Mother nature has a way of telling us that we are not in full control over it. Natural disasters have been with us since the beginning of time.
But how do you survive a flood?
I am glad you asked.
Because today I am going to show you how to survive a flood. Whether it is a flash flood from a hurricane or a usual flood from heavy rain.
Here is a summary of what I am going to discuss.I am going to show you what you can do to prepare for a flood and also what to do during the last couple of hours or minutes before the flood strikes.
You will also learn what to do or NOT to do during a flood and even how to get back on your feet after the disaster.Are you ready?Let’s go.
How To Prepare For A Flood
In most cases it will already be too late to get everything together when receiving a flood warning. If you live in a high-risk area for a flood, then you need to prepare and plan for such an occurrence.
Get Familiar With The Your Area’s History And Risk
Some of the most common high-risk areas are flood plains which are located next to rivers, lakes, and dams. If it is possible, do not build your house on such a plain.
These plains can be identified by the levees and sand that are deposited in such an area. You should also try to build your house on high ground and make sure to contact your local authorities to get more information on your area.
You should also make sure that your area can be covered by flood insurance to prevent any significant financial damage.
Create An Emergency Kit
A flood might prevent you from getting access to essential supplies. The roads will be blocked which makes it very hard to get to the retail stores.
This is why it is so important to have an emergency kit at hand. As a rule of thumb, your kit should have enough resources to last at least three days.
Feel free to copy the list below:
- Drinkable water. Flood water will be contaminated which makes it undrinkable. Make sure to store enough water so that each person in your household will have at least one gallon of water per day.
- Nonperishable food. Canned and dried food will be your best option. Make sure to have a can opener at hand and also the necessary utensils for eating. I have written an in-depth guide on the most essential survival food.
- First aid kit. It will be disastrous if someone in your household got seriously hurt and you cannot rush to the hospital because all the streets are under water. If you do not know how to set up a first aid kit, then you can take a look at this guide on tactical first aid kits.
- Chronic medication. If you need to rely on medication to control the symptoms of chronic disease, then you need to make sure you have enough meds stored up. Trying to rush to a pharmacy because you ran out of insulin is not a good idea.
- Sanitation products. You never know how long the flood will last. It also takes a lot of time for the water to disappear. Make sure you have at least enough toilet paper and some wet wipes. Having enough female hygiene products are also advised.
- Hand-cranked flashlight. The chances are excellent that the power lines will be off during a massive flood. Get your hands on a hand-cranked flashlight which will never run out of power.
- Solar powered cell phone chargers. You do not want to be sitting duck because you have lost all communications. Make sure to have a solar powered charger to charge the batteries of your phone so you can call someone when in distress.
- Pack some extra dry clothes. If you should get wet, then you do not want to risk getting sick by being wet. Pack some extra dry clothes and put them on when you get wet. I would also get rid of the wet clothes because the dirty flood water might contaminate them.
- Waterproof sleeping bags. You will never know if your mattresses and blankets will get wet. Get some additional waterproof sleeping bags which will make it easier to get a good night’s sleep.
- Important documents. Keep all of your essential documents in a watertight container. These documents can include your ID, insurance policy, licenses, relevant contact information, etc.
- Protective gear. Protective gear such as a bicycle helmet, sturdy boots and also protective gloves can come in handy.
- Insect repellent. Standing water is a breeding place for mosquitoes, and if you do not want to have red spots all over your body, then you should get some insect repellent.
- Get an NOAA radio. NOAA stands for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This radio will give you access to broadcasting from weather stations that will warn you of the weather and any future floods.
- Flare gun. If you can get access to one, then you should. The best way to use it is by standing on the roof and shoot it into the air. This will help to lead the rescue helicopters to your location.
Have A Communications Plan Set
There is a good chance that you can be separated from your family when you receive a flood warning from the authorities. Without communication, you will not be able to plan and bring everyone together.
What do you do when your cellphone dies? Can you remember the contact number of your loved ones?
If you are not good at remembering numbers, then you should write it down on a piece of paper and put in somewhere in your wallet. You can always use public telephones to call them.
Create An Evacuation/Survival Plan
You do not have a lot of time to plan when the area around you is flooded with water which is why you need to have an evacuation or survival plan at hand.
