Everyone is susceptible to flood damage, whether from storms, water main breaks, or sewer backups

Floods account for more than $1 billion in property losses in the United States each year, and everyone is susceptible to flood damage, whether from storms, water main breaks, or sewer backups.

In recent years, strong rain storms have been occurring more frequently than expected, and climatologists warn the trend may continue as the effects of climate change increase.  Intense rain storms are the most common cause of flash flooding,  and they also cause sewers to back up into residences.

Before Flash Flooding

  • Know your area's flood risk. To estimate your flood risk and flood insurance premium, visit www.floodsmart.gov.
  • Make an itemized list of personal property, including furnishings, clothing, and valuables.
  • Fill out an emergency reference card, which will contain important contacts for you and your family in the event of any emergency.
  • Prepare a emergency kit that you can grab in case you need to leave your home in a hurry.
  • Learn the safest route from your home or place of business to safe, high ground in case you have to evacuate. This should be part of your household disaster plan. 
  • If you live in a flood-susceptible area, keep materials, such as sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, and lumber, on hand to help protect your home.

Consider getting flood insurance. Protection against loss due to floods is not covered under a homeowner's policy. Contact your property/casualty agent or broker about eligibility for flood insurance, which is offered through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).During the Flood

  • Keep a battery-operated AM/FM radio tuned to a local station and follow emergency instructions.
  • If you're caught inside by rising waters, move to a higher floor. Take warm clothing, a flashlight, and portable radio with you. Wait for help. Do NOT try to swim to safety.
  • When outside, remember: floods are deceptive. Try to avoid flooded areas, and do not attempt to walk across flood water more than knee deep.

If it is safe to evacuate by car:

  • Take your emergency kit with you.
  • Avoid flooded roadways. Parts of the road may already be washed out, and you could become stranded or trapped.
  • If your car stalls in a flooded area, abandon it as soon as possible. Floodwater can rise rapidly and sweep a car (and its occupants) away.

If time permits:

  • Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary. Do not touch any electrical equipment unless it is in a dry area, or you are standing on a piece of dry wood while wearing rubber-soled shoes or boots and rubber gloves.
  • Fill bathtubs, sinks, and jugs with clean water in case regular supplies are contaminated (you can sanitize these items by first rinsing with bleach).
  • Board up windows or protect them with storm shutters or tape (to prevent flying glass).
  • Bring outdoor objects, such as lawn furniture, garbage cans and other loose items, inside the house or tie them down securely.

After the Flood:

  • Before re-entering a building, check for structural damage. Make sure it is not in danger of collapsing. Turn off any outside gas lines at the meter or tank, and let the building air out for several minutes to remove foul odors or escaping gas.
  • Watch for electrical shorts or live wires before turning off the main power switch. Do not turn on any lights or appliances until an electrician has checked the system for short circuits.
  • Cover broken windows and holes in the roof or walls to prevent further weather damage.
  • Throw out fresh food and previously opened medicines that have come in contact with floodwaters.
  • Water for drinking and food preparation should be boiled vigorously for 10 minutes (until the public water system has been declared safe).

Assessing and repairing damage

Owners who want to reoccupy residences damaged by flooding should first hire an architect or engineer to assess the building's safety. If the building is not safe to occupy, the owners should seek alternative housing arrangements while repairs are made.

Owners should take pictures of all damage and flood impacts and keep receipts for all repairs if they intend to apply for disaster assistance or to make an insurance claim.

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