By now, if you haven’t personally been affected by the Texas floods, you’ve at least heard about them and the devastating results. With the frequency of heavy rains and flash floods recently, it’s important to be prepared for anything. If you live in or near an affected area, do you have a plan in place for all flood-related situations?
The first thing is to understand just how powerful flood waters can be. Just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and two feet of water can sweep your vehicle away. Everyone knows the saying “turn around, don’t drown.” It’s true. Don’t risk driving or walking through water, because even a little bit of water can easily displace a car or pull along a person.
Flash floods, which is a flood caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, are the #1 cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. They can develop in a matter of minutes and have the power to uproot trees, destroy buildings and bridges, carry away vehicles with ease and much more.
Avoiding flash floods:
- If you live or are visiting in a vulnerable area, monitor a radio, television and/or phone for weather alerts
- If there is a chance of flash flooding, get to higher ground immediately
- Avoid camping or parking along streams, rivers and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly, with little warning
Paying attention to weather alerts is important in helping you decide what steps to take in the event of a possible flood. Emergency weather services will typically issue one of two warnings: A flood watch or a flood warning.
- A flood watch means “be aware” – conditions are right for flooding to occur in your area
- Turn on your TV or radio, and keep a charged cell phone nearby to receive the latest weather updates and emergency instructions
- Know where to go – in the event you do have to leave, have a plan for reaching higher ground quickly and on foot
- Have an emergency kit that includes a flashlight, batteries, cash and first aid supplies
- Prepare your home by bringing in outdoor furniture and moving important items to the highest floor possible to protect them from potential flood damage. Disconnect electrical appliances and do not touch electrical equipment if you’re wet or standing in water. If instructed, turn off your gas or electricity at a main switch or valve – this helps prevent fires and explosions
- A flood warning means “take action” – flooding is either happening or will happen shortly
- Move immediately to higher ground or stay on higher ground
- Evacuate if directed
What happens if you don’t get out of your car or house in time and waters start rising around you? The most important thing is not to panic. Call 911 and alert them to your situation and location. Always be aware of where you are – if you’re in a car, know what road you on. If you’re vacationing, memorize the address of where you are staying.
If you’re in a car:
- If you get stuck in rising flood waters while in your car, take off your seatbelt and remove jackets and outer clothing. Turn on headlights and hazard lights, which will make it easier for emergency personnel to see you
- If the waters a rising and threatening to submerge your car, first try rolling down the windows and escaping from the car
- If the automatic windows don’t work, remain calm and wait for the water to fill the car, at least until neck level. At that point, you will be able to open the door and escape
- Once out, do not stay with your car or stand on the roof of your car. If it’s swept away, the car will carry you with it
- Get to high ground immediately
If you’re in a house:
- If you’re in a house during a flash flood and water starts to get inside, don’t try to leave the house
- Call 911 for rescue
- Get as high as you can without getting yourself stuck. If the attic doesn’t have a window or escape route, stay on the second floor or the highest point with a window or way to escape in case you need to get on the roof
What do you do if the worst happens?
If you’re swept away in a flood, there are still important measures to take:
- Try to make sure your feet are pointed downstream
- Make every effort to direct your body over obstacles instead of under them
- Try to steer your way to a building or higher ground so that you can get out of the water
Hopefully these are tips you never have to use, but it’s important to be prepared, because flooding can happen quickly and unexpectedly.
Stay safe, and share your tips with us in the comments or on our social media pages!