What to Know About Flood Safety

Medically Reviewed by Sanjay Ponkshe on June 03, 2024
5 min read

Flooding causes more deaths than other thunderstorm-related hazards, such as lightning. Deaths commonly occur when a driver takes their vehicle into flood water. Luckily, you can take specific measures to keep your family and home safe during a flood. 

Flood preparedness involves knowing about the safety warnings in your region and following the instructions given by the local authorities. Firstly, you should find a safe shelter. Where you can go depends on the type of flood. 

If the local authorities have warned of a heavy flood, evacuate the area. You can also move to higher ground. Your local authorities will inform you if it's safer to stay where you are rather than go out in moving water. 

You should ensure your flood preparedness when you hear a regional flood warning. Make sure you have an emergency kit and a household evacuation plan. The program should also include your pets. 

Keep up with the local news and community updates to know the response plans your local authorities will follow. If you have children at home, tell them how they can get back in touch if they get separated from you in an emergency. Everyone else in the family should also know this. 

You can also take measures to protect your home from any severe damage. Put sandbags in your house, creating a 20 foot long and one-foot-high wall. Two people can put 100 sandbags in place in about an hour. 

When you hear the flood warning, make sure you have enough plastic, sand, or burlap bags to create this wall. Sometimes, local communities also give away free sandbags to homes affected by the flood. Keep an eye on the news to learn about these resources. 

If you're in a flood situation, start by gathering emergency supplies. First, you should collect water and non-perishable food items. It's recommended to store 1 gallon of water per person per day. You must have emergency supplies for at least three days. 

Keep listening to the local news channels and radio to learn about any updates or response warnings. 

Also, keep your vaccination records in waterproof packaging. If you don't have these records, you should at least know when was the last time you got a tetanus shot. 

If you have outdoor items, such as trash cans, grills, and furniture on the lawn, bring them inside. Alternatively, leave them outside but tie them tightly so that they do not get washed away. 

If you have to evacuate, turn off the power supply at the main switch and main power supplies close the gas valve. Once you're outdoors, you need to follow certain flood safety tips to protect yourself. 

  • Don't swim or walk through floodwater. Keep in mind that only two feet of water can float your car away and six-inch-deep, fast-flowing water is enough to knock someone over. 
  • Don't walk on riverbanks or beaches during a flood. 
  • Stay away from areas prone to flooding, like canyons, low spots, underpasses, and dips.

After a flood has passed, you need to care for your family and home. Connect with your family or friends as soon as possible. If you evacuated from your home, only come back once the authorities say it is safe to do so. Keep listening to the news for any instructions or updates. 

Personal Care

When you come back home, keep the pets and children away from electrical appliances and other hazardous areas. If floodwater is standing in some areas of your home, stay away from those spaces. Do not use this water to clean, cook, or prepare food.

Unless the authorities have permitted you to use the local water, use boiled or bottled water. If you had food at home that came in contact with floodwater, throw it away. If you're not sure about it, still throw away the food items. 

Floodwater often brings insects and snakes along with it. Beware of these creatures around or inside your home. Don't step on power lines if they're on the ground. File a report with your local power company immediately. 

If the electrical appliances or gas outlets come in contact with floodwater, don't use them unless they've been checked by professionals. Take pictures of your property. These will help you later during insurance claims. 

Home Cleaning

Be careful when cleaning your house after a flood. If your local authorities have issued instructions for cleaning, follow them closely. Wear rubber boots and gloves to clean your house. 

When cleaning around or under furniture, note that they'll be heavier than usual. Upholstery becomes waterlogged in a flood, making the furniture heavier to move. If you notice any items, like cushions or decorations, that have absorbed too much water and cannot be cleaned, throw them away. 

Do the same with stuffed toys, carpets, mattresses, and cosmetics. Besides food, if any medicines in your house come in contact with floodwater, throw them away. Do the same with plastic utensils, food containers, and canned goods.

If water has pooled in your basement, pump it out gradually. Pump only one-third of the floodwater in a day. If you pump too much water in a short period, it can cause structural damage to your basement. Call a professional if you're not confident in your DIY skills. 

Besides being familiar with flood safety tips, it's also important to know the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning. A flash flood warning means there will be a sudden violent flood in your area. The flood can develop in a few minutes to a few hours. 

If you get this warning, go to higher ground or evacuate immediately. 

A flood watch means there's a possibility of a flood as the conditions are pointing toward the likelihood of a weather hazard. A flood watch does not always mean there will be a flood. But it does mean that a flood could occur. 

If you get a flash flood warning from the local authorities, it's best to evacuate the area if authorized. Otherwise, go to the topmost floor of your house or any other high ground if staying inside the house is not safe. 

For a flood watch, start preparing as soon as you get the warning. Make sure you have enough food, resources, and other supplies for a few days.