Are you prepared for a flood?

There has been a lot of talk this week about the 1997 flood. Twenty years ago, on New Year’s Eve (1996) my Dad and I went goose hunting. We had set out our decoys and had a good early morning hunt, however, it started raining so we packed everything up, leaving the bags of decoys in a dry irrigation ditch. The next day we went back to get the decoys, as it was still raining. Three days later the rain finally stopped, but left massive destruction in its wake. I will never forget that flood and all of the unfortunate circumstances of those in its’ path. Now, as talk is recirculating about another flood, it may be time to familiarize ourselves with some good tips during floods. Information below has come from the Red Cross, FEMA, and the National Weather Service.

How do I know if my home/business is in a flood plain? The best local resource for information on flooding is Nevada Floods (you may have something similar in your states) Under “know your risk,” and then “will you flood?” you can put your address in, and the map will indicate your risk of flooding.

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Flood watch means that flooding is possible in your area. You should be prepared to move to higher ground upon short notice. A flood warning means a flood is occurring or is about to occur. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

But do I really have to leave my home? If the danger is significant, local authorities may issue an evacuation notice to alert residents in an area that flooding will be or is occurring and it is important to leave the area. Evacuation orders vary by community and by state, and may range from voluntary to mandatory. When authorities issue a mandatory evacuation notice, leave the area immediately. If you have pets take them with you. If you cannot take them with you make arrangements to board them at a facility well away from flood danger. Keep in mind the Five Ps of Evacuation: people, prescriptions, paper, personal needs, and priceless items (these are more clearly defined below).

Before a flood:

  • Water: At least a 3-day supply (one gallon per person per day and extra if you have pets)
  • Food: At least a 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy to prepare foods
  • Medications: At least a 7-day supply
  • Medical items: Hearing aids and batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, canes or other walking assistance tools, items for people with disabilities
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Rubber boots and rubber gloves
  • Copies of personal documents (medication lists, important medical information, deed/lease to home, birth and/or marriage certificates, insurance policies, etc.)
  • Cell phones and chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Extra blankets, clothing, and shoes
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, water, carrier, bowl, blankets, toys)
  • Extra sets of vehicle and house keys
  • Priceless items or valuables
  • Rain gear
  • Camera for photos of damage
  • A NOAA weather radio which receives broadcast alerts directly from the National Weather Service

During a flood:

  • Listen to the TV and/or radio for flood warnings and reports of flooding
  • Check web sites (for example, National Weather Service)
  • Be prepared in case there is a power outage, have electronic devices charged
  • Take advantage of sandbags if your home/business is in a flood prone area – be prepared, as these take longer to fill than you might think. See Sandbagging Techniques for information about how to fill and place sandbags
  • If you have a basement, make sure your sump pump is working, consider a backup battery operated one if necessary
  • Clear debris from gutters or downspouts
  • Cautiously clear small items out of waterways, anything bigger than a tumbleweed should be removed by an emergency service person
  • Anchor any fuel tanks and outdoor furniture
  • Move important documents and valuables to a safe place
  • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice
  • When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there
  • Do not try to walk in flood waters, just six inches is enough to knock you down
  • Do not try to cross a flooded road, turn around and find an alternative route. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of water
  • Keep children out of the water
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize potential dangers
  • Know your evacuation routes (several may need to be identified) and have a place to stay
  • Ensure your vehicle has a full tank of gas and is ready to go if you need to leave an area quickly
  • If you do not have a place to go, contact the city to determine where evacuation shelters are located
  • Establish a communication plan with family – determine ahead of time where you will meet or go if you should get separated
  • Use text messaging or social media to let friends and family know you are safe

If you should happen to get trapped in a building, vehicle, or outdoors during a flood, get to the highest spot you can and try to signal or call for help.

After a flood:

  • Only return home when officials have declared the area safe
  • Shut off utilities until it can be determined that they do not pose a risk
  • Use flashlights, not lanterns, torches, or matches to examine buildings, as open flames may cause a fire or explosion if gases have been leaking
  • Before entering your home, look for loose power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks, or other damage
  • If you smell natural or propane gas or hear a hissing noise, leave immediately and call the fire department
  • If parts of your home are collapsed or damaged, approach carefully
  • During cleanup, wear protective clothing, rubber gloves, and rubber boots
  • Be especially cautious of mold, asbestos, or lead paint contamination
  • If food or water have come into contact with floodwater, discard these items
  • Work with your insurance company if you have flood insurance
  • Let people know you are safe

Unfortunately we cannot prevent floods, but we can prepare for them. Having a plan in place and communicating that with people closest to you will help ensure peace of mind and safety.


Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

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