Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and held each September, National Preparedness Month provides individuals with valuable opportunities to learn how to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools and communities. Take part this year by learning how you can prepare for floods that may have been caused by a range of different disasters. Flooding can cause damage to your home ranging from mold, affecting the structural integrity, foundation leaks, and even health hazards.
How should you prepare for a flood? Read on as not only do they pose problems for your home and property, but flash floods happen quickly and can quickly turn dangerous.
The Importance of Flood Preparedness
According to Ready.gov, floods are the most common natural disaster in the U.S. This may be because floods can occur as an effect of a number of circumstances, including:
- Severe storms
- Prolonged periods of rain
- Overflows of dams or water systems
While there are flood zones across the U.S. that have a higher risk of flooding, every place is at risk. Since they can arise without warning and occur all throughout the year, it's crucial to prepare for floods before they can cause significant damage to your property. Common flood damage your home may experience includes:
- Structural damage to your home and contents
- Electrical damage
- Contaminated drinking water
- Bacteria from standing water
- Damaged sewage systems
To mitigate these risks, ensure you have a flood preparedness and response plan when the potential danger of a flood strikes.
How To Prepare For A Flood
When severe weather threatens to strike, being prepared beforehand can help keep you and your loved ones safe. Be ready before a flood watch or warning is issued in your area with the following flood preparedness checklist:
1. Know Your Risk. Some areas are more susceptible to floods than others. Before you start preparing for a flood in your home, determine if your house is in a flood zone.
2. Build an Emergency Kit. Include essentials like food, water, a flashlight, extra batteries and medications in your kit. Try to have at least a three-day supply of necessities in stock, just in case you're stranded or have to evacuate the area with little to no warning. If you have pets, add their essentials to your emergency kit or create a separate emergency kit for pets. Remember, you may not have access to clean water or electricity, so keep clean, filtered water on hand, generators, and solar-powered phone chargers.
3. Stay Informed. Subscribe to your community’s weather warning system so you’ll receive important updates in real-time. It’s also a good idea to sign up to receive alerts from the Emergency Alert System and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (also, the National Weather Service). If you receive a flood advisory or flood watch notification well in advance, you may have time to protect your home from significant damage.
4. Plan an Evacuation Route. Know exactly where you’ll go if disaster strikes with a flood response plan. First, contact your local community to learn if there are already predetermined evacuation routes and shelters in place. If not, plan your own route. Try to have more than one exit route out of your neighborhood in case roads are closed, and get the entire family involved by practicing your evacuation route together.
5. Protect Your Property. One of the most important things you can do to protect your property from flood damage is to look at your homeowners insurance policy. Unfortunately, most standard policies don't cover damage caused by floods. Contact your insurance agent to determine which additional coverage you may need (such as flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program) before the worst happens.
6. Use Flood Damage-Resistant Material. Certain construction materials can help reduce the amount of water damage your home or business suffers in the event of a flood. These special materials can handle direct contact with floodwaters for up to 72 hours without sustaining the kind of significant damage that will require major repairs. Here are the top flood-resistant materials to consider before building or remodeling certain areas of your property:
- Floors: Use concrete, pressure-treated lumber, or clay and ceramic tiles.
- Walls & Ceilings: Use brick, metal, concrete and stone.
- Doors: Use hollow metal doors and cabinets instead of solid wood.
- Surfaces: Use polyester epoxy paint for added protection.
7. Raise Electrical System Components. Water and electricity don't mix, which means floods can wreak havoc on your property's electrical system. You could face thousands of dollars in equipment repairs or even fall victim to a devastating fire sparked by live wires coming into direct contact with water. Raising your electrical system components can go a long way toward protecting your property when water gets involved. Follow these tips to get started:
- Ideally, all electrical components should be raised approximately one foot above the 100-year flood level. Learn more about how this number is calculated from the S. Geological Survey.
- Consult with a licensed professional to find out how high you can move electrical meters, switches and outlets. Your local power company can also help you determine how high you can raise your power meter.
- Upgrade your fuse box to a more modern circuit breaker system so it can handle high fluctuations in power.
8. Utilize Sewer Backflow Valves. Sometimes flood waters can cause sewage from your sewer lines to back up, pushing contaminated water back through drainage pipes and into your home or business. This damage is not only costly, but also a serious health risk. Installing a backflow valve can prevent overloaded drain pipes from pushing return flow into your property. Configurations range from simple flap-style valves to complex gate valves and those with both. Consider the following tips before choosing your new sewer backflow valve:
- Look for complex valve designs that use both flap and gate styles for extra protection.
- All valves should be installed on the main waste drain pipes leaving your building, or lines connected to equipment below the designated flood level.
- Only allow a licensed plumbing company to make alterations to your plumbing or sewer lines.
- Structures with sump pumps use underground lines, which may be more difficult to seal.
9. Store Documents in a Waterproof Container. Protect your important documents such as passports, birth certificates, house and car titles, and Social Security cards, and other hard-to-replace items should be stored in a waterproof container. It can be a major added stressor to your life if you are dealing with flooding, while also trying to contact the DMV or title company trying to get replacements for your important papers.
10. Protect Your Property By Clearing Debris. Clear debris around your property to ease the risk of debris falling onto or damaging your home as a result of strong wind from the storm. The best way to do this is to keep up with outdoor maintenance, like making sure you cut down dead or dying trees or plants, while also securing any larger items that may damage your home’s walls.
11. Purchase Flood Insurance Protection. Floods are the number one national disaster in the U.S. Flood insurance may pay for some home repairs and replacements of damaged belongings. You have the option to choose a variety of coverage levels, but remember that you’ll likely need to meet your deductible before your policy will kick in.
Flood Preparedness Is Key
Flooding happens quickly and often there is no warning—that’s why it’s critical to prepare as much as possible before disaster strikes. While preparing for a flood can help protect your family, your home and your belongings from disaster, it’s also crucial to learn what to do after a flood hits your area to ensure you stay protected. If you’re dealing with flooding damage to your home as a result of a storm, rely on the experts from ServiceMaster Restore to help bring your home back to normal.
For more preparedness tips and information, including ways you can get involved with your community, visit Ready.gov and view this year’s National Preparedness Month resources.