Problem: Floodwater threatens the family, the home and its contents, and the community.
Background: In flood situations, the safety of your family is the most important consideration. Since flood water can rise very rapidly, you should be prepared to evacuate be fore the water level reaches your property. Before a flood threatens, learn the safest route from your home or office to high, safe ground should you need to evacuate in a hurry. Also keep a portable radio, emergency cooking equipment, and flashlights in working order.
What to do: Tune a battery-powered radio to a local station, and follow all emergency instructions. If you’re caught in the house by suddenly rising water, move to the second floor and, if necessary, to the roof. Take warm clothing, a flashlight and a portable radio with you. Then wait for help; don’t try to swim to safety. Rescue teams will be looking for you. When outside, remember that floods are deceptive. Try to avoid flooded areas, and don’t attempt to walk through floodwater that is more than knee deep.
If (and only if) time permits, turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary. Don’t touch any wet electrical equipment. Move valuable papers and possessions to upper floors or higher elevations. Fill tubs, sinks and buckets with clean water, in case regular supplies are contaminated. (You can sanitize these containers by first rinsing with bleach.) Board up windows, or protect them with storm shutters or tape to pre vent broken glass from flying. Bring in outdoor possessions that might be swept away, or tie them down securely.
If it’s safe to evacuate by car, stock the car with non-perishable foods (like canned goods), a plastic container of water, blankets, first aid kit, flashlights, dry clothing and any special medication needed by your family members. Keep the gas tank at least half full since gas pumps won’t be working if electricity gets cut off. Don’t drive where water is over the roads; parts of the road may already be washed out. If your car stalls in a flooded area, abandon it if you can do so safely since flood water can rise rapidly and sweep a car and its occupants away. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles.
Special advice: If you live in a frequently flooded area, keep materials such as sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, and lumber on hand to use to protect your property. Sandbags should not be stacked directly against the outer walls of a building since they can create added pressure on the foundation when they are wet. Also check about eligibility for flood insurance offered through the National Flood Insurance Program. Generally there is a 5-day waiting period before a policy goes into effect, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.
Helpful hint: Make an itemized list of personal property (photos are helpful) to assist an adjuster in settling claims and to help prove un insured losses, which are tax deductible. Keep your insurance policies and a list of personal property in a safe place outside your home, such as a safety deposit box. Know the name and location of the agents who issued these policies. (For more information on what to do after a flood.