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After Flooding Before, During, And After A Flood Cleaning After the Flood
Don't Become A Drowning Statistic Emergency Procedures for Dam Failure Flood Risk Assessment and Management
Flood Warnings! How to Survive a Flood in Your Vehicle How to Survive a Flood in Your Home
Prepare for a Storm Surge What To Do Before, During and After A Dam Failure or Attack

Making It Through a Flood

A flood is defined as an overflow of water that submerges dry land. If the water reaches land that is populated by people, such as a village, it is considered to be a natural disaster.
Floods usually occur near large bodies of water, such as a lake or river. When a storm causes the water levels to rise, the water may over flow the boundaries of the river and lake and spread to areas of land that are otherwise dry. Levees or dams may be built on rivers or lakes in order to prevent floods from happening, but occasionally, the levee or dam may break or fail, allowing water to freely flow to danger areas, causing a flood disaster.
Natural Disaster Floods and Their Effects:
Natural disaster floods can cause a great deal of destruction and property damage. Cars, bridges, sewer systems, buildings, homes, and roadways may be damaged seriously by floods. They also can be quite dangerous to human and animal life. Floods can cause human and livestock casualties by drowning and later by waterborne diseases that are carried by floods.
Further effects from a flood can be contaminated water supplies. After a flood, a scarce supply of water may become a problem because water usually used for drinking becomes contaminated. Furthermore, crops and other food supplies may be completely destroyed following a flood and countries that have scarce resources may enter into a famine if food supplies are widely effected. Trees in the surrounding area of a flood may also die from suffocation.

Preparing For a Flood:

  • Learn about your community's emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and locations of emergency shelters.
  • Keep materials on hand like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, a supply of plastic garbage bags, and lumber.
  • Keep your automobile fueled.
  • Keep a stock of food which requires little cooking and no refrigeration.
  • Keep a portable radio, emergency cooking equipment, lights and flashlights in working order.
  • Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.
  • Fill bathtubs, sinks and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach. Rinse and fill with clean water.
Flood Disaster Types:
There are several types of floods that may result in a natural disaster. Floods can occur near lakes, rivers, or swampy land, creating different types of floods with different characteristics.
This type of flood occurs near rivers. A slow riverine flood disaster may be caused by rainfall runoff or the quick melting o
f snow. This type of flood disaster is usually caused by monsoons or other types of tropical storms. Fast riverine floods are usually referred to as “flash floods”, caused by convective precipitation such as thunderstorms.
This type of flood disaster happens near the sea when sea tides rapidly rise due to storm winds. Tropical storms, such as cyclones cause estuarine floods.
A coastal flood is usually caused by severe storms at sea, such as a hurricane, but it can also be the result of a tsunami.
A wide-scale flood disaster caused by a freak event, such as a levee breakage or dam failure. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions may also cause a catastrophic flood to occur.
An accumulation of water runoff, usually occurring on cropland. The sediments collected from flowing water cause muddy water to rise.
A flood may happen if water is gathered by rainfall in an area where water cannot evaporate or dissipate fast enough.
More information on floods can be found with
After Flooding Before, During, And After A Flood Cleaning After the Flood
After Flooding
Once the flood waters are gone, life after flooding can resume carefully. You need to return home and start again:Don’t return home until authorities have confirmed that it is safe to do so.
  • If the electrical power wasn’t cut before the flood, do not enter your home until a qualified electrician has confirmed that there is no danger.
  • Be cautious when returning home after a flood.
  • Appliances that got wet during the flood pose the risk of electric shock or fire.  Don’t use any electrical appliance, heating system, or sewer system until a qualified electrician has confirmed that there is no danger.
  • Your electrical fuse box must be cleaned, dried, and tested by a qualified electrician before use.
  • Depending on where you live, those in charge of municipal or provincial inspections are required to obtain permission and authorization from your electrical company before restoring power to your home.
Structural Integrity
  • Make sure your building is structurally safe before entering.
  • Pay attention to any weakening or collapsing in the walls or floors.
  • Pay attention to holes in the floor, broken glass, and other dangerous debris.
  • It’s possible that your water source may have been contaminated during the flood by sewage or other toxic substances and can carry harmful diseases.
  • If the color, odor, or taste of the running water makes you question that its been contaminated, avoid drinking it.
  • Household items damaged during the flood should be disposed of according to the regulations of your local municipality.
  • Store all damaged, valuable documents in the freezer.  When you have time, contact your attorney to determine which affected documents must be kept and which can be replaced.  In some cases, he may advise that you keep only the information on the document and not the document itself.
  • If possible, document the flood damage using a camera or video recorder.
  • The damage sustained must be quickly communicated to your insurance agency and local municipality.

