Most people do not realize that the initial damage caused by a flood can be just one area of concern when it comes to floods. Standing flood waters can also contain chemical hazards mixed in with the water, host and spread infectious diseases, and cause unforeseen injuries, especially falls into potholes and ruts.
Did you know that each year, flooding causes more deaths than any other hazard related to thunderstorms? Surprisingly, the most common deaths during a flood happen when people drive their vehicles into hazardous flood waters.
Fortunately, you can take steps to protect yourself, your family, and your home.
What to do before/during a Flood Watch or Warning
- First of all gather any and all emergency supplies you can find, and ideally you would have kits prepared in advance for such a situation.
- Keep in touch with the outside world – tune in to your local radio or television station for live updates, if possible.
- Fill all your bathtubs, sinks, gallon jars, plastic soda bottles and other vessels with clean drinking water, so that you will have a supply of clean water when you need it. Remember to sanitize sinks & tubs first by cleaning them using diluted household laundry bleach – then rinse and fill with clean water.
- Bring in all your outdoor possessions & additions that aren’t securely anchored down (lawn furniture, grills, trash cans) or tie them down securely.
- If you need to evacuate in a hurry, make sure you turn off all the utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve.
- Make sure that you and your family evacuate any and all areas that are subject to flooding, including low spots, canyons, washes, marshes, etc.
- Make sure your immunization records, medical records, homeownership documents and insurance documents are stored in a waterproof container and easily accessible.
What To Do After Flooding Has Occurred:
- Do not drink ANY flood water, and do not use it to wash dishes, brush your teeth, or wash & prepare food. Please make sure to drink clean, safe water.
- If you have evacuated from your home, make sure that you only return to your home after local authorities have said it is safe to do so.
- Listen to all water advisories that are sent out by local authorities to find out if your water is safe for drinking and bathing. During such an advisory make sure to use only bottled, boiled, or treated water for drinking, cooking, bathing, cleaning etc.
- Make sure to avoid driving through flooded areas and standing water. Most people don’t know that as little as six inches of water can cause you to lose control of your vehicle, so don’t try to be a hero and power your car through a flood. Instead take shelter somewhere safe, and away from the floods (whatever is closest and easiest to get to).
- Use generators and pressure washers outside, in order to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Make sure you use them at least 20 feet away from any doors, windows and vents.
What To Do After You Return Home:
Now, you’ve returned home after a flood, and you just want to rest or clean out your place to make it habitable again. Don’t rush into it though, because there are several things to keep in mind when you return home.
- Try to return to your home during the daytime so that you do not have to use any lights. Use battery-powered flashlights and lanterns, rather than candles, gas lanterns, or torches.
- If you have standing water in your home and can turn off the main power from a dry location, then go ahead and turn off the power, even if it delays cleaning. If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, then call an electrician to turn it off. NEVER turn power on or off yourself or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
- When in doubt, throw it out! Throw away any food and bottled water that comes/may have come in contact with flood water or that was not refrigerated for more than two hours.
- Remove and throw out drywall and insulation that was contaminated with flood water or sewage.
- Dilute bleach to the proper concentration, and please do not use items that cannot be washed and cleaned with bleach: mattresses, pillows, carpeting, carpet padding, and stuffed toys. You can use diluted household laundry bleach to clean dirt and mold off of items like floors, stoves, sinks, countertops, plates, and tools.
- Have an electrician check the house’s electrical system before turning the power on again.
- If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows, and leave your house immediately. Notify the gas company or the police or fire departments or State Fire Marshal’s office, and do not turn on the lights or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return until you are told it is safe to do so.
- If the house has been closed up for several days, enter briefly to open doors and windows to let the house air out for a while (at least 30 minutes) before you stay for any length of time.
- If your home has been flooded and has been closed up for several days, assume your home has mold.
- If your home has been flooded, it also may be contaminated with sewage.
- Use generators and other electrical equipment safely. Talk to your utility company about using electrical equipment, including power generators.
- All electrical equipment and appliances must be completely dry before returning them to service. Have a certified electrician check these items if there is any question.
- Never use a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.
- If flood or storm water enters your home, dry out your home as soon as possible to prevent mold. If you have electricity, use a “wet-dry” shop vacuum, an electric-powered water transfer pump, or a sump pump to remove standing water. If you are operating equipment in wet areas, be sure to wear rubber boots.
- If you do not have electricity, or it is not safe to turn it on, you can use a portable generator to power equipment to remove standing water. If weather permits, open windows and doors of the house to aid in the drying-out process. Use fans and dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture. Fans should be placed at a window or door to blow the air outwards rather than inwards, so as not to spread the mold.
- Prevent water outdoors from reentering your home. For example, rainwater from gutters or the roof should drain away from the house; the ground around the house should slope away from the house to keep basements and crawl spaces dry.
Make sure you and your loved ones take care of each other, and evacuate if the likelihood of a flood increases. Your personal property can be replaced, but your lives cannot, so stay safe, and be prepared!