Flood Safety

Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States. However, not all floods are alike. Some floods develop slowly, while others such as flash floods, can develop in just a few minutes and without visible signs of rain.

Before a Flood

  • Find out how vulnerable your home is to flooding by determining the elevation of your property.
  • Evaluate your insurance coverage once a year to make sure your home is fully covered.
  • If your home is in a flood-prone area, contact the National Flood Insurance program to learn what mitigation measures you can take in advance.
  • Purchase a weather radio. These special, battery-operated radios are inexpensive and available at many hardware and appliance stores and other retail outlets.
  • Put together a disaster survival kit. Keep the following supplies near at hand and put them in a water-tight container: flashlight with extra batteries, battery-powered radio and weather radio, first aid kit, medicines, eyeglasses, drinking water, non-perishable foods, change of clothes, cash and credit cards, and copies of all important papers.
  • Plan two evacuation routes in advance. Don’t wait until threatening weather conditions occur before trying to determine your route to safety. Be aware of streams, drainage channels, and low areas in your region that are prone to flooding so that your evacuation routes are not cut off.
  • Do not park your vehicle near streams or rivers, especially during threatening weather conditions.
  • If a flood is likely in your area, listen to the radio or television for information.
  • Know the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning. A watch means flooding is possible. A warning means flooding is occurring or will occur soon.
  • Make plans in advance for evacuating individuals with disabilities or limited mobility.
  • Make preparations to evacuate your pets. Do not leave them behind if at all possible.

When a Flood Is Imminent

  • Be prepared. Pack your disaster survival kit with important items within easy reach in case you need to evacuate. Don't forget to include needed medications.
  • If advised to evacuate your home, do so immediately.
  • If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground.
  • If possible, bring in outdoor furniture and move essential items to an upper floor.
  • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances.

During a Flood

  • Do not walk through moving water. As little as 6 inches (15 centimeters) of moving water can make you fall.
  • If you have to walk in water, wherever possible, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. Turn around, don't drown.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

After a Flood

  • Listen for news reports to learn whether the community's water supply is safe to drink.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Avoid moving water.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
  • Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
  • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.

For information about before, during and after a flood, visit www.ready.gov/floods.