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Before, During, And After A Flood

before during and after a flood

Floods can be devastating as regards human safety and life and property damage. Certain areas are much more likely to be impacted by floods, such as coastal areas, flood plains next to rivers, and regions subject to snow melt and heavy rainfall in the spring. Even deserts can experience flash floods from storms that occurred miles away. Of course, not building or buying a house in any of these areas would be the easiest solution, but this is often not feasible for a number of reasons.

Preparations Before A Flood

If you do have a home where flooding might be a problem, there are steps to take that can help to make your home safer when the waters rise. Raise your furnace and water heater on platforms to keep them above water. Your electric fuse box or circuit panel should be well above anywhere water could theoretically reach. The walls of your basement can be sealed with a water-proofing compound to help keep water from entering, and ‘check valves’ can be used in your sewer pipe to keep waste materials from backing up into your basement. Having a sump pump on hand is also a good idea. Make sure your emergency supplies are above the expected water level.

What To Do During A Flood

The most important thing to do during a flood is to keep tuned to your radio to keep abreast of the situation. Move your valuables and emergency supplies to an upper story of the house, and if you do not have an emergency water supply already, fill the bathtub and any other containers with water. An order for evacuation may be given, so be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

If you are caught outside by floodwater, try to get to higher ground right away. Driving through floodwater is hazardous, and if you see rising water on the road ahead, turn around immediately. Should your car stall out from the flood, leave it and get to higher ground – climb a tree if necessary.

Do not step in the floodwaters, they could contain electric wires or sharp objects, and do not let your pets go into the water, either.

After The Flood

Once the waters recede, you will have to undertake a cleanup in your house and yard. Flood waters and the mud they usually leave behind can be contaminated with dangerous bacteria, molds, or viruses and you should always wear protective gear while cleaning up. You should wear a long sleeved shirt, long pants, rubber boots, rubber gloves, safety glasses, and a face mask. Anything in your house that cannot be easily cleaned or washed should be thrown out. This will include any upholstered furniture, pillows, rugs, and mattresses. Clothing and bedding will need to be washed in hot, sudsy water, and the clothes you wear while cleaning should not be washed with uncontaminated clothing.

All food that is not in sealed containers must be discarded. Cans that have been exposed to floodwaters must have their labels removed and then be thoroughly washed with hot water and dishwashing liquid.

Keep children and pets away from the area until the cleanup is complete. Make sure you have a first aid kit for your children as well as one specifically designed for pets in case something does happen however. The faster you are able to clean your home, the less likely it will be that mold and mildew will be able to get established, creating more health problems.

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Cleaning after the Flood
  • Follow sanitary procedures when cleaning up affected areas. Avoid as much contact with floodwaters as you can, as well as objects that have been in contact with the water. While cleaning up, keep children away from contaminated areas.

Recommended Items During Cleanup After a Flood

  • Mask and other protective equipment
  • Buckets, mops, and squeegees
  • Plastic garbage bags
  • Unscented detergent
  • Large containers for wet bedding and clothing as well as clotheslines to dry them.
Supplementary Information
  • Depending on the situation, you may need to rent extension cords, submersible pumps, a shop (heavy-duty) vacuum, dehumidifiers, carbon monoxide detectors, portable fans, or heaters.
  • When using this equipment, be sure that none of the extension cords come into contact with water.
  • Slowly clear the floodwaters from your home. Drain them gradually (around one third of the volume per day) because if the ground is still saturated, removing the water too quickly may cause the walls or floors to bulge.
  • Use pumps or heaters to remove more water and a shop (heavy-duty) vacuum to remove the rest.
  • For information on restoring wells or reservoirs, contact your local health and sanitation department.
  • Debris and other municipal waste must be removed from your yard as bacteria and mold can grow on this type of waste.

Heaters and Appliances

  • Until all the water has been removed, the interior temperature of your home should not be higher than about 40°F.

  • If you use pumps or gas, propane, or kerosene heating buy and install a carbon monoxide detector. Gas equipment can produce significant amounts of carbon monoxide, an odorless and colorless lethal gas, if there is insufficient or obstructed ventilation.

  • Don’t use any appliances, electrical outlets, switchboxes, or electrical panels that were submerged in the flood until they have been deemed safe by authorities.

  • Whether your heating system runs off wood, gas, or electricity, an inspector should verify it before you start using it again. If your heating unit was submerged, replace the fan motors, fuses, and control panel before using it again.

  • Air ducts should be cleaned or replaced.