It is also essential to communicate this plan with the rest of your family members. The evacuation plan must include a safe destination, communication, a planned route and even an evacuation kit which can also be your survival kit.
Some examples of a sound destination are maybe your friend’s house, a shelter or a predetermined bug out area. When choosing an evacuation route, you need to consider its elevation and distance.
You also need to develop alternate routes because the route that you have chosen might be under water already. You can also designate a family member outside town where everyone should go to.
Download Emergency Apps
You can download an app for almost anything nowadays. There is also a list of essential apps that you can download which will warn you of any upcoming floods.
I have created an article dedicated to survival and emergency apps that will not only warn you but give you a step-by-step explanation of what to do when in survival mode.
Build Flood Walls And Water Barriers
If you own a piece of property near a high-risk zone and you have the rights to build barriers around it, then you should.
You can build flood walls, levees and berms around your house to prevent water from entering your yard. Some people also like to stack sandbags around their home to avoid a large mass of water from flowing in.
Seal And Waterproof Your House
You can start by sealing the cracks in your wall, the windows and also your door. If you have a basement, then you better seal it up.
If you and your family decided not to evacuate your home, then you should use a sealant to seal your door. It is only temporary because a permanent sealant on your door will not work.
Avoid Water Build Up In And Around Your Home
You can start by opening up all of the gutters on your roof to prevent water from building up and potentially damage your roof. Remove all of the leaves and debris to clear it up.
You can also open up all of the drains to make sure the water can flow around your house instead of into it. Take a broom and shovel and start removing anything that has built up over the last couple of months which include sand, leaves and other debris.
You can also install check valves in and around the plumbing of your house. These valves will prevent water from flowing into your home. Sometimes, the water will start to come from beneath the shower and tubs and will the room with water.
Another good idea is to have a water pump that runs on gasoline ready which is essential at pumping out any water that builds up in and around your house.
Get House Insurance Against Flooding
People spend their entire lives paying off their mortgage, so why do you want to risk it all by not having a flood insurance for your home and its contents?
If you live in a high-risk area for floods, then you should have insurance. Make sure to read the provider’s policy carefully to make sure it covers water damage from floods.
You should also make sure that the insurance will cover everything in your house. Sometimes it takes up to one month for the coverage to take effect so make sure you do it early on.
You can take a look at the National Flood Insurance Program if you already do not have flood insurance.
Preparing For Your Pets
Sometimes human shelters will not accept pets, so make sure that you can take it to an appropriate shelter for pets. Some kennels do allow pets to stay there in case of emergency.
Always make sure that you have a pet carrier at hand because you do not want to waste too much time trying to get your dog to climb into the car.
Make sure you have enough pet food and sand litter for your cats. If your pet is on chronic medication, then make sure you have enough of that as well.
Pets can also get lost, so make sure you have a proper identification tag with its name and your contact number. You should also have an extra blanket for your pet and some toys to keep it happy.
Right Before The Flood
The time has come. You received a flood watch which indicates that there is a high risk for a potential flood.
Will you sit at home and wait out the storm?
Instead, you still have an hour or two to prepare your house and family for the evacuation. In this section, I will discuss everything that you should do right before the flood. Feel free to add these tips to your evacuation plan.
Know The Warning Types
Before I can delve into the types of warning, we need to understand the kind of floods. There are two types of floods which include the usual flood and also a flash flood.
The types of floods:
- Normal flood. This type of flood happens gradually and is mostly caused by heavy rainfall.
- Flash flood. This type of flood happens rapidly. It can be caused by heavy rains but mostly hurricanes and cyclones.
There are also two warning types which include flood watch and flood warning. Each of these warning types can contribute to the normal and flash floods which will result in four possible warnings.
The types of warnings:
- Flood watch. It means that there is a high chance that a flood is possible in your area. When you get this warning, then you should evacuate your area.
- Flood warning. This type of warning indicates that a flood in your area has already occurred and is building up. In most cases, it might be too late to evacuate, but you should still try if you can.
Evacuate Your House If You Can
If you live in a high-risk area for floods, then you and your loved ones should try your best to evacuate your home as soon as you receive a flood watch. Do not wait until you receive a flood warning before taking action.
You should already have a plan set for a destination that you and your family will go. The chances are that you will have 30 minutes to an hour before a flood occurs to everything in your house ready.
