Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Flood Awareness Week Safety Tips and Resources

by Suzanne Wiley, volunteer contributor

Citizens boating through the corner of 7th & University
during the flood of 1949 in Fort Worth, Texas. 
Unlike hurricanes, blizzards and tornadoes, everyone in the United States is equally at risk to experience devastating flooding. From deaths due to severe weather events, flooding is the leader. Over half of those deaths are due to misjudgment of passable floodwater. It takes only 18 inches of water for the average sedan to float away and only two feet for trucks and SUVs. March 16-22 is National Flood Awareness Week and the perfect time to prepare your household for the upcoming spring weather. 

Though floods are possible all year round, flooding, whether overland or flash flooding, are more likely to occur during the spring and summer due to snowmelt and the likelihood of heavy rainstorms. An overland flood is one in which a body of water, such as a stream, river, or creek overflows its banks. Flash floods happen when water containment systems, such as city drains, levees or damns cannot hold the amount of water flowing into them. Flash floods are especially dangerous because they happen quickly, are difficult to predict and can carry large objects for miles. 

The new Red Cross Flood app
alerts you to real-time flood
watches & warnings.
To better prepare people, the American Red Cross released a brand new flood alert app for iPhone and Android on Monday. Available free at the iTunes and Google Play app stores, the Red Cross app is an interactive and easy to use app that provide real-time flood alerts, step-by-step instructions on how to prepare, a list of open shelters in your area, and even a tool kit with a flashlight, strobe light and alarm feature. I was able to download the app, called “Flood by American Red Cross,” on my iPhone quickly and love how simple and straightforward it is to use. With a few pushes of easily accessible buttons, app alerts your friends and family that you are safe through your social media channels. To learn more about the app, visit RedCross.org

You and your family need two separate plans in case of flooding—what to do if you stay at home and one in case of evacuation. 

Staying Home

The first priority during a major flood is procuring safe drinking water. Floods have great potential to contaminate your city’s water supply. Safe drinking water is essential to our survival. Keep bottled water on hand for a minimum of three days. However, it is recommended to keep enough for every member of your family for five days. 

One gallon of water per person per day meets just the minimum amount of water a person needs for drinking and basic hygiene. For example, for a family of four for five days, you need to store 20 gallons of water. I find the cheapest and easiest way to do this is buying at least two gallons of grocery store brand drinking water every time I shop. Keep water in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight. 

Another alternative is to keep large water storage containers—like a bathtub bladder—on hand. When a flood warning or watch is issued, fill up these containers with water right away. 

Your next priority is food. Floods can cause damage to the electrical lines. You may have to live without power for a few days. Stock up on non-perishable foods that do not require refrigeration, such as milk and butter, to prepare. Do not forget an alternative way to heat it up! Barbecue grills and propane camp stoves work just great when the power goes out. 

Keep flashlights, lanterns and plenty of fresh batteries available and ready accessible. You and your family will feel more secure if you have plenty of light. 


If you must evacuate, it is imperative to have a solid plan in place. Will you go to a far away family or friend’s house, a local hotel safe from flooding or an American Red Cross shelter? Either way, you need to be ready to leave your home at a moment’s notice. In this case, prepare a flood kit beforehand and pack it in a ready-to-grab bag. 

In your kit, you will need:
Copies of important documents; I keep mine on a flash drive
Rain gear and sturdy shoes
Cell phone charger
Emergency blankets
Essential medicines
First aid kit 

Last, but not least, double-check your homeowner’s insurance policy. Most standard homeowner’s insurance policies do not include flood insurance. Call your insurance agency and discuss your options. 

Most shelters do not accept pets. Do not leave your four-legged companions behind. Arranging accommodations for them now assures not only yours, but your pets safety as well in case of disaster. Call ahead to hotels in your area to find which ones allow pets to stay or find a local animal shelter that boards pets during an emergency. 


After a devastating flood, you might not know where to turn. The American Red Cross provides a wide array of services for victims of disaster. Please reach out—The Red Cross is here to help


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