  • The filters and insulation of your furnace, refrigerator, and freezer should be replaced if they were wet during the flood. Often times, it’s more cost-effective to replace the entire appliance.

Dirt and Debris
  • Discard all soaked or dirty material and other debris.
  • Open up the walls and remove the drywall, paneling, and insulation until at least 20 inches up from the highest watermark.
  • Use running water to clean the walls and larger wooden furniture. Rinse several times.
  • Clean all surfaces and furniture with water and an unscented detergent. Make sure to rinse everything.
Floor Drains
  • Rinse and disinfect floor drains and sump pumps with water and detergent. Use a stiff-bristled brush to remove dirt and grease stains.
  • Clean or replace exterior drains if they are blocked. Consult a professional’s advice if you’re not sure about doing this task yourself.
  • Ventilate and dehumidify your home until it is completely dry.
  • Rinse and clean all floors as quickly as possible.
  • Replace flooring that has been deeply penetrated by floodwater or sewage.
  • Clean the interior walls and floors with a mixture of water and unscented detergent.
Carpets and Furniture damage
  • Carpets must be dried within the first two days after a flood. For larger surfaces, hire a qualified professional. Immediately discard any carpet that has been soaked in sewage.
  • Remove remaining dirt or mud and displace your furniture and larger appliances.
  • If these items are simply damp, let the mud dry and use a stiff bristle brush to remove it.
  • In order to check if an item is dry, place a piece of transparent plastic wrap on the surface. If the item is still damp, the part under the plastic wrap will appear darker than the rest of the item. Continue to dry the item until this no longer occurs.
  • For upholstered furniture, you should consult a professional to help you determine which pieces can be salvaged. Meanwhile, remove the cushions and allow them to dry separately but don’t remove any upholstery.
  • Wooden furniture: remove drawers and open doors. Don’t dry it too quickly as you risk cracking the wood.
Mold created by flood waters
  • Mold can cause serious health problems.
  • In order for your house to be covered by insurance, you may need to have it professionally cleaned. Communicate with your particular insurance company for exact information.
  • If mold is present, wear a mask and disposable gloves.
  • In order to limit the growth of mold, place all items in a dry and well-ventilated area within 48 hours of the flood. Install fans if necessary.
  • However, clothes, furs, papers, and books can be placed in your freezer and dealt with when you have more time.
  • Damp mold will smear and spread if cleaned. Wait until it dries, bring the item outside, and clean with a stiff bristle brush.
  • To help kill mold spores, spray a small amount of isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) on affected items.
Food and Medication
  • Canned foods that were not damaged in the flood must be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Discard all medications, cosmetics, and other toiletries that were exposed to the floodwaters.
  • Throw away the following items if they’ve been exposed to floodwaters:

o The contents of your fridge and freezer, especially meat and fresh fruits and vegetables.

o Boxed items

o Bottled drinks and homemade preserves – the surfaces under the seals of the jars and bottles cannot be sufficiently disinfected.

o Canned goods that have been damaged (dented) or leaked.

What To Discard after a flood

All insulation material, particleboard furniture, mattresses, box springs, stuffed toys, pillows, bedding, upholstery, and cushions that have been exposed to floodwaters.

What To Save after a flood
  • High quality furniture can be preserved. It needs to be cleaned, disinfected, rinsed, and dried with the help of fans. But, avoid placing it in direct sunlight or using heat as this may crack the wood.
  • Clothing can be salvaged. Try to scratch off noticeable patches of dirt and then machine wash several times. Dry quickly.

Before Returning Home after flooding

After a flood, you cannot return home if:
  • The regular water supply has not been inspected and declared fit for use.
  • Each piece of contaminated furniture has not been completely cleaned, disinfected, and dried.
  • All kitchen utensils and cookware have not been completely cleaned and disinfected with a solution of one part bleach to two parts boiling water.
You do not have access to proper sanitation. For further information, consult your local sanitation authorities.
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Don't Become A Drowning Statistic Emergency Procedures for Dam Failure Flood Risk Assessment and Management

Don’t Become A Drowning Statistic

Where Drowning Can Occur


Drowning can happen literally anywhere there is water. Most people associate drowning with being swept down a river or succumbing to the ocean, but your home and backyard can be just as dangerous as the worst riptide. People, especially small children, can drown in a surprisingly small amount of water, even a toilet or bucket, but they are more likely to do so in a bathtub, wading pool, or swimming pool.

Although it is generally assumed that children under ten, especially toddlers, are the most likely to drown, it is actually people between the ages of eleven and twenty-five who are usually victims.

Besides home or yard, drowning occurs frequently at be aches, and is also associated with rivers, lakes, and boating.

