Whether or not you live in an officially designated flood zone, practicing flood prevention is the key to protecting your property and your family’s safety. Some states have higher flood risks than others, including Louisiana, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Mississippi, just to name a few. These states are most vulnerable to flooding due to their proximity to the ocean, the frequency of major storms, the risk of hurricanes, and their altitude at or below sea level.
According to National Flood Insurance, 75% of all Presidential disaster declarations are associated with some type of flooding in the United States. Thankfully, with the right flood preparedness, you and your family will be ready for whatever comes your way. This guide offers several things homeowners can do to plan and prepare for floods to keep their homes, pets, and family members safe.
Flood prevention measures to protect your home
You can’t predict when or where a flood will strike, but there are some proactive measures you can take to prevent your home from flooding. These preventative actions help to keep your property safe and dry. Even if they don’t prevent flooding completely, they can certainly help to mitigate the severity of the damage.
Consider these practical flood prevention measures for your home:
- Make sure your home is graded properly so water flows down and away from the home. Improper grading can lead to water traveling right back to your home’s foundation, resulting in serious damage. Consider installing additional drainage around the house. This drainage will help to catch excess water and move it away from your home’s basement and foundation to help prevent costly structural damage.
- Install sump pumps and backflow prevention devices, especially if your home has a basement or if you live in a low-lying area. These special pumps remove and redirect water to help keep the property dry.
- Elevate your essential utilities and appliances off the ground before a storm approaches. You can also do this permanently by placing these items on a raised platform. If the inside of your home floods, this helps keep them from getting waterlogged and may prevent permanent damage. Unplug everything before a storm to prevent accidental electrical fires.
- Take time to seal any cracks and gaps in your home’s foundation and walls. Sealing everything now can help to keep water from seeping inside if a flood hits.
- Design a rain garden or install a “green roof” to help collect excess runoff from your property. Not only will this beautify your home, but it also helps to absorb the water and contributes to a beautiful garden and landscape in the process. A green roof is a layer of plant material added to the roof that helps absorb water, similar to how a sponge absorbs water. These green roofs capture rainwater and then slowly release it via evaporation and through plant use to reduce the amount of water that would normally run off the roof.
Flood preparedness and safety for pets
Not only is being prepared important for your family, but the right type of pet disaster preparedness is also essential to protect your furry family members during a flood. Always make sure to include a pet safety plan for any type of disaster to keep your pets safe.
Follow these steps to ensure the safety and well-being of your beloved pets during floods:
- Make sure your pet has the proper identification by giving them a microchip. If they already have a microchip, check that it has your most current contact information, including the pet’s name, color, species, telephone number, and home address.
- Create a pet safety supply kit that includes vital items like prescription medications, food, water and food/water bowls, blankets, a pet carrier, and their favorite toy and treats to keep them comforted. Don’t forget to add a piece of paper with your veterinarian’s contact information just in case they need emergency treatment.
- Make a list of safe shelter options in case you need to evacuate. Be sure to include local shelters that will allow your pet to come with your family during an emergency. If you don’t have any pet-friendly shelters nearby, look for animal-only shelters that you can take them to ahead of the flood.
- Come up with a thorough evacuation plan for your family, including your pets. This ensures that you’re prepared ahead of time if you need to leave with your animals.
- Always transport your pets using secure carriers, harnesses, and leashes. Keep these items by the door so you can grab them in an emergency.
- Provide your pet with some calming, familiar items, including their favorite blanket and toys. These items contain your scent, which can have a calming effect on your pet if they get scared.
- Make sure your pets are up to date on their vaccinations and include a copy of their medical records in case you need to provide them to a shelter or vet.
- Stay informed about current weather conditions and evacuation orders for your location. Refer to local resources like your fire and police departments, as well as local news channels for updates.
- Practice evacuation drills that include your pets so everyone is familiar with what to do in the event of a flood where you need to leave your home.
- Remember to keep some post-flood considerations in mind, including where your pet will stay long-term if your home needs to be repaired or what to do if you end up having to evacuate for an extended period of time.
Dealing with a flood event
Flood and emergency preparedness are just part of a comprehensive and proactive flood plan. Knowing what to do during a flood is vital to ensure your personal safety and the safety of your loved ones. If you take action during a flooding situation, you have a better chance of protecting yourself, your family, and your property.
Here are some things you can do to help you deal with a flood event if it happens in your local area:
- Stay informed: Continuously monitor your local news channels on television, the radio, and/or online and via social media. Pay close attention to the latest weather alerts from NOAA and the National Weather Service, and listen carefully for any updates or new notifications regarding flood information occurring near you.
