Individuals can prepare for a flood emergency by understanding their risk, making an emergency preparedness kit, a flood emergency plan and staying alert.
Know your flood risk
It is important to know what bodies of water are in a neighborhood such as streams, rivers, creeks, or lakes, to name a few. It is also important to know if a home is being protected by a levee or dam. When a person knows the flood risks in their area, they know what to watch out for and what areas to avoid should they need to evacuate.
Waterways can overflow and cause flooding if they are blocked up with debris or ice, if there is intense rainfall or high snowmelt, or from storm surge inland. Excessive rain and snowmelt can lead to flash flooding in urban areas and can overwhelm drainage systems and cause flooding. Neighborhoods on the coast are at risk of flooding from storm surge during hurricanes, tropical storms, or northeasters. Coastal communities also could be at risk of flooding during high tides. Flood infrastructure, such as levees and dams, does not provide absolute protection and is susceptible to breaking or being overtopped. To understand local flood risk, go to Risk Factor to see individual property flood risk, as well as neighborhood, city, county, and state-level flood risk. Also, check the local government website for local flood maps.
Build an emergency preparedness kit
An emergency preparedness kit should consider the five Ps: people and pets, prescriptions, papers, personal needs, and priceless items. Store prescriptions, medicines, eye glasses, hearing aids and other essential health items in a go bag. Important documents and papers can be stored as hard copies or as electronic copies saved to an external hard drive or thumb drive. Personal needs including water, food, clothes, cash, first aid kit, flashlights, and chargers, should also be stored in your go bag. Know where priceless items such as pictures or mementos are located in a home so that they can be grabbed quickly when evacuating. Individuals living in the same home should make a plan so that everyone knows where to be in case of an evacuation.
The image above shows one possible variation of an emergency preparedness kit.
Make a flood emergency plan
It is important to know neighborhood evacuation routes, where to get flood alerts, and for people living in the same home to communicate with each other. During extreme flood events, roads can become impassable, trees can block roads, and other issues can arise making certain driving routes impossible. People can identify several escape routes through their community’s local flood evacuation plan in order to avoid getting blocked. Individuals who can evacuate by car should make sure their car is fueled and in good condition and may want to consider keeping emergency supplies and a change of clothes in their car. Make arrangements to share transportation if that is a viable option. For public transportation, contact local government emergency management to ask how an evacuation will work, where staging areas will be located, and any other questions one might have.
Typical hurricane evacuation route road signage
The National Weather Service (NWS) issues flood alerts that vary depending on the severity of the flood threat. A NWS “Flood Advisory” means that a specific weather event is expected to cause nuisance flooding and caution should be exercised. A NWS “Flood Watch” means that weather conditions are favorable for flooding and it is possible for flooding to occur. A NWS “Flood Warning” occurs when a hazardous weather event that causes flooding is imminent or already happening. A NWS “Flash Flood Warning” occurs when a flash flood is approaching or occurring. To gain more information and monitor alerts, check NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, local radio, or local television stations. In the case of an evacuation, local authorities may issue an evacuation notice to alert residents of imminent flooding. Evacuation notices range from voluntary to mandatory. In the case of mandatory evacuation, leave the area immediately. Community members should discuss emergency preparedness with the people that they live with and their neighbors so that everyone is aware of the actions they will take, should an emergency occur.