Monday, June 27, 2011

What to do When There's a Flood

Evacuating During a Flood

Floods can strike quickly, therefore, preparedness can save homes and lives. In the case of flooding, it's important to know how to evacuate and what to take.

If flooding threatens your area, listen to the radio or television for weather reports and evacuation notices, and follow the directions of local authorities.

The Five P’s of Immediate Evacuation

People and Pets – And other livestock too

Papers – Important documents

Prescriptions – Medications, eyeglasses and hearing aids

Pictures – Irreplaceable memories

Personal Computer – Information on hard drives and disks

Prepare for Flooding

  • Elevate the furnace, water heater and electric panel if you live in a high-risk area.

  • Install "check valves" to prevent floodwaters from backing up into the drains of your home.

  • If feasible, construct barriers to stop floodwater from entering the building, and waterproof basement walls.

  • Property insurance often does not cover flood damage. Talk to your provider about your policy and consider additional coverage.

  • Build a kit of emergency supplies and a portable kit in case of evacuation.

Plan to Evacuate

  • Plan how to leave and where to go if an evacuation is advised.

  • Confirm family meeting places within and outside the neighborhood.

  • Identify places you could go - a friend's home in another town, a motel or public shelter - in an emergency.

  • If you have a car, keep a half tank of gas in it at all times.

  • Become familiar with alternate routes and means of transportation that lead out of your area.

  • Take your emergency supply kit.

  • Lock the door behind you.

  • Tune a battery-powered radio to a local emergency broadcast station; follow all emergency instructions.

  • Take your pets with you, but understand that only service animals may be permitted in public shelters. Plan how you will care for your pets in an emergency.

    If time allows:

    • Call or email the "out-of-state" contact in your family communications plan.

    • Tell them where you are going.

    • Leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going.

    • Check with neighbors who may need a ride.

  • Do not walk through moving water. Look for areas where the water is not moving. What might seem like a small amount of moving water can easily knock you down.

  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If your vehicle becomes surrounded by rising water, get out quickly and move to higher ground.

  • Stay away from downed power lines to avoid the risk of electrocution.

(Source: Ready)


Tips on Staying Safe Before, During and After a Flood

Posted by: Public Affairs

We are working with local, state and federal partners as they continue to battle the ongoing flooding in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys. Through our regional offices in Kansas City, Mo., Chicago, Ill., Denton, Texas and Atlanta, Ga., we are in close coordination with the affected states and stand poised to support them as needed.

On May 4th, President Obama declared emergency declarations for Mississippi and Tennessee, and a major disaster declaration for Kentucky, which allows for additional federal support to state and local governments.

Floods can occur in all 50 states, so whether or not you live in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys, there are steps you can take today to get prepared. Here are tips on what you can do to prepare before, during and after a flood:

Before a flood

  • Get flood insurance – Flooding can cause significant damage to homes and businesses, so protect yourself from the financial risk by purchasing insurance. Flood insurance policies typically take 30 days before they take effect, so don’t wait until it’s too late. Visit for more information on flood insurance.

  • Safeguard your possessions - Create a personal flood file containing an inventory of your possessions, important personal documents and a copy of your insurance policies. Keep it in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box or waterproof container.

  • Prepare your house - Place the furnace, water heater, washer, dryer and electrical components on cement blocks at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation. Also, make sure your sump pump is working and install a battery-operated backup, in case of a power failure.

  • Develop a family emergency plan – Plan and practice a flood evacuation route from your home, work or school that takes you to higher ground. Make sure your family knows how to contact one another in the event of an emergency, and ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be your emergency family contact. (And don’t forget to plan for your children and pets.)

During a flood

  • Go to higher ground and avoid areas subject to flooding

  • Do not attempt to walk or drive through flowing streams or flooded roadways

  • Listen to the direction of local officials and stay updated by following local news reports

  • If you come in contact with floodwaters, wash your hands with soap and disinfected water.

After a flood

  • If your home has suffered damage, call your insurance agent to file a claim.

  • Check for structural damage before re-entering your home to avoid being trapped in a building collapse.

  • Take photos of any floodwater in your home and save any damaged personal property.

  • Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their purchase date and value with receipts, and place with the inventory you took prior to the flood. Some damaged items may require disposal, so keep photographs of these items.

  • Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety.

  • Boil water for drinking and food preparation until authorities tell you that your water supply is safe.

  • Prevent mold by removing wet contents immediately.

