Thursday, March 20, 2014

Preparing for floods: A threat to life that can occur at any time

Did you know that we all live in flood zones? No matter where you live, there is a risk of flooding. While some areas have a higher risk than others, it’s important that we all be prepared. As this is National Flood Safety Awareness Week, now is a good time to stop and think about floods.
According to the National Flood Insurance program, “in the past five years, all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods”. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that about 90 people die each year in the U.S. from floods, which cause about $8.3 billion in damages.
Let’s look at some information about floods. Floods can come on rapidly or slowly build up. Flooding can spread over large areas or occur over a small area. The cause can be rainfall, a rising river or tide, or a broken dam or water main. During a flood, shallow creeks, streams or dry beds can become very deep. Roads can become rushing rivers, washing away vehicles and people.
Here are some plans to make before a flood:
  • Know the flood risks in your community and neighborhood. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides free maps through its Map Service Center. Just enter your address.
  • Check out NOAA’s Spring Flood Outlook, which shows where and when flooding is most likely to occur in the U.S. over the next few months.
  • Have a plan for family communication and evacuation.
  • Store important documents such as insurance papers, passports, birth certificates, etc., in waterproof containers. A zippered plastic bag can work in a pinch.
  • Make sure your furnace, water heater and electric panel are elevated.
Some things to remember during a flood:
  • Be prepared to evacuate. If you do have to leave, follow official evacuation routes, as they are more likely to be safe. Pay attention to news reports for the latest information before heading out.
  • Don’t walk through moving water, as little as six inches of moving water can sweep you off your feet.
  • Don’t ever drive into flooded areas. Half of all flood-related deaths that occur each year are associated with vehicles, says NOAA. Even if it looks safe, it may not be.
  • Remember to take essentials such as medication, emergency supplies and important documents when you evacuate.
Some things to do after a flood:
  • Continue to check news outlets for ongoing information.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and damaged areas.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Some things may need to be discarded, such as food.
For more information, check out Get Ready’s flood fact sheet, which is available in English and Spanish.

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