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Flood survival tips
Heavy rains, especially when combined with spring's snow melt, can quickly lead to flooding. Floods have different challenges than other severe weather events.
Before a flood occurs, it’s a good idea to assess your chances of being impacted by it. You can find out your property's relative risk of flood through the National Flood Insurance Program's (NFIP's) flood risk assessment tool.
Be prepared for flooding
Before a flood arrives, have an evacuation route planned, and know how long it will take to evacuate your home. Take into account others who may be evacuating at the same time.
Contact the emergency management coordinator (EMC) at your local municipality to see if your home is susceptible to a storm surge. The EMC can also supply you with information about which routes are safe to take during an evacuation and the number of hours it may take for you to evacuate when you factor in traffic.
The EMC can also provide you with information on the location of the nearest shelter.
Carefully examine your need for flood insurance according to your property's flood threat as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for your area. Home insurance does not cover flood damage, and it's a mistake to believe that buying flood insurance isn't necessary because of federal disaster aid. Typically, federal aid comes in the form of loans that have to be paid back.
On the other hand, car insurance companies cover flood damage to your car – assuming you have comprehensive coverage.
FEMA points out that even a few inches of floodwater can cause tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage. Over the past decade, the average flood claim has amounted to more than $33,000, according to FEMA’s Web site. Consider paying a few hundred dollars a year for flood insurance as opposed to losing your home after a flood without insurance. Some homeowners in high-risk areas must purchase flood insurance.
Prior to evacuation, prepare your home
Moving furniture and other valuables to an upper floor can help protect them from water damage. Also, if you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. It’s also important that you unplug electrical appliances and turn off utilities (gas and electric) at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
If you live near a river or creek, be alert during heavy rains. It is not uncommon for a flash flood to sweep down a river and catch nearby residents by surprise.
When a flood watch or warning is issued, the NFIP says you should:
Monitor storm reports on radio, television and Internet.
If you're considering moving to a shelter, make arrangements for all pets. Refill needed prescriptions. If evacuation has not already been recommended, consider leaving the area early to avoid traffic jams.
Make sure you have a radio with fresh batteries. Radio may become your most useful source for information. Have enough batteries to last several days, in the event electricity goes out.
Flashlights, candles or lamps, flares, matches.
Store matches and flares in a waterproof container. Have lantern fuel for several days. Follow all safety rules.
Fill your gas tank and fill several extra gas cans.
Never let your car's gas tank be less than half-full during a rainy/storm season. Fill up as soon as an emergency alert is issued. When there is no electricity, gas pumps won't work. And if there is a flash flood, you may not be able to get to a gas station.
Stock up on canned goods and nonperishable foods.
Local camping stores offer freeze-dried rations that can come in handy. They are also easy to store in a backpack.
Fill up containers with fresh, clean drinking water that will last several days, or purchase bottled water. In a flood, the local water supply could be interrupted or contaminated.
Keep all receipts for emergency repairs on your home.
Your insurance policy will cover the cost of materials used in temporary repairs, so hold on to all receipts.
Store away valuables and personal papers.
Put anything that is irreplaceable in waterproof containers and store them at the highest possible spot in your house. If you evacuate, take them with you.
Leave when the local authorities tell you to leave. Do not think you can survive a flash flood. Your home and valuables can be replaced, but you cannot.
Look out for currents.
When the time comes to evacuate, never cross a road covered in water. If you are walking, six inches of moving water can sweep you downstream. Use a stick or cane to check the firmness of the ground in front of you. People die every year during floods because they attempt to cross washed-out roads or walk through flood waters and are swept away by the current.
If you have to drive
Avoid driving through flooded areas. According to FEMA’s Web site, as little as six inches of water can cause stall your car or make you lose control of it. A foot of water can cause many types of vehicles to float, and two feet of rushing water can cause vehicles – including sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pick-up trucks – to be carried away. If water starts to rise around your car, abandon it and move to higher ground if it’s possible to do it safely.