Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters except fire. Floods cause damage to roadways, bridges, flood control structures, buildings, utilities and communication systems. The effects of flooding also may cause the disruption of vital services such as water service, sewage, power and gas service.
Homeowner’s policies do not cover flood damage. National Flood Insurance Program.
Flash floods usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain within a brief period of time. Flash floods occur with little or no warning and can reach full peak in a matter of minutes.
Flash floods can be extremely dangerous. The force of six inches of swift-moving water can knock people off their feet. The best protection during a flood is to seek shelter on higher ground.
Flash flood waters move at very fast speeds and can roll boulders, tear out trees and destroy buildings. Walls of water can reach heights of 10 to 20 feet and can be accompanied by deadly debris. The best response to signs of flash flooding is to move immediately to higher ground.
Cars can easily be swept away in just two feet of moving water. If flood waters rise around a car, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.
- Know the safest evacuation route from your house or business to high, safe ground.
- Prepare and maintain a basic emergency supply kit.
- If you reside or work in areas that are frequently flooded, keep sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber to protect property.
- Install check valves in building sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up in sewer drains.
- Identify the location of gas valves, circuit breakers, fire extinguishers and water valves. Know how to operate them in the event of an emergency.
- Stay tuned to local radio stations, the NOAA Weather Radio, or TV stations and follow all emergency instructions.
- If time permits, there are a number of precautionary steps that can be taken:
- Turn off all utilities at the main switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary. Do not touch any electrical equipment unless it is in a dry area, or you are standing on a piece of dry wood wearing rubber soled shoes or boots and rubber gloves.
- Move valuable papers, furs, jewelry, clothing, and other contents to upper floors or higher elevations.
- Fill bathtubs, sinks, and jugs with clean water in case regular supplies are contaminated.
- Bring outdoor possessions inside or tie them down securely. This includes lawn furniture, garbage cans, tools, signs, and other moveable objects that might be swept away or hurled about in flood waters.
- Open basement windows to equalize water pressure on the foundations and walls.
- Fuel your automobile since gasoline pumps may not be working if the electricity is cut off.
- If it is safe to evacuate by car, leave early before access is cut off by flood waters and take your emergency kit with you.
- When outside, avoid flooded areas. Do not attempt to wade through floodwater that is moving rapidly or is more than knee deep.
- Do not drive where water covers the road. Parts of the road may already be washed out or the water may be deeper than it appears.
- If your car stalls in a flooded area, abandon it as soon as possible and move to higher ground. Floodwaters can rise quickly and sweep a car away.
Return home only when officials have declared the area safe. Before entering your home, look outside for loose power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks or other damage.
Taking care of your house
- If your home has suffered flood damage, immediately call your insurance agent or broker who services your flood insurance policy. The agent will submit a loss form to the National Flood Insurance Program. An adjuster will be assigned to inspect your property as soon as possible.
- Prior to entering a flood damaged building, check for visible structural damage. Make sure it is not in danger of collapse. If there is standing water next to an outside wall of the building, do not go inside.
- If outside gas lines were not turned off at the meter or tank, turn them off and let the house air for several minutes by opening doors to help remove foul odors or escaping gas. This will also help dry out the building.
- Upon entering any building that has been evacuated during a flood, do not use open flame as a source of light since gas may still be trapped inside; a battery operated flashlight is best.
- Look for electrical shorts or live wires before making certain the main power switch is turned off. Do not turn on any lights or appliances until an electrician has checked the system for short circuits.
- Proceed with immediate cleanup measures to prevent any health hazards. Perishable items which pose a health problem should be listed and photographed before discarding. Throw out fresh food and previously opened medicines that have come in contact with floodwater.
- Water for drinking and food preparation should be boiled vigorously for ten minutes (until the public water system has been declared safe).
- Take pictures of the damage done to your home and its contents.
- Refrigerators, sofas, and other hard goods should be hosed off and kept for the insurance adjuster’s inspection. A good deodorizer when cleaning major kitchen appliances is to add one teaspoon of baking soda to a quart of water. Any partially damaged items should be dried and aired; the adjuster will make recommendations as to their repair or disposal.
- Take all wooden furniture outdoors, but keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent warping A garage or carport is a good place for drying. Remove drawers and other moving parts as soon as possible, but do not pry open swollen drawers or doors from the front. Instead, remove the backing and push the drawers out.
- Shoven out mud while it is still moist to give walls and floors a chance to dry.
- Special attention should be paid to cleaning out heating and plumbing systems.
- Mildew can be removed from dry wood with a solution of 4 to 6 teaspoons of trisodium phosphate, one cup liquid chlorine bleach and 1 gallon of water.
- Clean metal at once then wipe with an oil-soaked cloth. A light coat of oil will prevent iron from rusting. Scour all utensils, and if necessary, use fine steel wool on unpolished surfaces. Aluminum may be brightened by scrubbing with a solution of vinegar, cream of tartar and hot water.
- Quickly separate all laundry items to avoid running colors. Clothing or household fabrics should be allowed to dry (slowly, away from direct heat) before brushing off loose dirt. If you cannot get to a professional cleaner, rinse the items in lukewarm water to remove lodged soil. Then wash in lukewarm water with mild detergent, rinse and dry in sunlight.
- Flooded basements should be drained and cleaned as soon as possible. Use caution as structural damage may occur by pumping out water too quickly.
Taking care of yourself
- Do not visit disaster areas. Your intentions may be good, but you may hamper rescue or other emergency operations.
- Drink plenty of clean water. Eat well. Be aware of exhaustion. Don’t try to do too much at once. Set priorities and pace yourself.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water often when working in debris.
Source: American Red Cross