Everything you do inside your home should be to minimize the risk of flood damage to the structure of your house and the items inside.
It is not worth the risk to stay inside your house, and whether you stay in it or not, you cannot stop the flood.
Switch Off Your Power And Remove Electrical Items
Water is an excellent conductor for electricity which means disaster when water and electricity are mixed. You should switch off the main electrical switch when the storm starts.
If you plan to evacuate your house before the storm starts, then you should switch off the main breaker.
You want to prevent the water from flowing into the electrical sockets. If you can, and it is within your budget, then ask an electrician to move the sockets higher on the wall.
You should also move all of your electrical appliances to the second floor. If you do not have a house that has a second floor, then put these appliances on top of your cupboards to prevent them from having contact with water.
If any electrical unit came into contact with water, then it might not be safe to use.
Move Valuable Household Items & Furniture
If you live in a double story building, then you should make sure to move all of your most valuable furniture to the second level.
Most expensive furniture is made out of food (especially the antique ones). Leather coaches and other furniture should be on the second floor.
If you have expensive rugs and carpets, then that should also be moved to the second floor. Other expensive electrical items such as televisions and stereo systems should also be moved above ground level.
Remove Toxic Substances
If you have any toxic substances lying around in your house, then you do not want it to contaminate the already contaminated flood water further.
These substances can include poisons for weeds and insecticides. You can at least place the substance in a watertight container which will prevent it from spilling into the water.
What To Do During A Flood
It has happened.
If you were smart and wise, you would not be in this situation because you would have already evacuated the area once you received a flood watch.
Unfortunately, anything can happen which might prevent us from evacuating the area. Now you need to survive through this, and I will show you how.
You will also learn what to do if you did safely reach the destination in your evacuation plan.
Keep Yourself Updated
You and your family were lucky enough to escape your home just in time, and you finally reached a nearby shelter.
All you can do now is to wait and hope for the best. Hopefully, your home will not suffer any significant damages because you already prepared for that right before the storm.
How would you know when it is safe to go back?
You should wait for updates from the authorities. If you have access to an NOAA radio, then this device will keep you updated.
Even when the heavy rain or hurricane has stopped, you still need to wait for most of the water to evaporate and drain away. You also need to follow the orders given by your authorities.
Avoid The Flood Waters
What should you do when being faced with flood waters?
Do not come into contact with flood water and you should only cross it if you have no other choice.
You never know what is in the water. The flood might have broken open a nearby sewer which might have contaminated the water. It is especially a bad idea if you have open wounds or scratches.
The contaminated water can cause a broader range of dangerous infection and also diarrhea when accidentally swallowed. The water can also be contaminated with dangerous chemicals.
The water will also be filthy which means you will never know what you are stepping on. You might step in a hole or on something sharp.It is also hard to estimate the depth of the water.
Use a stick to measure the water’s depth. If the water is flowing very strongly, then you also never know if it is carrying any dangerous objects with the stream.
The water level does not need to be that deep to take you with it when the stream is strong.
Many things can happen while you and your family are evacuating your home by car.
If the flood is at its infancy and the water is not very deep, then you should still be very careful to drive through the water.
The water does not need to be very deep to float your car with the stream. It only takes a water level around two feet to float your vehicle.
There is also the risk of you losing control over the car when approaching the flooded water at high speed.
If your car is flooded with water while you are inside, then it is best to get out of the vehicle. If the water stream is floating your vehicle at a very high speed, then it is saver to stay inside.
You can also try to get on the roof of the car if the water is starting to enter the vehicle.
If you are riding a car such as a Citi Golf, then you also pose the risk of the distributor cap getting wet which will stop the power flow to the engine.
Find Higher Ground
This will include getting on the roof of your house or vehicle. If there is a tall building or high hill near you, then you should go to that location.
If you plan to locate yourself on top of a building, then you need to make sure the structure is stable and will not tumble under your weight.
When Taken By A Moving Water Stream
One of the worst things has happened. You landed in a strong stream of water that is now taking you with it.
What do you do?
Start by keeping your head above the water. The moment your head goes underwater, then it is over.
If you managed to survive, then you will already contaminate your sinuses, eyes, and mouth with the dirty water which will result in an infection.
You should also not try to fight against the stream. Lay on your back with either your head or feet against the stream. Never position your body sideways against it.
