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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2018 Vol. 65 No. 10

Preparing For A Flood

The overflow of water onto land which is normally dry is known as flooding and can occur in varying degrees just about anywhere in the country. Severe flooding caused by hurricanes, tropical storms and excessive rains have contributed to some of the most costly natural disasters in the nation. While flooding events can happen anywhere, they are more common in low-lying areas near rivers, streams and coastal areas. The reality is that when excessive rain, snowmelt or large amounts of water from any source cannot be absorbed into the ground fast enough, or diverted away from populated areas, flooding will occur. When it does, it can range from only a few inches of water to depths capable of submerging a house to its rooftop.

Along with the speed, duration, and force of flood waters, other factors such as terrain, soil condition and the built environment will determine its destructive impact. Flooding can cause fatalities and serious injuries for people who are trapped or swept away by wading in, driving through or boating across floodwaters. Additionally, flood waters can cause erosion, damage to roads, bridges and levees, and building collapse due to weakened foundations. Other significant impacts from flooding include disruption of utilities such as electricity, gas and water; contamination of drinking water and disruption of the transportation system.

In time, flooded areas will recede, however this will depend on several factors such as amount/duration of rainfall, rate of ground absorption and the existence of adequate and unobstructed drainage sewers, canals, culverts and spillways.

Effective flood mitigation generally lies in the hands of county commissions, zoning boards, mayors, planning departments, and other local governmental entities, and their commitment to address floods during the community development process or through the implementation of hazard mitigation projects specified in their community hazard mitigation plan to create more resilient communities. However, there are also important measures that should be taken by individual citizens that can help minimize the effects of flooding.

Some of the many ways to prepare for flooding include obtaining flood insurance for your home, business and personal property. Standard insurance policies do not cover flooding. Homeowners should note that flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program is available to those individuals located outside the regulated floodplain. Take photos and make a list of your possessions and include these with other important documents in a safe place outside your home. Develop an emergency plan that includes evacuation routes, points of contact and information on how to receive emergency notifications. Assemble a kit that contains a three-day supply of food and water and other essential items. Elevate wiring, switches, electrical appliances or other utilities as high off the ground as possible. Water proof your home by sealing any cracks in exterior walls or foundations. Planting and maintaining trees and other vegetation can help reduce storm water runoff and the erosion of soil. If you are a homeowner, other structural mitigation efforts should include clearing debris from drainage channels, gutters and downspouts. If you live in a flood prone area or area of repeated flooding, consider elevating your home.

If flood waters are imminent and if time permits, the following additional steps may be taken to minimize damage:

  • Move any expensive belongings, family photos and documents to a second story or to the highest level possible.
  • If leaving a vehicle behind, park it in an elevated area.
  • Use sand bags to help divert water away from structures.

Staying safe during a flood requires heeding instructions from local officials, emergency management personnel and first responders. Evacuation orders should not be taken lightly. All too often, people who intentionally fail to evacuate when directed to do so, not only put their own lives in danger, but also the lives of first responders who may be called to their rescue. Remember to include any pets or livestock in your evacuation plan.

If trapped in a flood, do not walk or drive through flooded areas. Keep away from downed power lines and other hazardous items in floodwaters. Seek high ground and call 911 if possible. Do not climb into an enclosed attic. If necessary go onto a roof and signal for help.

Once flood waters have receded, check for structural damage before entering your home. Inspect all utilities and report any damage to authorities. Remove wet contents like carpeting, furniture and bedding immediately; mold can start developing within 24 to 48 hours. Use dehumidifiers, air conditioners and fans to help dry out the building. Photograph and list damaged items, as well as all evidence of water and damage to the structure. Determine the habitability of your home by noting any unsafe or unhealthy conditions. Contact your insurance agent or register for disaster assistance, if needed.

Recovering from a flood will not only have a significant financial impact for those affected, but it can also be a physically and emotionally exhausting experience. Being better prepared for flooding through structural and non-structural mitigation efforts and knowing where to access available resources to assist with recovery are a necessary component to any flood emergency plan.

Detailed information for assistance on how to prepare for and recover from flooding can be found here:

How to Prepare For a Flood
Repairing Your Flooded Home
Buyouts and Home Elevation Fact Sheet
Flood Protection Grant Programs
National Flood Insurance Program

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