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Federal Emergency Management Agency
Find out if you live in a floodprone area from your local
emergency management office
or Red Cross chapter.
Ask whether your property is
above or below the flood stage
water level and learn about the
history of flooding for your region.
Learn flood warning signs and
your community alert signals.
Request information on preparing
for floods and flash floods.
Make sure that all family
members know how to
-respond after a flood or
flash flood.
This plan should include information on the safest routes to shelters. Individuals living in flash
flood areas should have several
alternate routes.
Teach all family members how
and when to turn off gas,
electricity, and water.
Have disaster supplies on hand.
• Flashlights and extra batteries
Teach children how and when to
call 9-1-1, police, fire department,
and which radio station to tune to
for emergency information.
• Portable, battery-operated radio
and extra batteries
• First aid kit and manual
• Emergency food and water
Learn about the National
Flood Insurance Program.
• Nonelectric can opener
If you live in a frequently
flooded area, stockpile emergency building materials.
These include plywood, plastic
sheeting, lumber nails, hammer and
saw, pry bar, shovels, and sandbags.
Have check valves installed in
building sewer traps to prevent
flood waters from backing up in
sewer drains.
As a last resort, use large corks or
stoppers to plug showers, tubs, or
Plan and practice an evacuation
Contact the local emergency management office or local American Red
Cross chapter for a copy of the
community flood evacuation plan.
• Essential medicines
Ask your insurance agent about
flood insurance. Homeowners
policies do not cover flood damage.
• Cash and credit cards
• Sturdy shoes
Develop an emergency
communication plan.
In case family members are
separated from one another during
floods or flash floods (a real
possibility during the day when
adults are at work and children are
at school), have a plan for getting
back together.
Ask an out-of-state relative or
friend to serve as the “family
contact.” After a disaster, it’s often
easier to call long distance. Make
sure everyone in the family knows
the name, address, and phone
number of the contact person.
Mitigation pays. It includes any activities that prevent an emergency, reduce the chance of an emergency happening, or
lessen the damaging effects of unavoidable emergencies. Investing in mitigation steps now such as constructing barriers
such as levees and purchasing flood insurance will help reduce the amount of structural damage to your home and
financial loss from building and crop damage should a flood or flash flood occur.
■ Listen to a battery-operated radio
for the latest storm information.
■ Fill
bathtubs, sinks, and jugs
with clean water in case water
becomes contaminated.
■ Bring
outdoor belongings,
such as patio furniture, indoors.
■ Move valuable household
possessions to the upper floors or
to safe ground if time permits.
■ If you are instructed to do so by
local authorities, turn off all
utilities at the main power switch
and close the main gas valve.
■ Be
prepared to evacuate.
If Indoors:
■ Turn on battery-operated radio
or television to get the latest
emergency information.
■ Get your preassembed
emergency supplies.
■ If told to leave, do so immediately.
If Outdoors:
■ Climb to high ground and stay
■ Avoid
walking through any
floodwaters. If it is moving
swiftly, even water 6 inches deep
can sweep you off your feet.
If In a Car:
■ If
you come to a flooded area,
turn around and go another way.
■ If your car stalls, abandon it
immediately and climb to higher
ground. Many deaths have
resulted from attempts to move
stalled vehicles.
Flood dangers do not end when the
water begins to recede. Listen to a
radio or television and don’t
return home until authorities
indicate it is safe to do so.
Remember to help your neighbors
who may require special assistance — infants, elderly people,
and people with disabilities.
Inspect foundations for cracks
or other damage.
Stay out of buildings if flood
waters remain around the
When entering buildings, use
extreme caution.
■ Wear
sturdy shoes and use
battery-powered lanterns or
flashlights when examining
■ Examine
walls, floors, doors,
and windows to make sure that
the building is not in danger of
■ Watch
■ If advised to evacuate, do so
■ Evacuation is much simpler and
safer before flood waters become
too deep for ordinary vehicles to
drive through.
■ Listen to a battery-operated
radio for evacuation instructions.
■ Follow recommended evacuation routes — shortcuts may be
■ Leave
early enough to avoid
being marooned by flooded roads.
out for animals, especially poisonous snakes, that
may have come into your home
with the flood waters. Use a
stick to poke through debris.
■ Watch
for loose plaster and
ceilings that could fall.
■ Take
pictures of the damage
— both to the house and its
contents for insurance claims.