Stay Away From Electrical Hazards
There is a good chance that the beams supporting the power lines have been pushed over by the current which means the power lines are having contact with the water.
If you see any nearby downed power lines, then do not come into contact with the water. You should also avoid touching any electrical equipment if you are wet.
You should also never touch a downed power line as it will result in instant death.
What To Do With Your Pets
If you have not already moved your pets to a safe location during the evacuation, then you need to know what to do with them during a flood.
It is best to keep your pet in a carrier to have better control over it. If your animals are outside, then take them inside or to the second level of the house.
You should also keep your pet calm by having toys and distractions nearby. If you did not have any choice but to leave them behind, then make sure they are in a safe and dry location with enough water and food.
It might take several days before you can return home.
After The Flood
You made it.
The authorities have given the green light which means it is safe to go back home. You are crossing your fingers with the hope that your house is still standing.
Is the danger over?
There are still some hazards that you need to be aware off, and I will discuss them below.
Do Not Switch On The Power
Hopefully, you turned the main power switch off. The first thing that most people would do once they get home is turning on the power which in most cases is a bad idea.
You might still be standing in water, and if the water level is above the power sockets, you might electrocute yourself.
Make sure everything is 100 percent dry before turning on the main power switch. Also, any electrical appliances that came into contact with water should be dry before using.
The best step to take is to let a qualified electrician go through your house to determine the risk and safety involved.
It is best to use candles, lanterns, and flashlights for lighting purposes for the first couple of days upon entering the house.
Avoid Receded Areas
This especially includes roads. The flood water might have weakened the roads to such as extent where they will give in or crack open when enough weight is applied to it.
It also includes structures such as bridges which might have been weakened. Flood water can also erode dirt roads which makes them more dangerous to walk or drive upon.
You can easily spot these receded areas by identifying the mud on them.
Do Not Come Into Contact With Flood Water
I think I already mentioned the potential hazards that come with flood water, but I will mention them once more.
Flood water causes devastation, and you will never know the effect it is carrying with it. Flood water can be contaminated with sewer waste which can cause dangerous infection once you come into contact with it.
The water can also carry dangerous chemicals with it. It is also a terrible idea to drink flood water. There is also the possibility that the flood water might have contaminated the tap water which makes it unsafe to use even for cooking food.
It will also include using the water to brush your teeth and washing dishes. Flood water can also contain sharp and heavy debris which can cause injuries.
Avoid Downed Power Lines
There is a big possibility that the powerful flood water might have knocked over the beams that support power lines.
It is the municipalities responsibility to turn off the power once there is a disruption in the grid. If you return home and you see downed power lines near the location, then avoid coming into contact with the surrounding flood water.
It is also a good idea to inform the local municipality so that they can fix the problem. Water and electricity do not go well together.
Be Careful When Entering Flooded Buildings
Buildings that have flood water in them or are surrounded by can be dangerous. There are also other noticeable danger signs that you should look for which includes cracks in the wall, damaged foundations and even any visible structural damage caused by the flood.
You will also never know whether the owners of the house you are about to enter have switched off the power which may cause electrocution when stepping into the water.
Watch Out For Dangerous Animals
This will include animals dwelling in the flood water and also between the rubble caused by the flood.
The most common and dangerous animal are snakes. Snakes hate water and will comes out of their holes when they are forced to. Most snakes that are in hibernation can be flushed from their homes and will be pissed.
There can also be other dangerous animals such as alligators that thrive in water. Because of all the water, they will have a larger habitat and will not be afraid to explore this newly discovered habitat.
Look For Holes In The Floor
Most of the time, flood water will be dirty which makes it impossible to see through the water. You will also not be able to see a large hole in the ground if it is covered with water.
There are also other risks such as a sharp object that can puncture through the sole of your shoe. Make sure to take a stick and test the water level and floor first before stepping into the water.
Repair Drainage Systems
The risk for drainage or sewage systems to get broken during a flood is very high. If you get back to your home, then that is going to be one of the first things that you need to fix if broken.
If the sewage pipes are broken, it will leak dangerous waste into the water which is not ideal. The sewage system can also stretch from your house to the main pipeline under the street.
If you notice that the main sewage line is broken, then you need to report it to the authorities ASAP.
