One of the major goals of the City of Charleston’s Floodplain Management Program is to make sure that flood events do not become flood disasters. Being prepared for any extreme weather or other disaster can make the difference between a flood causing inconvenience or life-threatening injury and significant property damage. Simple steps can be taken to make sure that when a disaster happens you and your family are able to stay safe.
Know Your Risk
Understanding how a flood will impact your home and neighborhood is the first step in being prepared. Flood Insurance Rate Maps are the official tool for identifying flood-prone areas but are not as user friendly as some free, online resources. A partnership between the West Virginia Geographic Information Systems Technical Center and the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management called the WV Flood Hazard Determination Tool is very easy to use to identify if your home and neighborhood is at risk in the event of a major flood.
Determining if your home will be flooded is only the first of many important considerations. You can also use the WV Flood Hazard Determination Tool to determine if:
- Nearby roads will be blocked by flooding. Investigate if your normal route to and from your home will be impassable and consider alternative routes.
- Essential services will be blocked or damaged by flooding. Investigate if locations like your local pharmacy or grocery store will be accessible during a flood event.
- Emergency services like hospitals and your route to them are accessible.
Be Prepared for a Flood
Basic precautions to remember when thinking about how to stay safe during a flood are:
- Utility service will likely be interrupted. Repair work often cannot begin until flood waters recede, so be prepared for the potential of days without service. Even when water service is maintained, the water from your tap may not be safe to drink because of flood water contamination. Combined sewers that do not have backflow prevention may back up during floods and can cause property damage and infiltration of contaminated water into structures.
- While your home may not be affected by flooding directly, high water can cause gas leaks, electrical hazards, and fires that might make it necessary to evacuate to a safer location. Be prepared even if your home is not at the highest risk for flooding.
- Remember Turn Around Don’t Drown®. This National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s campaign recognizes that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters. People underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded. A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. It is NEVER safe to drive or walk into flood waters.
Make a Household Flood Emergency Plan
The American Red Cross recommends gathering the following items to be prepared in the event of a flood:
- Water—at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
- Food—at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Extra batteries
- First Aid kit
- Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
- Multi-purpose tool
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
- Cell phone with chargers
- Family and emergency contact information
- Extra cash
- Emergency blanket
- Map(s) of the area
- Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
- Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
- Tools/supplies for securing your home
- Extra set of car keys and house keys
- Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
- Rain gear
- Insect repellent and sunscreen
- Camera for photos of damage
And remember these precautions to better cope with an emergency flood event:
- Listen to area radio and television stations and a NOAA Weather Radio for possible flood warnings and reports of flooding in progress or other critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS)
- Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
- When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
- Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
- If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
- Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
- Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.
For further reading on how to be prepared for and respond to a flood check out more resources from the American Red Cross Flood Safety page and their Be Red Cross Ready resource guide.