Many flood safety tips concentrate on what you can do to prevent one, but the most immediate concern for those who are in the path of rising waters is what to do to remain safe, protect others, and maybe even safeguard their cherished things at that very moment.
The most important tip
The single most important thing to do leading up to any storm in which flooding is a concern is to listen to officials. Heed warnings to evacuate; as we have seen in countless other storms and during the coverage of Hurricane Florence, those who stay behind put themselves, and those who then have to attempt rescues, in danger, and use up resources that are needed elsewhere.
Stock up on food and essential items
Let images of empty bread shelves in the days before a serious storm hits be a warning: The grocery store is going to be ravaged. Be the one to do the ravaging before everyone else gets there so you’re stocked up should roads be impassible and stores be inaccessible for a period of time.
“Once there’s a hurricane warning, don’t wait until the last minute to buy groceries,” said National Flood Experts. “Stock up on non-perishables, water, and basic first aid items. Failing to do this will probably ensure that by the time you get to the store, you’ll be met with empty shelves. While you’re at it, also buy an external battery pack for your cell phone.”
Make your home as safe as possible
Hidden dangers in your house could prove disastrous during a flood. “If a flood is imminent, take the following steps as soon as it’s safe: Shut off electrical, furnace, gas and water, and disconnect appliances if safe,” said The Co-Operators. “Move valuables from the basement to upper floors. Raise large appliances up on wood or cement blocks. If items can’t be raised, consider anchoring them and protecting them with a floodwall or shield.”
Get to higher ground
If you happen to be out on the road when flooding occurs, “get to higher ground,” said Weather.gov. “Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, drainage ditches, canyons, washes etc.”
If you’re at home, go to a second or third story. In some cases, you may need to go even higher to escape the rising tide. During 2017’s historic flooding in Houston, officials made it a point to discourage anyone from entering the attic, and climbing onto the roof instead.
“Officials are advising people to get on the roof of their home to escape extreme flooding inside,” said WeatherNation. “Those trying to escape the floodwater in their homes are instructed not to stay in the attic, because you could become trapped.”
Take your emergency supplies
You don’t want to get stuck on the roof of your home with no emergency supplies and no way to communicate that you’re in danger. As you move to higher ground, bring your emergency stash with you, if you can do so safely. And remember: Don’t risk your life going back for things that can be replaced. According to Esurance, a flood kit should include: “three days' worth of water (one gallon of water per person, per day), three days' worth of non-perishable food, a hand-crank radio, which also operates as a flashlight and cell phone charger (these are manually powered and can be purchased at most electronic stores), a flashlight and extra batteries, and a first-aid kit.” You can see the rest of the list here.
Once the waters recede, the danger isn’t over. In fact, the condition your home is in could be hazardous to your health. “The initial damage caused by a flood is not the only risk. Standing flood waters can also spread infectious diseases, bring chemical hazards, and cause injuries,” said the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “After you return home, if you find that your home was flooded, practice safe cleaning. Remove and throw out drywall and insulation that was contaminated with flood water or sewage. Throw out items that cannot be washed and cleaned with a bleach solution: mattresses, pillows, carpeting, carpet padding, and stuffed toys. Homeowners may want to temporarily store items outside of the home until insurance claims can be filed. Walls, hard-surfaced floors, and many other household surfaces should be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water.”