Look for fire hazards.
• Broken or leaking gas lines
Throw away food — including
canned goods — that has come
in contact with flood waters.
Pump out flooded basements
gradually (about one-third of the
water per day) to avoid structural
Service damaged septic tanks,
cesspools, pits, and leaching
systems as soon as possible.
Damaged sewage systems are
health hazards.
Inspecting Utilities in
a Damaged Home
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
hot 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.
Check for sewage and
water lines 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 by melting ice cubes.
• Flooded electrical circuits
• Submerged furnaces or electrical
• Flammable or explosive
materials coming from upstream
September 1993
1. Flood waters can be extremely dangerous. The force of six
inches of swiftly moving water can knock people off their feet.
The best protection during a flood is to leave the area and go to
shelter on higher ground.
Floods are the most common and
widespread of all natural disasters—
except fire. Most communities in the
United States can experience some
2. Flash flood waters move at very fast speeds and can roll
boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings, and obliterate bridges.
Walls of water can reach heights of 10 to 20 feet and generally
are accompanied by a deadly cargo of debris. The best response
to any signs of flash flooding is to move immediately and
quickly to higher ground.
kind of flooding after spring rains,
3. Cars can easily be swept away in just 2 feet of moving
water. If flood waters rise around a car, it should be abandoned.
Passengers should climb immediately to higher ground.
Dam failures are potentially the
heavy thunderstorms, or winter snow
thaws. Floods can be slow, or fast
rising but generally develop
over a period of days.
worst flood events. A dam failure is
usually the result of neglect, poor
design, or structural damage caused
by a major event such as an earthquake. When a dam fails, a gigantic
quantity of water is suddenly let
loose downstream, destroying
anything in its path.
Flash floods usually result from
intense storms dropping large
amounts of rain within a brief period.
Floods and flash floods occur within all 50 states. Communities particularly at risk are those
located in low-lying areas, near water, or downstream from a dam.
Flash floods occur with little or no
warning and can reach full peak in
only a few minutes.
The media can raise awareness about floods and flash floods by providing
important information to the community. Here are some suggestions:
1. Publish a special section in your local newspaper with
emergency information on floods and flash floods. Localize
the information by printing the phone numbers of local
emergency services offices, the American Red Cross, and
2. Interview local officials about land use management and
When disaster strikes,
people everywhere want to
help those in need. To ensure that this compassion
and generosity are put to
good use, the media can
highlight these facts:
building codes in floodplains.
Work with local emergency services and American Red Cross officials
to prepare special reports for people with mobility impairments on what to do if
an evacuation is ordered.
4. Periodically inform your community of local public warning
■ Individuals
and business
owners can protect themselves
from flood losses by purchasing flood insurance through the
National Flood Insurance
Program. Homeowners’
policies do not cover flood
damage. Information is available through local insurance
agents and emergency management offices.
has caused the deaths
of more than 10,000 people
since 1900. Property damage
from flooding now totals over
$1 billion each year in the
United States.
K N O W. . .
■ More
than 2,200 lives were
lost as a result of the
Johnstown, Pennsylvania flood
of 1889. This flood was
caused by an upstream dam
■ Nearly
9 of every 10 presidential disaster declarations result
from natural phenomena in
which flooding was a major
■ Flooding
■ On
July 31, 1976, the Big
Thompson River near Denver
overflowed after an extremely
heavy storm. A wall of water
19 feet high roared down the
Big Thompson Canyon where
many people were camping.
140 people perished and
millions of dollars worth of
property were lost.
Financial aid is an immediate need of
disaster victims. Financial contributions should be made through a
recognized voluntary organization to
help ensure that contributions are put
to their intended use.
Before donating food or clothing, wait
for instructions from local officials.
Immediately after a disaster, relief
workers usually don’t have the time or
facilities to set-up distribution
channels, and too often these items
go to waste.
Volunteers should go through a
recognized voluntary agency such as
the American Red Cross or Salvation
Army. They know what is needed and
are prepared to deal with the need.
Local emergency services officials also
coordinate volunteer efforts for helping
in disasters.
Organizations and community groups
wishing to donate items should first
contact local officials, the American
Red Cross, or Salvation Army to find
out what is needed and where to send
it. Be prepared to deliver the items to
one place, tell officials when you’ll be
there, and provide for transportation,
driver, and unloading.
September 1993
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