Keep Everyone Safe At Home

If you have small children, never leave water in a bathtub or other container. A toddler can get into trouble while the parents are distracted talking on the phone or working around the house. The swimming pool should be fenced securely, with the gate locked when no one is using it. A cover should also be put over the pool between uses. Child emergency kits are important to have because unfortunately, no one is guaranteed to be safe during an unexpected emergency.

Boat Safety

Emergency Kit on Wheels

Despite many safety campaigns, people still insist on going boating without wearing life preservers. If an accident happens when you are in a boat of any kind, the device will keep you afloat even if you have been knocked unconscious. The strongest swimmer will be helpless if they are unconscious.

Besides wearing a floatation device, you should never drink while operating a boat. Alcohol will produce the same effects that will be experienced while you are driving, and many boating accidents are caused because the ‘captain’ is drunk.

The Guardian Fanny pack kit is great to have on a boat. It is very light weight and easy to carry while still having the first aid supplies you will need in case something unexpected happens while your far from shore.

Minimize Your Risk

Swimming, boating, and water skiing are fun, so it is not surprising that many people will be attracted to the water during the summer months especially. Although it might seem obvious, make sure everyone who is going in the water or on a boat knows how to swim. A number of people drown simply because they were engaging in a water activity without knowing how to swim.

Emergency Survival Supplies

You should never swim alone. If you get a cramp or are injured, a friend can help to make sure that you will reach the shore. And, even if swimming with a buddy, do not stretch your physical limits. If you tire while far from shore, it can be difficult for you to get to safety again. The farther you go from shore, too, the more likely you are to run afoul of dangerous currents that can sweep you farther out to sea.

Cold water can cause hypothermia, so make sure the water has warmed enough to make swimming safe. Generally, a water temperature of 80 degrees F is required for comfortable and safe swimming.

If you are going boating, let others know how long you plan on being out and when and where you will return. This will allow rescue efforts to be started right away in case of an accident or other trouble.

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Emergency Procedures for Dam Failures
A dam failure or levee breach is very serious and can occur without warning.The large quantity of water released when one of these two events occur can cause flash flooding.The flash flooding can happen very quickly and be very dangerous to the surrounding area and can result in loss of life or severe property damage.

The High Risk Areas
  • Buildings downstream from a damDam Failure

Note:If you live in a high hazard area then it means a damn failure or levee breach would most likely result in the loss of life and significant damage to property.Significant hazard areas are areas in which a damn failure may cause property damage or loss of life.A low hazard area is an area where dam failure is would probably not cause loss of life or property damage.

The Causes
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Area landslides
  • Debris(builds up and causes jams)
  • Snow that melts and accumulates (causing extra pressure)
  • Fires
  • Acts of Terrorism
  • Intentional Damage
  • Severe weather (earthquakes, thunderstorms, hurricanes)
Ways to Prepare
  • Prepare and emergency kit.
  • Create a Disaster Preparedness plan for you and your family.Make sure that your family knows where the disaster plan and the emergency kit(s) are located.
  • When a Dam Fails – What do you do?
  • Make sure to pay attention to your local news for updates on the situation.
  • Follow instructions from local law enforcement, emergency, or government personnel.
  • Be prepared to evacuate and if you do evacuate, follow these procedures:
  1. Abide by the evacuation procedures.
  2. Be careful of standing water.Just 6 inches of water can stall a vehicle or cause you to lose control so do not drive through standing water.
  3. Stay clear of moving water because you could get caught in a dangerous situation.
  4. If you have time, turn off gas, water, and electricity, and unplug appliances.
  5. Keep your gas tank at least ½ full at all times.
After the Disaster
  • Do not go into areas that have been evacuated until told to do so.
  • Stay clear of standing water due to possible contamination or dangers.The water may also be much deeper than expected and can be dangerous.
  • Stay clear of buildings that may be unstable, as well as downed power lines.Water and electricity do not mix!

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Flood Risk Assessment and Management

Floods are the most frequently occurring natural disasters.They can happen year round and are most often caused by torrential rains, heavy snowcaps melting too quickly, obstructions of water drainage systems, and rarely, failure of a natural or man-made dam.

Quick Facts about Floods

  • A torrential rain can provoke floods, particularly when the ground is already frozen or saturated from previous storms.

  • A flash flood, which leaves very little warning time for people, can be caused by hurricanes, violent storms, or ruptured dams.

  • Too many home owners are caught without proper house flood insurance when disaster strikes.

  • All rivers flood at one point in time.Inhabited lowland areas can sustain significant damage if a flood occurs.

