As we have seen on the news lately, floods can be deadly disasters, and Texas is not immune. We might complain about drought for most of the year, but floods do happen here and can be deadly. It is the nature of floods that they are usually unexpected, can happen very quickly in the case of flash floods, and therefore are difficult to prepare for. However, there are certain steps that anyone living in a low-lying area or near any body of water can take.
According to Ready.gov, “even if you feel you live in a community with a low risk of flooding, remember that anywhere it rains, it can flood. Just because you haven’t experienced a flood in the past, doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. Flood risk isn’t just based on history; it’s also based on a number of factors including rainfall, topography, flood-control measures, river-flow and tidal-surge data, and changes due to new construction and development.” In other words, no area is really flood-proof. Flood insurance rate maps are available here, which show the estimated risk for your area. Besides having flood insurance, which is recommended for everyone, the Ready website also advises that you take these preventative measures:
- Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
- Avoid building in a floodplain unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
- Elevate the furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home if you live in an area that has a high flood risk.
- Consider installing “check valves” to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
- If feasible, construct barriers to stop floodwater from entering the building and seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds.
If a flood is imminent in your area, you should:
- Listen to the radio or television for information.
- Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
- Be aware of stream, drainage channels, canyons and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings such as rain clouds or heavy rain.
If you must prepare to evacuate, you should do the following:
- Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.
- Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
If you have to leave your home, remember these evacuation tips:
- Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground, when water is not moivng or not more than a few inches deep. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly. If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, stay in the vehicle. If the water is rising inside the vehicle, seek refuge on the roof.
- If your vehicle is submerged or partially submerged in water, you will not be able to open the door because of water pressure. Safety experts recommend that you immediately unbuckle your seat belt, unlock the doors, and lower the windows which should still work for a minute. Climb out through the nearest window, assisting any children first. If you cannot open the windows, use a Lifehammer to break them open. If you cannot break them, wait for the car to fill and once pressure is equalized, open the door.
- Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, particularly during threatening conditions.
After the flood, the Ready website recommends that you follow these guidelines:
- Use local alerts and warning systems to get information and expert informed advice as soon as available.
- Avoid moving water.
- Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organization.
- Emergency workers will be assisting people in flooded areas. You can help them by staying off the roads and out of the way.
- Play it safe. Additional flooding or flash floods can occur. Listen for local warnings and information. If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, get out immediately and climb to higher ground.
- Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
- Roads may still be closed because they have been damaged or are covered by water. Barricades have been placed for your protection. If you come upon a barricade or a flooded road, go another way.
- If you must walk or drive in areas that have been flooded:
- Stay on firm ground. Moving water only 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Standing water may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
- Flooding may have caused familiar places to change. Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways. Flood debris may hide animals and broken bottles, and it’s also slippery. Avoid walking or driving through it.
- Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
- Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
- Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations.
If you have pets, that can make any natural disaster situation even more difficult. A pet is another member of the family to protect, but at the same time you cannot put your own life or other family members’ lives at risk. The Ready website reminds that whatever is best for you is probably also best for your pets, and that you should never leave your pets at home if you decide to evacuate. “Pets most likely cannot survive on their own and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return.” See the Humane Society of the United States website for steps to make a disaster plan that includes your pets.