Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States and can happen anywhere. How to Prepare for a Flood explains how to protect yourself and your property, and details the steps to take now so that you can act quickly when you, your home, or your business is in danger.
Flooding can occur during any season, but some areas of the country are at greater risk at certain times of the year. Coastal areas are at greater risk for flooding during hurricane season, i.e., June to November, while the Midwest is more at risk in the spring and during heavy summer rains. Ice jams occur in the spring in the Northeast and Northwest. Even the deserts of the Southwest are at risk during the late summer monsoon season.
The physical destruction caused by flooding depends on the speed and level of the water, the duration of the flood, terrain and soil conditions, and the built environment, e.g., buildings, roads, and bridges.
Flooding can cause fatalities and serious injuries for people who are trapped or swept away by wading in, driving through, or boating across floodwaters.
Transportation routes, power, water, gas, and other services may be disrupted.
Commercial supplies and government support systems may be temporarily unavailable.
Drinking water supplies and wells may become polluted.
Floodwaters can cause erosion, which can damage roads, bridge structures, levees, and buildings with weak foundations, causing their collapse without warning. The floodwaters may carry the worn-away mud, rocks, and other sediment.
Landslides and mudslides can occur.
Even a few inches of floodwater in a home can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage.
Flood-related injuries and deaths are often the result of individuals trapped in floodwaters. The best way to stay safe is to leave areas that flood and avoid floodwaters.
To avoid being trapped when floodwaters threaten your area, the best action to protect yourself and your family is to evacuate before flooding starts. Know and follow the directions from local officials for community evacuation or seek high ground for localized flooding. If you do not evacuate before the flooding occurs or you are trapped by flash flooding, do not enter flooded areas or moving water either on foot or in a vehicle, including areas that appear to have only inches of water.
ELEVATE, WATERPROOF, AND CLEAR DEBRIS
Your goal now, before a flood occurs, is to reduce the risk of damage to structures from flooding. This means elevating critical utilities, such as electrical panels, switches, sockets, wiring, appliances, and heating systems, and waterproofing basements. In areas with repetitive flooding, consider elevating the entire structure. Make sure that basements are waterproofed and that your sump pump is working and then install a battery-operated backup in case of a power failure. Installing a water alarm will also let you know if water is accumulating in your basement. Clear debris from gutters and downspouts. Anchor any fuel tanks. Move furniture, valuables, and important documents to a safe place.
Purchasing flood insurance provides financial protection for the cost of repairs due to flood damage. Standard insurance policies do not cover flooding, but flood insurance is available for homeowners, renters, and business owners through the National Flood Insurance Program.
The National Weather Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, issues flood alerts when weather conditions make flooding more likely.
Watches, warnings, and evacuation notices are science-based predictions that are intended to provide adequate time for evacuation. Those who wait for actual confirmation of catastrophic levels may be trapped by flooding or traffic. Download the Be Smart. Know Your Alerts and Warnings document at www.ready.gov/prepare for a summary of available notifications.
- Flooding in your area is possible. You should leave or be prepared to move to higher ground immediately upon short notice. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, local radio, and/or television stations for information and monitor alert notifications.
- Flooding is occurring or is about to occur soon. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
- Flash flooding is possible. You should leave or be prepared to move to higher ground upon short notice. Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, local radio, and/or television stations for information and monitor alert notifications.
TAKE ACTION NOW!
Protecting yourself today means having sources for information, preparing your home or workplace, developing an emergency communications plan, and knowing what to do when a flood is approaching your home or business. Taking action today can save lives and property.
Know your flood risk. Learn whether you live, work, or travel through areas that are prone to flooding. To help communities understand their risk of flooding, the Federal Emergency Management Agency creates flood maps, Flood Insurance Rate Maps, or FIRMs, to show the locations of high-risk, moderate-to-low risk, and undetermined risk areas. To check your flood risk, enter your address at www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/flooding_flood_risks/defining_flood_risks.jsp. According to the National Flood Insurance Program, more than 25 percent of all flood claims each year come from homes outside areas at high risk for flooding. To participate in the NFIP, local communities must adopt floodplain management regulations that meet or exceed its minimum requirements.
Know how to stay informed. Receiving timely information about weather conditions or other emergency events can make all the difference in knowing when to take action to be safe.
Monitor the weather reports provided by your local news media.
Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications. To find out what alerts are available in your area, do an Internet search with your town, city, or county name and the word “alerts.”
Consider buying a NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards receiver, which receives broadcast alerts directly from NWS.