Dangerous Waters: 10 Tips for Surviving a Flood

Dangerous Waters: 10 Tips for Surviving a Flood

As the city of New Orleans begins preparations for a possible hurricane, a storm has already brought tornado warnings, heavy winds, and flooding rains. Nearly 8 inches of rain fell in some areas, and many were forced to evacuate their homes. Here are ten important things that you should know when it comes to flood preparation and survival.


1. Flood Preparation Must: Stay InformedBe sure to keep your eyes and ears open for emergency services and weather reports. Bigger storms that can cause flooding are easier for the news services to report, so pay attention to your radio or TV. Know the difference between “flood watch”, or possible flood, and “flood warning”, which means a flood is coming or is already occurring. Knowing what’s happening is critical in flood preparation so you know when to hunker down or leave.


2. Prepare Emergency KitsPut together a collection of supplies, with essentials like dry clothing, personal IDs, drinking water, and other important items you deem necessary for flood preparation. Include an axe or hatchet as well, to break out onto the roof of your home if the flood level reaches high enough. You should make a kit for your home and for your vehicle.


3. Prepare Your HomeMove essential items like electronics and furniture to a higher floor if possible. Cover ground floor windows with plywood to protect against debris that could float in flood water. Turn off the main power breaker and gas line to avoid dangerous fumes and electrocution during flooding. Some cities will hand out sandbags for free to residents if a flood is imminent, use these to block off and divert water from your home.


4. Be Ready to LeaveIf living somewhere susceptible to flooding, or a mandatory evacuation is issued don’t wait for a flood warning, immediately leave for higher ground. Be sure to have an emergency kit in your vehicle. Drive only through routes recommended by authorities, as other shortcuts you may know could be cut off.


5. Drive SafelyAVOID FLOODED ROADS. A small car can begin to float in as little as one foot of water. Don’t drive through water if you are unsure how high the water level is. Avoid driving over a bridge, as floodwaters may have rendered it unsafe, even if it looks okay from your driver’s seat. A small dip in the road level could lead to a significantly higher water level, leading to your vehicle getting washed away. If you get stuck driving through water, immediately exit your vehicle and seek higher ground.


6. Tread CarefullyIf you have to walk through a flood, carry a long stick so you can measure the water, keep your balance, and probe the area ahead for dangerous debris. Do not go near places where there may be downed power lines; if you hear hissing, stay away. Carry small children, as flood water can quickly rise and sweep them away. Try not to walk in moving water above your knees, for the same reason. Flood water is also very filthy, so get out of it as soon as possible. If possible, travel using a shallow draft boat.


7. Swept AwayIf caught in a flood, turn over on your back and point your feet downstream. Do not fight the current, as this will just tire you.  Keep your head above water at all times, and your body above debris. As you are swept along, push floating debris out of the way with your feet and look for things to grab on to. Once you have a secure grip to an anchored spot, yell for help and wave with your other arm if possible. Wait for rescue to come.


8. Seek Higher Groundflood preparation and waiting for rooftop rescueIf you remain at home during a flood, attempt to reach higher floors of your home or the roof. Make sure you’ve packed warm clothing and items in your emergency kit during the flood preparation phase as it may be cold outside, especially if you have to spend the night in place. You can create an emergency signal on your roof by using a light-colored bed sheet and spray paint. Disinfect yourself or others with clean water and soap if you come into contact with flood water.


9. The Dangers Don’t End When the Flooding DoesWater levels will take some time to return to normal. In the meantime, wear proper shoes and tough pants to protect against debris like glass, metal, and nails and screws. At night, navigate using a flashlight and watch out for broken gas lines and downed power lines. Be careful when reaching under debris and into small spaces, as animals such as rats and snakes may have found refuge there. Flood water can contain chemicals, sewage, and matter from dead humans and animals, so avoid touching it with your bare skin.


10. Inspect Your HomeDo not rush back into your home. Do not turn the power and gas main back on, check for gas leaks and broken wiring. Check for wild animals that may have washed into your home and remove them if it is safe to do so. Be sure to have a professional check all your pipes, wiring, and sewage systems before using your lights, stove or water fixtures. Remove and replace wet drywall and other wood to avoid mold, which could cause a variety of other health and safety problems.


Currently, floods are the most common natural disaster in the world, leading to more people having been killed by floods for all of history than any other natural disaster. Because they are so common, it’s important that you are prepared and know what to do in case you are ever faced with a flood. Hopefully with these tips, you will be able to make good decisions in this situation, and help protect the safety of yourself and your family.


Editor’s note: This article first appeared on ASGMAG.com on July 16, 2019.

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