Flooding has made big news lately, with good reason. The disasters in so many parts of the country have resulted in tragic losses of life and significant damage to property. Floods are the number one natural disaster in the United States, according to Floodsmart.gov
. And floods are reportedly the most costly natural disasters in Canada in terms of property damage as reported here
Preparing for a flood – and your actions during and after the disaster – can potentially save your life and reduce damage to your belongings and residence.
“The biggest mistake people make is not giving floodwaters the proper respect,” says Sonny Bass, Technical Director of Training at Paul Davis, a leading restoration and reconstruction company with extensive experience with flood damage. “The waters can be deceptively forceful and strong. A little knowledge – and a lot of preparation – can help you minimize risk to yourself and your property.”
With that, let’s look at ways to prepare for a flood, and mitigate risk when one occurs.
Before a flood.
1. Know your risk.
Is your neighborhood prone to flooding? What about routes you take to school or work every day? Research flood maps and find out the elevation of your home to be sure.
2. Be adequately insured.
Do a yearly audit of your insurance coverage to make sure flood risk is accounted for. Standard homeowner policies typically do not cover damage from floods. It’s a good idea to purchase a separate National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy through an insurance agent.
3. Gather protection materials.
If your home is in a flood-prone area, keep plywood, lumber, plastic sheets, trash bags, shovels, work boots, gloves and sandbags in supply.
4. Build your kit.
Make a disaster supply kit now. It should include a flashlight and batteries, a battery-powered radio and weather radio, first aid supplies, medicine, drinking water, food that won’t perish, extra clothes, cash, and important paperwork (like insurance documents). Keep your kit in a water-tight container.
5. Make a plan.
For those living in areas that are flood-prone, it’s good to have an evacuation plan in case flooding occurs. Make sure you’ve defined a back-up route, too.
During a flood.
1. Do not go in the water.
Water as little as six inches deep can sweep a grown person off his or her feet if it’s running rapidly enough. And it only takes a few feet of swift floodwater to carry away a full-sized SUV. Remember these words: “turn around, don’t drown.”
2. Seek higher ground.
If you’re walking, find a higher elevation. If your vehicle stalls, get out and find higher ground.
3. Stay informed.
Keep your radio tuned to national weather for updated alerts and information.
4. Keep clear of electrical equipment.
Downed power lines and equipment can kill you if you are wet or standing in water.
After a flood.
1. Go home – when it’s safe.
Your local officials will let you know when it’s safe to go back to your area after an evacuation.
2. Look before you enter.
Examine your home for damage, loose power lines and broken gas lines before you enter. With every step, be sure to make sure you’re not placing your foot on broken glass or nails that may have been swept in by floodwaters. You’ll also want to be on the lookout for snakes and other wild animals that may have been carried in with the flood.
3. Drive with caution.
Even after flood waters have receded, roads may have been damaged to the point of collapse. Proceed with extreme care. If a route is barricaded, don’t go around.
4. Clean up carefully.
Wear rubber gloves and boots during clean-up and recovery. If your food and water have come into contact with floodwater, discard it – it may have become contaminated. This goes for canned goods, water bottles, plastic utensils and baby bottle nipples. A good phrase to remember is “when in doubt, throw it out.”
5. Prevent future risk.
Damage to septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems can pose a serious health risk if not repaired immediately.
6. Contact your insurance company.
Take photos of all damage, and get the insurance process started as soon as possible.
As we’ve seen across North America, flooding can pose a significant hazard. With proper preparation beforehand, good judgement during a flood, and responsive action afterward, you can help protect your property – and your life – should the worst occur. For more important information, contact FirstService Residential
For additional information about preparing for a flood, check out the organizations below.
Resources in the United States
Resources in Canada
Disaster Assistance Programs
Flood Preparedness Tips
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