  • Wear gloves and boots to clean and disinfect. Wet items should be cleaned with a pine-oil cleanser and bleach, completely dried, and monitored for several days for any fungal growth and odors.

For more information on getting prepared for floods visit or


HOW TO: Rescue people from a flood

Photo: RNLI

RNLI volunteers rescue survivors from the flooded town of Cockermouth in northwest England in November 2009

JOHANNESBURG, 31 January 2011 (IRIN) - Imagine you and your family are camped out on the second floor of your house watching floodwaters rising steadily towards your bedroom window. It is too late to evacuate; your only hope is for someone to come and rescue you.

But rescuing people from a flood is not as simple as dispatching a boat or a chopper. It takes high levels of training and coordination for rescue teams to bring survivors to safety without endangering themselves. Here is how they do it.

The training

There are two basic types of floods: those that occur gradually, such as the recent flooding in Australia, allowing communities time to move to higher ground; and flash floods that may happen with little or no warning, like those that caused significant loss of life in Brazil in mid-January. It is flash floods that usually present the greatest risks and challenges to rescuers.

Anyone involved in flood rescue should have training in first aid and how to operate a radio, but many are also certified in Swiftwater Rescue. Hugh Fogarty, who heads the flood rescue team of UK charity, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), explained that the first thing individuals learn during Swiftwater Rescue training is hydrology, or “how water behaves when it’s moving very quickly through a confined channel”. This includes learning how to read the surface of the water for clues about the location of hidden obstacles like cars and concrete posts that could capsize your boat.

Next, trainees learn how to keep themselves safe through skills such as “defensive swimming” and precautions like using a pole to check for open manholes when wading through floodwater. Working as a team can also decrease risk: one member of a team may be deployed upstream to warn teammates of large debris being swept towards them while two more may be stationed downstream with ropes in case someone falls into the water.

Rescuers also need to know how to handle a boat in fast-moving water. According to Julie Ryan, a volunteer with British NGO the International Rescue Corps (IRC), there are ways to angle a boat so it is not fighting the current.

The kit

Preparedness kits issued to Red Cross volunteers doing flood rescue in Mozambique include whistles and a megaphone to communicate with survivors, ropes for pulling them to safety and extra life jackets and rain gear to keep them safe and dry. The kits also contain lanterns and flares, and radios for staying in touch with HQ.

Assessing the situation

Before dispatching rescue teams, you need to know where to send them. Large expanses of floodwaters can mask landmarks leaving unprepared rescuers disoriented and unable to locate survivors. Air reconnaissance can be helpful for building a picture of what is happening on the ground, but is not always available.

''We wouldn't just ride round and look for people. We'd know where we were going and what we were looking for''

Rescuers have training in how to read the contours of a map to work out which areas would be flooded, but also rely on local knowledge to guide a search. Organizations like the Red Cross and the IRC have networks of local volunteers who may know how many people are marooned in a particular farm, village or street. Where cell phone technology is available, survivors themselves may alert emergency services of their location.

“We wouldn’t just ride round and look for people,” said Ryan of the IRC. “We’d know where we were going and what we were looking for.”

Information about particular risks associated with a flood situation is also helpful. Ryan recalled that during a November 2009 mission to rescue people from the flooded town of Cockermouth in northwestern England, police informed them that the rapidly flowing water had emptied a scaffolding yard and they should watch out for the heavy metal poles.

The rescue

Getting survivors from dry land onto a boat is relatively simple, but rescuing them from the second floor of a building surrounded by rushing water presents more of a challenge. In such situations, a second boat may be sent slightly upstream to create an eddy that holds the first boat in place against the side of the building while people are loaded into it.

Read more
How To: Rescue people trapped in a collapsed building
How To: Track the scent of life
How To: Do a food airdrop

As most rescue boats can only accommodate three or four people at a time, rescuers prioritize the injured, the young and the elderly and often have to make several trips to bring everyone to safety.

If, despite all precautions, someone does fall into the water, a spotter on the boat would try to keep them in sight for as long as possible. "The worst scenario is they just disappear and you’re unable to locate them," said Ryan. "But you’d hope they’d manage to find somewhere to hold on until you catch up to them."

Once everyone is on dry land, rescue teams hand over to relief agencies to feed and shelter survivors and begin the long process of restoring areas covered in mud and debris.


Flood Water After a Disaster or Emergency

When returning to your home after a hurricane or flood, be aware that flood water may contain sewage. Protect yourself and your family by following these steps:

Inside the Home

  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.

  • Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area.

  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as, mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and most paper products).

  • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.

  • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.

  • Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers.

  • After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and warm water. Use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands).

    • Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of ⅛ teaspoon [~0.75 milliliters] of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of ¼ teaspoon (~1.5 milliliters) of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.

  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.

  • Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent. It is recommended that a laundromat be used for washing large quantities of clothes and linens until your onsite waste-water system has been professionally inspected and serviced.

  • Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.

See also Reentering Your Flooded Home, Mold After a Disaster, and Cleaning and Sanitizing With Bleach After an Emergency.

Outside the Home

  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.

  • Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area.

  • Have your onsite waste-water system professionally inspected and serviced if you suspect damage.

  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.

  • After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and warm water. Use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands).

    • Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of ⅛ teaspoon [~0.75 milliliters] of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use solution of ¼ teaspoon (~1.5 milliliters) of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.

  • Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.

Health Risks

Flood waters and standing waters pose various risks, including infectious diseases, chemical hazards, and injuries.

Infectious Diseases

Diarrheal Diseases

Eating or drinking anything contaminated by flood water can cause diarrheal disease. To protect yourself and your family,

  • Practice good hygiene (handwashing) after contact with flood waters.

  • Do not allow children to play in flood water areas.

  • Wash children's hands frequently (always before meals).

  • Do not allow children to play with toys that have been contaminated by flood water and have not been disinfected.

For information on disinfecting certain nonporous toys, visit CDC Healthy Water's Cleaning and Sanitizing with Bleach section.

Wound Infections

Open wounds and rashes exposed to flood waters can become infected. To protect yourself and your family,

  • Avoid exposure to flood waters if you have an open wound.

  • Cover open wounds with a waterproof bandage.

  • Keep open wounds as clean as possible by washing well with soap and clean water.

  • If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.

For more information, visit CDC’s Emergency Wound Care After a Natural Disaster.

Chemical Hazards

Be aware of potential chemical hazards during floods. Flood waters may have moved hazardous chemical containers of solvents or other industrial chemicals from their normal storage places.



Flood water poses drowning risks for everyone, regardless of their ability to swim. Swiftly moving shallow water can be deadly, and even shallow standing water can be dangerous for small children.
Vehicles do not provide adequate protection from flood waters. They can be swept away or may stall in moving water.

Animal and Insect Bites

Flood waters can displace animals, insects, and reptiles. To protect yourself and your family, be alert and avoid contact.

Electrical Hazards

Avoid downed power lines.


Flood waters may contain sharp objects, such as glass or metal fragments, that can cause injury and lead to infection.

Top of Page

Resources and Guidance


Flood Preparedness

Information Sheets

Please note that the PDF files below require Adobe Reader and should be printed on legal size paper (8.5” x 14”). Download Adobe Reader for free here.

Flood Safety:

(English pdf | Spanish pdf | Vietnamese pdf)

Returning Home after a Hurricane or Flood:

(English pdf | Spanish pdf | Vietnamese pdf)

As our area experiences flooding and flash flooding, it is best to keep these things in mind:

What to Do During a Flood WARNING

When a flood or flash flood WARNING is issued:

  • Listen continuously to a NOAA Weather Radio, or a portable, batterypowered radio (or television) for updated emergency information. Local stations provide you with the best advice for your particular situation.

  • Be alert to signs of flooding. A WARNING means a flood is imminent or is happening in the area.

  • If you live in a flood-prone area or think you are at risk, evacuate immediately. Move quickly to higher ground. --Save yourself, not your belongings. The most important thing is your safety.

  • Follow the instructions and advice of local authorities. Local authorities are the most informed about affected areas. They are best equipped to tell you which areas are most heavily flooded or flash flooded and which areas you should avoid.

  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Move to a safe area before access is cut off by flood water. Evacuation is much simpler and safer before flood waters become too deep for vehicles to drive through.

  • Follow recommended evacuation routes. Shortcuts or alternate, non-recommended routes may be blocked or damaged by flood waters.

  • Leave early enough to avoid being marooned by flooded roads. Delaying too long may allow all escape routes to become blocked.

Flood Safety

  • Stay out of areas subject to flooding. Dips, low spots, canyons, washes, etc., can become filled with water.

  • If outdoors, climb to high ground and stay there. Move away from dangerous flood waters.

