While Superstorm Sandy was pounding the East Coast, nearly 3,000 miles away in the Pacific Northwest, forecasters were warning local residents of the potential of flash flooding. The fact is a flood can strike anywhere and at anytime.
Floods are one of the most costly of all natural disasters. In the last 10 years, flooding cost the U.S. more than $2.9 billion dollars in damage. Of all presidential-declared U.S. natural disasters, 90% involved flooding.
Flooding can and has happened in all 50 states. Although you may live in a low-risk area, emergency preparedness officials want you to remember this, if it rains where you live, even a minimal amount each year, than it has the potential to flood. Flooding can happen in a matter of minutes as is the case with flash flooding. Or you may have several days of advance warning of a threat from a flood, such as the type caused by spring thaws.
Experts suggest you prepare two separate flood emergency plans. A plan for staying in your home and a plan in case you must leave your home. Determine how much water your family and home can handle before you have to evacuate.
If you stay, you need enough water, food and personal items for a minimum of five days. Often when flooding occurs your source for safe drinking water, even municipal water can be become contaminated. Buy space-saving larger sizes of drinking water in gallon-size or larger containers, but not too large you can not take it with you if you do have to leave. Food needs to be in waterproof packaging such as canned goods and do not forget the can opener. You will also need a supply of any prescription medications needed. Additionally you will want to keep a supply of personal hygiene products such as baby wipes and toilet paper at the ready. Do not forget flashlights, extra batteries, waterproof matches, garbage bags and a battery-powered weather radio. It is a good idea to keep some cash in your kit in case of a power outage prevents ATMs from working. Also, pack a dry change of clothes and outerwear for each person in the home. Zip plastic storage bags and plastic containers are a must to store everything you do not want wet or damp. Keep as many items as you can in a watertight container and keep it as high in your home as possible. In other words, do not store your flood kit in the garage.
If You Must Go
Plan ahead and know where your closest emergency shelters such as Red Cross set up during a flood. Shelters will have food, water and other necessities available. Only if it is safe and you have time, you can bring a few things from home such as important papers, a change of clothes and personal items. It is wise to keep all important papers such as insurance policies in a zip bag stored in a small document storage box with a handles making it quick and easy to grab on the run.
Never drive or walk through moving water. It only takes about 4 inches of moving water to carry a vehicle away. During a flood, the ground can become unstable and give way beneath you. What may look like a harmless trickle of water across a roadway can quickly become a death trap if the road has washed away below the surface. Most flood related deaths are associated with vehicles.
Flooding can scatter families so be sure and let every member of your household and your extended family knows about your emergency flood plans. Plus pick a designated meeting spot in case you are separated during a flood.
A flood of any size can be a traumatic event but there is no reason to fear. Simply plan ahead, take time to prepare, listen to directions from local authorities and use your head.
Although we can not prevent floods, we can prepare for them. There is no better time than now to start thinking about what you should to do to keep you and your family safe in the event of a flood.
Have you been through a flood? What did you do to prepare ahead? Were you caught off-guard? Tell us in the comment section.
Lisa Metheny is a published award-winning outdoor writer, photographer, speaker and outdoor skills instructor. Lisa holds several instructor certifications and conducts a number of women-focused outdoor seminars on topics like archery and hunting throughout the year. She regularly teaches hunters education and archery classes and has become an advocate for promoting traditional outdoor recreation to families across the United States. Lisa is also an avid and accomplished hunter with many big game species to her credit. She is a member of POMA and former Board of Directors member as well as a member of the NRA, RMEF, MDF and DU.