Preparing For A Flood

To Reduce the Likelihood of Damage

  • Reinforce the caulking around basement windows and ground-floor doors.
  • Ensure that drains direct water far away from your house’s foundation and drain in the opposite direction.
  • You can also equip your home with a sump pump and one-way drainage valves.
  • Don’t store important documents in your basement.Instead, keep them safe on higher-level floors that will be less susceptible to flooding.
  • If you are a farm owner, remember that livestock have the natural instinct to move away from floodwaters.Generally, they’ll attempt to take refuge on higher ground if possible so it is important for you to provide your livestock with access to elevated ground.If you fail to do so, your livestock are more likely to break through enclosures and drown in the floodwaters.Their initial reaction will be to panic and this makes them harder to manage.
If You Are in A “Flood Warning” Area
  • Shut down the heating system in your basement as well as the gas valve outside your house.
  • Take further precautions to protect heating systems that are electrical, propane, or natural gas.
  • If you have enough time, contact your electrical company to obtain specific directions on your particular system.
  • Don’t attempt to cut the electrical power unless the area around the fuse box is completely dry.When cutting the power, stand away from the box and turn your face away.Bring a rubber flashlight with you.
  • In case of flooding on a farm, barricading the livestock in a barn should be avoided.It’s preferable not to confine the animals as the floodwaters could drown them if they are trapped.
  • If you plan on evacuating your livestock, plan out your evacuation route and location in advice.Routes used to evacuate animals should not obstruct routes used to evacuate people.You should also have a backup route in case your planned route is inaccessible.You need to plan where you’ll bring your livestock and discuss with the owners to make sure they accept animals.

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Flood Warnings! How to Survive a Flood in Your Vehicle How to Survive a Flood in Your Home
Flood Warnings!
If you know a water flood in imminent and under a flood warning, water is coming upon you, you can prepare quickly with the following:
  • Cut the electrical power to your house.
  • If the ground around the fuse box is wet, stand on a dry piece of wood and flip the switches using a dry wooden object.
  • Remove furniture, electrical equipment, and other items from ground level.
  • If you have pesticides, insecticides, or other poisonous substances, place them in a safe place in order to polluting the surrounding area.
  • Remove toilet bowls and plug the drains and the sewer drain in your basement with wood plugs.
  • If your gutters are connected to the house’s sewage system, disconnect them.
  • Sandbags or polyethylene barriers are a great way to prevent floodwaters from entering your home. However, before doing so, make sure to obtain all relevant safety information from local agencies.
  • Don’t attempt to cut electrical power if there is water present. If the electrical wires come into contact with water, the consequences can be lethal. Leave your house IMMEDIATELY and do NOT return until local authorities confirm that it is safe to do so.

During a Flood

  • Listen to the radio to figure out which areas have been affected, which routes are safe for you to use in case local authorities request that you evacuate your home.

  • Keep your emergency kit on hand in a duffel bag, backpack, or rolling suitcase.

If You Need To Evacuate
  • Leave your home as SOON as local authorities alert you to do so. Ignoring this advice can put you and your family in danger, as well as putting your potential rescuers in danger.
  • Bring your emergency kit.
  • Follow the routes that local authorities tell you to. Don’t take any shortcuts because you may find yourself in an obstructed or dangerous area.
  • Take necessary items for your pets.
  • If you have the time, leave a note stating the time you left and where you went. Place it in your mailbox if you have one.

Never Cross A Flood Zone

  • If you are travelling by foot, never cross a flood zone as the current may sweep you away.

  • If you are in a car, don’t drive through floodwaters or underpasses. The water can be deeper than it appears and you can be trapped in your car or swept away by the current.

  • Avoid crossing any bridges where the water is high and the current strong.

  • If you are trapped in an area where the water is rising quickly and your car stalls, ABANDON IT. Save yourself and your passengers.

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Helping With Drowning Or Near Drowning Victims

Don't Become A Drowning Statistic

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How to Survive a Flood While in Your Vehicle

Every year thousands of motorists encounter high water on the roadways. In most cases this accounts for a mere inconvenience as drivers must turn around and seek another safer route. However, for drivers who suddenly or mistakenly enter flooded areas, dangerous hazards lurk. Even a foot of water is enough to stall a car and strand its occupants.  A mere two feet of watery current is enough to sweep a vehicle (including larger, sturdier SUV’s and pickup trucks) away.

Dangerous conditions can happen rapidly, even in places floods aren’t expected. Take the recent Atmore, Alabama flash flood for instance.  On December 14th, 2009 heavy rains prompted Atmore’s Bushy Creek to overflow. One local noted the area hadn’t experienced a flood in her 30 years of residing there. In less than an hour, Bushy Creek swelled from its normal 7-8 feet width to the size of a football field, as flood waters surged even above the bridges on Deere Creek Road.