Document The Damages And Take Photos
Hopefully, you already have flood insurance for your home because now you are going to make use of it. Most people have smartphones today, and most smartphones can take photos and videos.
Take out a piece of paper and make a note on everything that got damages after the flood. You should also take pictures or videos of these items. If you have a separate camera, then it is even better.
Walk around the house and record everything. If you rent a property, then you should contact your landlord. This process might not always be necessary because the insurance company will send out an agent to inspect the damages, but it will help to speed up the process.
If you decide to do temporary repairs, then you should document that as well.
Pumping Out The Water And Drying Your House
Before pumping out any water, you need to call your insurance company to get permission from them first.
After you get the thumbs up, you can start to remove the water. You can use a sump pump to pump the water out of your house slowly.
If you have a basement, you need to pump out the water slowly. Pumping out the water too fast can cause structural damage because the floor area is still saturated with water which will cause it to shrink too quickly.
You can use buckets along large containers to carry the water out of your home. If the drain is still working, then you might want to throw the water down the drain.
By throwing the water on your porch or grass might pose a potential hazard.
Open your windows and doors to allow sufficient airflow throughout your house. You can also use the assistance of fans and air conditioning to assist in the removal of moist air.
Cleaning And Disinfecting Your House
Now that you have arrived home, it is time to clean up the mess, but we should also be precautions set in place. This process should be done once all of the water is pumped out of your house, and it is already dry.
Here is what you will need:
- Latex gloves.
- Rubber boots.
- Recyclable garbage bags.
- Dust mask.
- A heavy duty broom.
- A mop to wash the floor with.
- Heavy duty detergent.
- A disinfectant such as bleach.
A proper cleaning process will always start from the top and working downwards. Mark the water level on the walls and cleaning the walls with detergents and disinfectants.
Washing the walls
You can use a mop to wash the walls. It is important to properly clean the walls because if left untreated, mold will start to grow on them.
Cleaning the floor
If you have a tile floor, then you are in luck because it cannot absorb water and can be easily cleaned. If your house has a wooden floor, then I have some bad news for you.
You might have to replace the floor. Especially if the floor of your home was underwater for a couple of days. If you live in a high-risk area, then it is better to install tiles instead of a wooden floor.
If you have a carpeted floor installed, then you might also want to replace with tiles. This will also include loose carpets contaminated with flood water.
The problem with wooden and carpet floors is that they absorb the water from the flood. You never know if the flood water were contaminated with dangerous chemicals.
It might be an expensive route to take, but the health risks associated with the flood water are not worth the risk.
What you should do with wet furniture
It is not necessary to throw away any furniture made out of plastic. The problematic furniture is those that will absorb the flood water. Think of them like a sponge that has sucked up the water along with the sewer waste, dangerous chemicals and also microbes.
The furniture that you should throw away is those made from wood (coffee tables, dinner sets, cupboards and also sofas). Any upholstered furniture should also be thrown away.
What about materials and textiles?
This will include mattresses, pillows, carpets, curtains, and linens. If your mattresses and pillows are wet, then you should get rid of them.
They are also prone to be contaminated with chemicals, bacteria, and dangerous sewer waste. All of the wet curtains and linens should also be disposed of.
Throw away any paper that got wet
If you have any books that got wet, then you can just as well throw them away as the paper will be wrinkled and will not be readable anymore.
The same goes for any document that got wet. Important documents and books need to be placed in an airtight container or Ziploc bag to prevent it from getting wet.
How to deal with mildew and mold?
The best way to deal with mold is by using bleach. If your walls or any other object started to grow mold, you could clean it by using bleach.
You should also remember that some furniture might have some mold buildup inside and can only be cleaned by using a vacuum. It is essential for the furniture to stay outside for a while so that it can dry properly.
Get rid of contaminated groceries & household items.
If any household items such as toothbrushes, food, water bottles, eating utensils and any container that holds food.
It is not worth the risk using these again, so it is better to replace them. Also, any toys and electrical items that came into contact with the water need to be disposed of.
At least after reading this article, you will less likely be caught off guard if you are going to experience a flood.
I covered everything from preparation, what to do right before the flood, during and also how to pick up the pieces after the flood.
Have you ever been a victim of a flood?
Please leave a comment below and share with us your story.