- Evacuation: If the local authorities advise you to evacuate, you should promptly follow their instructions. Always move to higher ground or head to a designated evacuation shelter. Never ignore evacuation orders, as it could cost you and your family much more than your home.
- Find safe shelter: If you don’t have to evacuate, it’s still crucial that you seek higher ground somewhere within your home. Move to an upper-level floor to avoid rising water levels, if necessary. Do your best to get as high as possible so that you don’t end up trapped in flood water. If you need to get onto the roof of a building, start signaling for help as soon as possible.
- Avoid floodwaters: Always stay away from flooded areas. The water can be extremely hazardous due to strong currents, debris, or toxic chemicals and other contaminants. Downed power lines may be located in sitting floodwater, which poses a serious risk to anyone who walks near them.
- Don’t drive through flooded roads: Remember the slogan “Turn around, don’t drown,” and never try to drive (or swim) through floodwaters. It’s nearly impossible to know the exact depth of the water and the strength of the current. Driving in floodwaters could cause you and your vehicle to be washed away. Avoid driving on bridges, especially if you see fast-moving water, as it can wash cars and bridges away in seconds. Never drive around barricades – the authorities have put them in place to safely direct traffic around flooded roadways.
- Disconnect your utilities: If time allows and it can be done safely, shut down the electrical power, gas, and water connections to your home. Unplug computers and appliances and move them higher up to protect them from water damage.
- Gather emergency supplies: Part of good flood preparedness is making sure you have all of your essential supplies ready to go. Include items like clean drinking water, non-perishable foods and snacks, flashlights and batteries, a full first aid kit, and a solar-powered portable radio. Don’t forget to pack prescription medications for yourself, your family, and your pets if needed.
- Communicate: Keep your family members or a trusted individual informed about your situation and your whereabouts. If you move to a different location, let them know just in case they need to contact you or tell the authorities where you’re located.
Dealing with a flooded home
If your home gets flooded, dealing with the aftermath can be stressful and confusing. Remember these tips to keep your family safe and to help return your home to its original condition:
- Always keep your personal safety top of mind before you re-enter the home after a flood. Wear personal protective gear like eye protection, gloves, and a mask if you think you may breathe in anything dangerous like mold, mildew, or chemicals. Open all doors and windows to help the home air out. Don’t allow children or pets to enter the home until you’ve confirmed that it’s safe to do so. If possible, turn off the home’s main power connection to reduce the chances of accidental electrical shock.
- Carefully document all damage to your home for your insurance claim. This documentation should include taking videos and photos and keeping a list of everything that was damaged, including furniture, personal belongings, and damage to the actual structure of your home. Remember to include things like fencing, swimming pools, and outdoor buildings like sheds or garages.
- Remove as much standing water as possible and start the process of drying the affected areas of your home. You’ll most likely need to hire a flood or water remediation service through your insurance company. These professionals have special equipment that can speed up the drying process, and they can also accurately assess the damage.
- After you document damaged items, safely discard them to prevent mold and mildew from growing inside your home. Start sanitizing your space, if possible, by disinfecting as many surfaces as you can. Make a DIY sanitizer by mixing one cup of bleach with one gallon of water. Use the mixture to wipe down walls, floors, and all hard surfaces inside the home. Throw out any spoiled food or any food that has come into contact with floodwater.
- Mold growth in the home is common after floods, so make sure you conduct the proper mold cleanup, prevention, and remediation measures. If you’ve filed an insurance claim, the insurance company will likely hire a professional mold inspection and remediation company (if needed) to help.
- Depending on the severity of the damage, you may need to seek the help of professional restoration services. Your insurance company may recommend a restoration service that you can use, or you can choose to find one yourself.
The role of home insurance in flood preparedness
To protect your home, it’s crucial that you have the right type of home insurance coverage. You may need to pay for an additional policy that covers floods, especially if you live in a designated flood zone. Having an active home insurance plan can help to provide you with financial protection and reimbursement if you incur any flood-related damage.
A comprehensive home insurance plan typically pays for things like post-flood cleanup, reimbursement for damaged personal property, and repairing your home. It should also pay for you to live in a temporary residence, such as a hotel or an apartment, if your home is deemed unsafe while it undergoes repairs. Review your current policy and consider getting additional flood insurance coverage if you live in a flood-prone area.
Flood prevention and preparedness help keep your home, family, and pets safe. Even a few small steps can make a big difference when it comes to protecting yourself during and after a flood. Take the right proactive measures now, and your home will be better protected if a flood ever arrives at your doorstep. Doing a few of these simple, practical things now will give you a sense of confidence and empowerment so you can handle whatever comes your way in the future.