As Karrie Rolin motored between two Atmore bridges, the current swept her and her vehicle away. According to Ms. Rolin, only five minutes before the same road was passable. Due to the quick actions of more than 20 emergency workers and residents, including Mike Allen, who used his personal jet-ski, Karrie Rolin was rescued. Not before, however, her vehicle filled with icy water and totally submerged.

Karrie Rolin is lucky to be alive. However, many others in similar conditions don’t fare as well. Tragically, over 75 percent of all flood deaths are vehicle related.

Like most dangerous situations, avoiding the hazard is the best safety measure you can do.
  1. Be aware of stormy conditions. Heavy rainstorms, even far upstream, could cause flash floods.
  2. Listen to local forecasts. This is especially important if visiting an area or traveling new roadways. Even small dips in roads can hold enough water to be dangerous.
  3. During periods of heavy rainfall, keep clear of canyons, downstream of dams, and in low lying areas where water funnels near or below roadways.
  4. Barricades warning of high water should be respected. Never drive around them.
  5. Do not camp near areas of possible flooding.
  6. Driving at night during flood-like conditions can be hazardous. Use caution or stay home.
  7. Never drive through a flooded road. It’s very hard to judge the depth of water covered surfaces.
  8. Remember the following:
  • 6 inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars.
  • 12 inches will usually stall a vehicle.
  • 2 feet of water will generally cause vehicles to float.
  • 2 feet of rushing water will sweep vehicles away.

If you do encounter flooded areas while in your vehicle:

  •  Attempt to back up and out of the flood.
  • Abandon vehicle if it stalls and move to higher ground.
  • If your car is suddenly swept away and sinking, the doors will not open until it’s filled with water.  Don’t panic. Undo or cut your seat belt free before this happens. Hold your breath and open door once pressure equalizes. If you can, while vehicle is flooding, find a heavy object to break a window in case door sticks. Move fast! Most vehicles fill with water quickly. Swim to surface.
  • If you are outside your vehicle and dragged into the current, point your toes downstream. This will keep your head from striking an object. Try to grab on to a stationary object, such as a tree or a large rock. Hold on until rescued or climb ashore and out of danger if possible.  Don’t re-enter flooded waters

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Your Vehicle Needs An Emergency Kit Too

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How to Survive and Prepare for a Flash Flood

Two years ago, this author experienced a flash flood. It really was a “flash” or sudden event. In just a little under forty minutes the small stream behind our home turned into a violent river that tumbled over its banks, destroying five homes and damaging over 50 properties.

Due to quick thinking on the part of our neighborhood, my home was spared. Well placed sandbags diverted the torrent from entering, even though the property sat on the banks of the stream, in close proximity to danger. Water surrounded and sloshed against the exterior for two days, but not a drop permeated.

My car, however, was picked up by the raging waters and tossed into a home. Both were hopelessly damaged. We were stranded 72 hours, as the flood waters receded from washed away roads. I opted not to be rescued when a local official aboard a canoe paddled into my yard to check on our welfare. Emergency workers were inundated with saving others in far more dire situations and we weren’t ordered to leave.

Our family had food, stored drinking water and emergency supplies to last for several days. Though we had no power, a contaminated well, no working sewage system and our temperature inside dropped below 50 degrees, we fared far better than many others.

The next day we learned about two teens from a nearby county that tragically got swept over a low lying bridge and died in the same flood-like conditions. A neighbor directly beside me had to be evacuated by boat when she ran out of insulin and was critically ill. Many of our friends were evacuated since they had no emergency stores to last through the flooding.

All told, our county and surrounding region suffered immense property losses and 4 flood related deaths. We didn’t make national news, like Katrina flooded areas did. Thankfully, our damage wasn’t nearly as widespread or lethal. But nonetheless, lives were altered- some forever, by the impact of our local flood.

I learned much that week about a force of nature I’d previously taken for granted. While small lakes abound in our region, the streams and tributaries are minor. Dangerous floods can and do happen far away from large bodies of water, raging rivers and coastal areas. Even something as innocuous as a small stream, barely three feet wide can become life threatening when surging with flood waters.

In a mere two feet of water, vehicles can be swept away and lives can be lost suddenly. Charged cell phones often die in a few days without a power source, leaving you cut off from emergency assistance. Overworked rescue workers in a major disaster aren’t as handy as you’d like them to be. And most of all, even a small flash flood can be devastating.

