Have Your Own Lifeboat: Safety Precautions Before and After Flood

Life_raftA huge storm came, and your area was badly affected. Imagine you and your family camped out on the roof of your house watching as floodwaters rising vastly towards your roof deck. It is very much too late to evacuate now; your only hope is for someone to come over and rescue you. But this probably won’t happen if you plan ahead by purchasing your own lifeboat and preparing yourself to fight against sudden disasters.

Before a Flood

  • Monitor your surroundings.

There are two common types of floods: those that occur progressively, such as the recent flooding in Somerset Levels, giving the community with enough time to move to higher grounds; and flash floods that may occur with little or no warning, like those that caused significant death (144 total deaths) in Boulder, Colorado. It is flash flood that is commonly undetectable and very dangerous so watch out for it.

  • Watch local television and listen to radio stations, if you have internet access, go to www.weather.gov.

If a flash flood warning is forecasted in your area: Climb to safety immediately.

  • Flash floods develop rapidly. Don’t wait till you see rising water and it’s too late for you to evacuate.
  • Get out of low areas prone to flooding.
  • If you are driving, do not drive through flooded roadways!

Pull together disaster/emergency supplies:

  • Drinking water
  • Food that requires no cooking or refrigeration
  • Cash
  • First-aid supplies and other medications.
  • Clothing and toiletries. (you never realize how much you need these by the time of emergency)
  • Battery-powered radio.
  • Flashlights.
  • Extra batteries.
  • Place important documents in a waterproof plastic bag (Ziploc works best): bank account numbers, insurance papers, medical records, etc.

Be prepared to evacuate.

  • Identify which places to go.
  • Spot alternative travel routes that are not subject to flooding.
  • Plan on what to do with your pets.
  • Full tank your car’s gas tank.
  • If told to evacuate, do it so quickly.

Assess your family with a Disaster Plan.

  • Discuss flood plans with your whole family.
  • Plan on where you will meet if you get separated.
  • Delegate a contact person (probably a family member who lives in a safer place) who can be reached if family members got separated. Make sure each of the family members have the contact information.

Protect your property.

  • Move appliances, furniture and valuables to higher grounds.
  • Move hazardous materials (such as oil, pesticides, paints and cleaning supplies) to higher levels.
  • Turn off the power supply. Disconnect any electrical appliances. Do not touch them if you are standing in water, or even when you are wet.
  • Bring exterior possessions inside or tie them down securely. This includes garbage cans, lawn furniture, and other movable stuff.
  • Seal the vents to basements to prevent the flooding.


Be alert.

  • Again, monitor your surroundings.
  • Watch local television and listen to radio stations, if you have internet access, go to www.weather.gov.

Do not drive unless you have to.
If you must drive, travel with precaution.

STOP! NEVER drive through flooded roadways! Turn around do not drown.

If you think you are at risk evacuate immediately!

  • Act quickly. Save yourself, not your belongings.
  • Move to a safe place before the road is cut off by rising water.
  • Families should use one vehicle only to avoid separation and reduce traffic jams.
  • Shut off gas, water and electrical services before leaving.
  • Secure your homes by locking all the doors and windows.
  • If directed to a location, go there.

Shut off the electricity at the circuit breakers.

If someone falls or is trapped in flood water:

  • Do not go after the victim!
  • Use a floatation device. If possible throw the victim something to help them float, such as a large ball, spare tire or foam ice chest. It is still best to have your own lifeboat in times like this.
  • Call 911 for assistance and give the exact location.


Wait until it is safe to return.

  • Monitor your local television and radio stations.
  • Don’t return to flooded areas until authorities indicate it’s safe to do so.
  • Don’t visit disaster areas following a flood. Your presence may hinder urgent emergency rescue operations.

If the building was flooded, make sure it is safe before entering.

  • Don’t enter a building if it’s still flooded
  • Check for structural damage.
  • Turn off any gas lines at the meter tank.
  • Don’t enter a building that was flooded until officials have inspected it for safety.

Use extreme precaution when entering flooded buildings.

  • Wear sturdy shoes. The most frequent injury after a disaster is cut feet.
  • Use battery-powered lighting ONLY. Flammable material may be present.
  • Look for fire hazards (like flooded electrical circuits, damaged gas lines or submerged furnaces).
  • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas, hear a hissing noise, open a window and hurriedly leave the structure. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if possible. Call the gas company.
  • Report any broken utility lines to authorities.
  • Check for electrical system damage. Turn off electricity at the main circuit breaker if you’re able to reach it without stepping in water.
  • Examine doors, walls, floors, windows, and ceilings for risk of collapsing.
  • Open windows and doors to let the air out to remove foul odor or escaping gas.

Take pictures of all the damage for insurance claims.

Get professional help.

  • Seek medical care. Do not disregard minor wounds or illnesses.
  • Clothing, shelter, food and first aid are available from the American Red Cross.
  • If the gas has been cut off for any reason, it must be turned back only by a professional.
  • Have a professional electrician test the electrical system and appliances.
  • Wells should be water-tested for purity before drinking.

Your home is no longer a safe place.

  • Throw away food, medicine or water that had contact with floodwaters (also canned goods).
  • If water is questionable of purity, boil it for 10 minutes.
  • Restrict children from playing in a flooded place.
  • Keep doors and windows open for ventilation.
  • Gradually pump out flooded basements (little by little removing about 1/3 of the water volume per day) to avoid structural damage.
  • Keep the electricity off until an electrician has checked the system for safety. All electrical equipments should be dried and checked before being able to use.
  • Clean thoroughly everything that was flooded and got wet.

Have the damaged sewage systems service as soon as possible.

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