Floods are perhaps the deadliest and most destructive of all natural disasters. The rush of water can destroy buildings, wash away cars and people in a matter of minutes.
You only need to watch a few videos to see what can happen in the extreme cases, and flash floods happen all the time in the US.
It only takes a foot of moving water to cause massive structural and environmental damage. Imagine what happens when there is 5 to 10x that amount.
Before a Flood
Here's a list of what you'll need to do to prepare for a flood:
- Stay informed
- Have an escape & shelter plan
- Access to fresh water
- Have backup communications
- Prepare your home
- Prepare your Bug Out Bag
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The NOAA is a scientific agency within the US Department of Commerce which runs the National Weather Service (Weather.gov.) Their website has up to the minute weather maps and forecasts.
They also use the NWR System to broadcast 24-7 weather reports.
During the summer months, check in with the National Hurricane Center website each day to see what storms or depressions are forming in the Atlantic or Pacific, and if hurricanes or tropical storms are headed your way.
If you have Twitter, follow them: https://twitter.com/NWS
If you are in the Atlantic region: https://twitter.com/NHC_Atlantic
FEMA Flood Map Service Center is a fantastic resource to see if your home or neighborhood are in flood zones.
Have an Escape & Shelter Plan
Evacuation can be difficult if not impossible once an area floods, so having a pre-planned escape route is essential.
Shelter may be hard to find or to get to. You should have multiple options and places to head to: government run emergency shelters, hospitals, family/friends houses, etc.
Share this plan with family members outside of your area, so they will know where you might be headed if communications are compromised.
Activate any location sharing services on your smartphone that you might have, i.e. Find My on iPhones or with Google Map location sharing.
Invite friends and family members to share their locations. So you can keep in touch with one another, coordinate around an event, or know when a family member has arrived or left a specific area.
Access to Fresh Water
Water sources will quickly become contaminated, and floodwaters will often be a toxic soup of chemicals and bacteriological wastes. Having fresh water available to drink and take with you is a top priority.
Typical Price: $250 - $360
Water is so critically important. If you take anything from us, or take any recommendations from us, it's this - please get a Berkey filter for yourself and your family.
It can filter nearly any contaminant conceivable out of dirty water. We use ours every single day, and have for the last 6 years.
Please read our full Berkey Filter review and walk-thru, this is a critical component you need to have prepared.
You should also store clean water before hand using whatever method you think is best.
Don't use old milk containers though, they will contaminate the water.
You can store 100 gallons of fresh water in your bathtub before the flood using a waterBOB.
Have Backup Communications
It is a likely chance that land-line and cellular communications will be effected if massive flooding is prevalent and in a broad area.
Our article on Bug Out Communications will walk you through tons of options and specific details.
The simplest and most powerful choice are Satellite communication devices, which work anywhere in the US, and can relay messages and phone conversations outside of the area.
Typical Price: $250
SPOT X provides 2-way satellite messaging off the grid and beyond cellular coverage. It can be used as a standalone communication device or with the SPOT app on your smartphone. Each SPOT X has its own dedicated U.S. mobile number, so others can message you directly at any time.
You can send an SOS to 24/7 Search & Rescue services and message back and forth about the nature of your emergency, and receive confirmation when help is on the way. It's a great device that can really be useful in an emergency!
Prepare Your Home
There are a few things you can do to keep your house from becoming damaged from low floodwaters beyond filling sandbags.
Use a product like the Aquadam or Hydrabarrier to keep water out of the structure.
Typical Price: $23 / $45 / $80
HydraBarrier is an effective alternative to sand bags when it comes to spill containment and similar water containment and prevention applications. These water barriers are durable, come in a variety of sizes, are reusable, and can be filled when needed and emptied once used.
Stop sewer water from coming back into the house via shower / tub drains and toilets by either installing a sewer backwater valve or inserting a Test Ball into your outgoing sewer pipe clean-out (many homes have a way to get into the pipe, look for a round PVC circle about 6" wide in the front of your home.)
Having a sump pump will help you get water out of basements and low lying areas.
A dehumidifier will remove excessive moisture from the air in the home.
If you want to have a boat for a backup, go for a flat bottomed one that can run in a small amount of water. An aluminum river boat or inflatable boat are your best options.
Preparing Your Bug Out Bag
The key component here is to keep the water our of your other gear and therefore off your backpack.
A rain cover for your backpack isn't a bad idea, even if you aren't in a flood area.
Waterproof the items in the bag by keeping them in Ziploc bags or step-up and use a Locksack bag, which are very durable and good for electronics.
If you want to go a little further, dry sacks will take you to the next level and are the best choice to hold your clothing inside your backpack.
Typical Price: $20 - $52
Durable, strong and abrasion resistant dry bags that use 420D nylon fabric with TPU lamination.
A white interior laminate affords greater visibility, and hypalon lash loops allow secure stacking or attachment to watercraft, motorcycles and other equipment.
Typical Price: $135
A super heavy duty dry pack made from 600D TPU laminated heavy duty waterproof fabric. The removable harness attaches to compatible Hydraulic™ Dry Bags with lightweight but very robust aluminum buckles.
Fully adjustable back length and height adjustable sternum straps. Waist strap (35L) or hip belt (65-120L) help support the load when the pack is filled.
Keeping Yourself Dry
Umbrellas are great, but if there is even a whisper of wind you are going to get wet and tie-up your hands.
A high-end poncho is a better idea. Avoid the cheap plastic bag types that you find in the camping stores.
Typical Price: $88
A raincoat, pack cover, groundsheet and tarp all in one. Made of 15D Ultra-Sil Nano fabric, super lightweight and packs down small.
An ideal solution in temperate climates and can also be used as an emergency shelter.
A good pair of waders can be a lifesaver. They keep you from getting utterly soaked in water that's waist deep - if you really need to be in it.
Typical Price: $25
These are great rain suits which come in men, women's, and children's sizes. Waterproof and breathable, and soft to the touch.
During A Flood
Remember, you want to avoid being in flood waters as much as possible, they can be very dangerous!
Flood waters will contain biological and chemical contaminants that can make you sick.
There can be very strong currents that can wash you and your car away, and cause drownings.
Wild and domestic animals will be displaced and have been known to attack humans during floods.
What all this adds up to, you need to get out of the area and onto high ground ahead of time.
Some more advice from Ready.gov:
- Stay off bridges over fast-moving water. Fast-moving water can wash bridges away without warning.
- If your car is trapped in rapidly moving water stay inside. If water is rising inside the car get on the roof.
- If trapped in a building go to its highest level. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising floodwater. Only get on the roof if necessary and once there signal for help.
After A Flood
Stay where you are until you are told by authorities that it is safe to return home.
Wear heavy work gloves, protective clothing, and boots during clean up.
Use an appropriate mask if cleaning mold or other debris. Children should not take part in disaster cleanup work.
People with asthma and other lung conditions and/or immune suppression should not enter buildings with indoor water leaks or mold growth that can be seen or smelled.
Typical Price: $14
Provides excellent protection against particulates and a wide variety of gases and vapors when used with the right kinds of cartridges and filters. The head straps are easy to adjust and help keep the mask comfortable. Can't go wrong with this one.
Comes in 3 models based on size: 6100 Small, 6200 Medium, 6300 Large.
Most masks don’t come with the necessary filters or cartridges, so you'll have have to grab some of those as well.
Typical Price: $27 per pair
These filters are your best choice for full respiratory protection from certain organic vapors, chlorine, hydrogen chloride, sulfur dioxide, chlorine dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, methylamine, formaldehyde, or hydrogen fluoride, and non-oil and oil particulate concentrations.