If you live in a flood-prone area, is your family prepared for the next flood?

As we’ve seen all too often lately, floods can happen quickly, devastating communities and putting families in danger. The best way to keep your family safe in the event of a flood emergency is to take steps to be prepared before flooding occurs. During a flood emergency, heed the advice of local authorities regarding evacuating or sheltering in place.  

If Your Family Evacuates…

  • Head for higher ground. Determine a safe place to meet, should you ever encounter the need to evacuate.
  • Pack an emergency bag. Each member of your family should have a pre-packed emergency bag that can be grabbed on the way out the door during an immediate evacuation. These bags should include at least one change of clothes, medicine, personal hygiene items, a flashlight, drinking water, and nonperishable food. At least one bag should also contain a first aid kit.
  • Unplug. Turn off all electrical, gas, and water supplies before evacuating your home.
  • Create an emergency plan for your pets. Keep your fur babies safe in the event of a flood by having a plan that includes food, shelter, and water for them.
  • Stay charged. During a flood emergency, keep your cell phone charged as much as possible to stay informed about flooding conditions and keep in contact with family and friends. Top off your gas tank and withdraw emergency cash to have on hand.
  • Avoid backflow. Install backflow valves or plugs on drains and other sewer connections to reduce the risk of unsanitary flood water getting into your house.

If Your Family Shelters in Place…

If your family can safely remain sheltered at home during a flood, the American Red Cross recommends having at least two weeks’ worth of the following supplies on hand:

  • One gallon of water per person per day
  • Nonperishable food
  • A manually operated can opener
  • Flashlights
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Extra batteries for flashlights and radios
  • First aid kit
  • Medications
  • A multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items (e.g., soap, toothpaste, and wipes)
  • Copies of important personal documents

Floods may contaminate tap water, making it unsafe for your family to use. Follow these steps to sanitize your water supply during a flood crisis:

  • If you have working electric or gas power, bring tap water to a rolling boil on the stove for one minute.
  • To increase your water supply, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends sanitizing sinks and bathtubs with bleach (1 tablespoon of regular bleach or 2 tablespoons of high-strength bleach per gallon of water), rinsing, and then filling with clean water.

Flood Cleanup

Flood cleanup begins by removing flood water and evaluating all the items it came in contact with, so you can determine which items to keep and which to toss.

  • If an item is wet, assume it’s contaminated.
  • Disinfecting works best when dirt and debris are removed. First, wash all contaminated surfaces with soap and warm, clean water. Then prepare a bleach solution (3/4 cup regular strength chlorine bleach or 1/2 cup concentrated bleach to 1 gallon of water) to disinfect walls, floors, and other contaminated surfaces. Keep the area wet for at least two minutes.
  • When addressing exterior surfaces like outdoor furniture, patios, decks, and play equipment, keep surfaces wet with a disinfecting solution for 10 minutes after removing loose dirt and debris with soap and warm water. This may require wetting the surface with the disinfecting solution more than once.
  • Carpets and rugs that have been soaked for more than 24 hours should be thrown out or removed. If they were soaked for less than 24 hours, evaluate as follows:
    • Carpets that contacted sewage-contaminated floodwater should be discarded.
    • Carpets that contacted only clean basement seepage or lawn runoff may be dried and cleaned.
    • Washable throw rugs usually can be cleaned adequately in a washing machine.
  • Chlorine bleach solutions degrade quickly, so it’s important to make a fresh solution daily. Any unused solution may be disposed of in a toilet or sink.
  • Wash contaminated clothing in the hottest water possible, with detergent and chlorine bleach if fabric instructions permit.
  • When using a chlorine bleach solution to disinfect items contaminated by flood water, remember to:
    • Wear gloves and protective clothing, and do not touch your face or eyes.
    • Change the disinfecting solution often, and whenever it becomes cloudy.
    • Wash and dry everything thoroughly.
    • When you’re done, wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, even if you wore gloves.
    • Keep young children away from the disinfecting solution at all times.

This information can help you keep your family safe in the event of a flood emergency and the subsequent cleanup.