm blanket.

What to Do During a Flood

Being prepared is important, but the steps you take if you actually find yourself in a flood situation are even more critical.

If you’re facing a flood warning, remember the following:

  1. Find a safe place to shelter as soon as you can.
  2. Don’t try to drive, swim or walk through floodwaters. Turn around instead.
  3. Even six inches of moving water can knock you down.
  4. One foot of moving water can cause your vehicle to be swept away.
  5. Don’t go on bridges that are over fast-moving water.
  6. Evacuate immediately if you’re told to.
  7. Don’t drive around barricades.
  8. Keep up with your local weather alert system or NOAA Weather Radio.
  9.  If you’re trapped in a building, go to the highest level. Don’t go to the roof unless you have to.
  10. Don’t climb into a closed attic because you may get trapped.
  11.  If you’re stuck in your car in moving water, get on the roof if it’s rising inside. Otherwise, stay in your car.

More details on how to stay safe during a flood are included in the links below.

Staying Safe After a Flood

Finally, part of your overall flood preparedness plan should include what you’ll do after the immediate danger has passed. There are still big risks to be aware of.  

First, don’t drive in any area that looks flooded or where there’s standing water. Again, just six inches of water can cause you to lose control of your car.

Don’t drink flood water or use it for anything, and your local authorities will let you know if your water is safe to drink or bathe in.

Once you return home, be cautious because any standing floodwater can cause injuries or infectious diseases. You’ll have to do a thorough cleaning and throw away anything, including insulation and drywall if it was affected by sewage or flood water.

Never turn your power off or use any electric item or appliance while you’re standing in water. You should have an electrician go over your electrical system before you turn your power back on.

 No one wants to suffer a flood, but it’s an unfortunate reality more often than we might think. While there are some things you have no control over, you can control how you prepare for a flood, the actions you take during, and also what you do in the days afterward.