  • If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around, and go another way. Never try to walk, swim, or drive through such swift water. Most flood fatalities are caused by people attempting to drive through water, or people playing in high water. If it is moving swiftly, even water six inches deep can sweep you off your feet.

What to Do if You Are Driving During a Flood

  • Avoid already flooded areas, and areas subject to sudden flooding. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams. Most flood fatalities are caused by people attempting to drive through water, or people playing in high water. The depth of water is not always obvious. The roadbed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped. Rapidly rising water may stall the engine, engulf the vehicle and its occupants, and sweep them away. Look out for flooding at highway dips, bridges, and low areas. Two feet of water will carry away most automobiles.

  • If you are driving and come upon rapidly rising waters, turn around and find another route. Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks, and storm drains. If your route is blocked by flood waters or barricades, find another route. Barricades are put up by local officials to protect people from unsafe roads. Driving around them can be a serious risk.

  • If your vehicle becomes surrounded by water or the engine stalls, and if you can safely get out, abandon your vehicle immediately and climb to higher ground. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles. When a vehicle stalls in the water, the water's momentum is transferred to the car. The lateral force of a foot of water moving at 10 miles per hour is about 500 pounds on the average automobile. The greatest effect is buoyancy--for every foot that water rises up the side of a car, it displaces 1,500 pounds of the car's weight. So, two feet of water moving at 10 miles per hour will float virtually any car. Many persons have been swept away by flood waters upon leaving their vehicles, which are later found without much damage. Use caution when abandoning your vehicle, and look for an opportunity to move away quickly and safely to higher ground.

What to Do After a Flood or Flash Flood

  • Seek necessary medical care at the nearest hospital or clinic. Contaminated flood waters lead to a greater possibility of infection. Severe injuries will require medical attention.

  • Help a neighbor who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.

  • Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations, and put you at further risk from the residual effects of floods, such as contaminated waters, crumbled roads, landslides, mudflows, and other hazards.

  • Continue to listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or television stations and return home only when authorities indicate it is safe to do so. Flood dangers do not end when the water begins to recede; there may be flood related hazards within your community, which you could hear about from local broadcasts.

  • Stay out of any building if flood waters remain around the building. Flood waters often undermine foundations, causing sinking, floors can crack or break and buildings can collapse.

  • Avoid entering ANY building (home, business, or other) before local officials have said it is safe to do so. Buildings may have hidden damage that makes them unsafe. Gas leaks or electric or waterline damage can create additional problems.

  • Report broken utility lines to the appropriate authorities. Reporting potential hazards will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury. Check with your utility company now about where broken lines should be reported.

  • Avoid smoking inside buildings. Smoking in confined areas can cause fires.

  • When entering buildings, use extreme caution. Building damage may have occurred where you least expect it. Watch carefully every step you take.

  • Wear sturdy shoes. The most common injury following a disaster is cut feet.

  • Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings. Battery-powered lighting is the safest and easiest, preventing fire hazard for the user, occupants, and building.

  • Examine walls, floors, doors, staircases, and windows to make sure that the building is not in danger of collapsing. Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage. Cracks and damage to a foundation can render a building uninhabitable.

  • Look for fire hazards. There may be broken or leaking gas lines, flooded electrical circuits, or submerged furnaces or electrical appliances. Flammable or explosive materials may travel from upstream. Fire is the most frequent hazard following floods.

  • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.

  • Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell burning insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.

  • Check for sewage and waterline damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water from undamaged water heaters or by melting ice cubes.

  • Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes, that may have come into buildings with the flood waters. Use a stick to poke through debris. Flood waters flush snakes and many animals out of their homes.

  • Watch for loose plaster, drywall, and ceilings that could fall. Take pictures of the damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.

After returning home:

  • Throw away food that has come in contact with flood waters. Some canned foods may be salvageable. If the cans are dented or damaged, throw them away. Food contaminated by flood waters can cause severe infections.

  • If water is of questionable purity, boil or add bleach, and distill drinking water before using. Wells inundated by flood waters should be pumped out and the water tested for purity before drinking. If in doubt, call your local public health authority. Ill health effects often occur when people drink water contaminated with bacteria and germs.

  • Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid structural damage. If the water is pumped completely in a short period of time, pressure from water-saturated soil on the outside could cause basement walls to collapse.

  • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are health hazards.

For information on Flood Warnings and current weather information, please visit The National Weather Service Forecast Office for New Orleans/Baton Rouge, LA.