What You Need to Know About Flash Floods:
  • The majority of flood-related deaths are in vehicles.
  • Flooding kills approximately 127 people a year, according to the National Weather Service.
  • Flash floods differ and are more dangerous than normal flood conditions. Well saturated, low lying areas set the stage for flash flood conditions. When significant amounts of water accumulate on top of these moisture soaked areas, the ground cannot absorb the excess. Even without a heavy rainfall, large quantities of melting snow on still frozen grounds or a distant rainfall up river can set the stage for a flash flood.
  • Extremely life threatening flash floods can occur in many areas. In particular, watch canyons, downstream of dams, waterways, or low lying ground. Even dry stream-beds or small gullies and creeks can have sudden flood potential.
  • Never underestimate the dangers of flash floods. In 1976 a lethal flood occurred amidst the celebration of Colorado’s Centennial, killing 143 people as a 20 foot wall of water crashed down Big Thompson Canyon. The flash flood, traveling at a speed of up to 14 miles per hour destroyed hundreds of homes, cabins, tourist spots and campsites.
  • Be prepared. Like most emergencies, the key to survival or withstanding the situation is planning.

Be Ready in a Flash-Flood Preparedness Tips:

Before a Flood:
  • Consider construction areas. Never build in a floodplain without reinforcing and raising the structure.
  • Erect and maintain seawalls or levees to keep floodwater from entering home.
  • Maintain an emergency supply of pre-filled sandbags to divert water. If placed correctly, these can often reroute minor, but damaging currents away from your home and help protect property.
  • Water heater, furnace, appliances and electrical panels should be above the lower levels that run risk of water infiltrating home.
  • Sump pumps are useful and may keep excess water from accumulating.
  • Pick up a shop vac. If your area has a flood, these will be a hard to find, premium commodity.
  • Seal walls in basements or other lower levels with a high quality product.
  • Price and obtain flood insurance. This isn’t part of traditional homeowner policies and it is available even if you are not in a designated flood plain.
  • Have a plan on what vehicles and routes you’ll take if you evacuate. Drive routes before emergencies occur. Always have at least two exit routes. Avoid low lying areas if possible when evacuating.
  • Prepare an emergency kit to last you through at least three days. In the event of a flood, it’s likely you’ll need bottled drinking, as wells can become contaminated or power outages can prevent pumps from working. Plan on a gallon per person a day. Non-perishable foods and supplies such as prescription medicines should be stocked also. Flashlights, batteries, tool kit and a portable radio are essentials. Include a first aid kit with a good manual. Have at least one gallon of plain household bleach on hand also. After a flood, you’ll need it to disinfect. During an extended flood you might need it to purify drinking water. Keep a change of clothes (including shoes or wading boots) for family members in plastic bags with your emergency supplies. Most cell phones don’t hold their charge for several days. Consider picking up a solar powered charging unit for emergencies.
  • Educate yourself about local flood conditions. Do you live near a river, lake or coastal area? Are you downstream of a major flood risk like a dam? What is the flood history for your region? And what were the factors that caused the flooding?
When a Flood is Likely:
  • Closely follow weather updates and local broadcasts.
  • Check low points near sliding doors and entry ways. Sandbag these areas from the interior as well as the exterior.
  • If your home is at risk, especially in areas of streams or canyons where flash flooding can occur violently and suddenly, evacuate. A warning may not transpire before a flood strikes.
  • Danger: If you hear sounds of waters surging or rumbling. Evacuate to high ground immediately.
  • Sometimes you may be ordered to evacuate or need to seek an alternate shelter if the flash flood will result in standing water. These evacuations may not be as life threatening as a surging wall of water, but they may still be dangerous. Listen to your area officials and do what they say.
  • If you must evacuate and time allows, turn off utilities and disconnect electrical appliances. Move important belongings or items that may be damaged to an upper level. If water is surrounding electrical items or pooling nearby any electrical items, don’t enter water.
How to Evacuate:
  • Keep out of moving water. A current in as little as six inches of water can knock you off your feet. Use a stick to give you stability and to check depth of water and firmness of ground.
  • Watch for downed power lines and keep far away from them or bodies of water that touch these.
  • Snakes that may be in flood waters or surrounding areas. Enter cautiously. After waters recede, snakes may still be present.
  • Two feet of water moving water are enough to sweep away a vehicle. Avoid driving into water. Even a foot of water can cause vehicles to stall.
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Prepare for a Storm Surge What To Do Before, During and After A Dam Failure or Attack
Perform for a Storm Surge


Storm surge can occur in all coastal regions as well as in areas surrounding large lakes, such as the Great Lakes.  Storm surge consists of elevated water levels and large waves caused by wind and changes in atmospheric pressure.  Often, storm surge can cause severe flooding in coastal regions and can occur at any time of the year.  In winter, It can cause severe damage because the water is ice-cold.


Quick Facts on Storm Surge
  • Storm surge is caused by an abnormal elevation in the water level and can often accompany a hurricane, violent winds, or severe winter storms. 
  • The storm surge itself is caused by wind and atmospheric pressure “pushing” the water towards the shore, which causes large waves and flooding.
  • Storm surge is not the same as a tsunami (also known as a tidal wave), which can be caused by an earthquake or landslide.
  • If you are trapped near shore during a storm surge, your life could be at risk.
Be Attentive and Listen For Storm Surge Warnings
  • If there is a risk of storm surge in your region, your weather advisory service should issue warnings.
  • Where appropriate, a notice is issued up to 48 hours in advance to inform the public of potentially elevated water levels, high surf, and possible coastal flooding.
Preparing for Storm Surge
  • Examine your house and surrounding terrain to determine if flooding is possible.  Locate any potentially vulnerable areas and take preventative measures to fix them as much as possible.
  • Sandbags are an excellent way of preventing water from entering your home.  But, before resorting to this solution, obtain specific instructions from local officials on emergency procedures (and possible evacuation directions).
  • Know how to turn off the gas and electricity to your home in case local officials request that you do so. Emergency Supply Kit
  • If you live in a region prone to flooding, don’t store any important documents in the ground floor or basement of your home.  Make sure they are stored safely away from potential floodwaters.
  • Ensure that your family has an emergency kit and emergency plan.
  • Ensure that your emergency kit is portable and will fit into either a backpack or small rolling bag.
  • It’s a good idea to get certified in CPR and Emergency First Aid.  Your local Red Cross chapter can assist you in finding both CPR classes as well as water survival classes that will focus more on swimming techniques.

If A Storm Surge Warning Has Been Issued
  • Make sure that you have all the necessary items, namely, all medications, a radio, a flashlight and batteries.
  • You may be asked to evacuate.  In case you have to, make sure to have your emergency kit at the ready and in a portable bag such as a backpack, duffel bag, or small rolling case.
  • Make sure that basement windows are tightly closed.
  • Fill up your car’s gas tank in advance.  If evacuation of your area is necessary, it may be difficult to stop en route.
  • If you have any questions or want more information on evacuation procedures, contact your local Emergency Services, Police, or Fire department.
What To Do During a Storm Surge
Stay indoors to protect yourself from the water.  It’s best to stay on the side sheltered from the wind and away from windows.
  • Pay attention to the storm’s progression and to any warnings or instructions from local authorities.
  • Before taking your car, listen attentively to instructions given by rescue officials and those coordinating evacuation plans.
  • Don’t drive in floodwater.
  • Be aware of potential risks like hypothermia or drowning in running waters.


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What to do before, during and after dam failure or attack

Dams are barriers that are built over flowing waters to redirect or slow down flow. They can be used for hydroelectric power, reservoirs or controlling the depth of a lake. Since 9-11 dams are thought to be potential targets that could produce massive destruction both in the loss of life and damage to the environment.

The power of water is often underestimated as we see when people go to watch the waves during a storm and get washed off the shore. Releasing the water that is behind the wall of dam needs to be controlled.

Common causes of dam failure besides intentional devastation include: spillway design, geological instability, poor maintenance, extreme rainfall or design error.

 Causes of dam failure What to do before, during and after dam failure or attack

·      Floods 

·      Sabotage

·      Structural failure

Benefits of dams

·      Irrigation

·      Recreation

·      Flood control 

According the FEMA there are approximately 79,500 dams in the United States. 95% of them are regulated by state government.

11,800 are classified as high-hazard potential that includes:

·      Environmental damage

·      Loss of life

·      Terrorist attack

·      Property damage

·      Lifeline disruption

What would you do if there was a dam failure near you? Most of the time there would not be much warning but in the case of rainfall or structural failure that has been recognized, you may have time to evacuate.

·      Plan ahead

·      Know your risk

·    (NID) National Inventory of Dams or
    the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO)

·      Find out who owns the dam (You can contact you local state or county emergency management agency)

An Emergency Action plan or EAP is a formal document that identifies potential emergency conditions at a dam and specifies preplanned actions that should be followed to reduce loss of life and property damage. The EAP will specify what the owner should do to take care of problems at the damn and also communications that include early warning messages to authorities. If you have to evacuate know your evacuation route and an alternative if there is one available.


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