Flooding is the most common natural disaster and can occur anywhere it rains. Flooding can be localized in a particular neighborhood or widespread, affecting entire cities or large portions of states and territories. Floods can develop over a period of days, giving you adequate time to prepare; however, flash floods can develop in a matter of minutes.
Flash flood waters can be caused by heavy rain, levee breaches, or dam failures. Rushing flood waters can be deeper and stronger than they look. These waters also are destructive and can carry debris, rocks, and mud.
"Flooding is the leading cause of severe weather-related deaths in the U.S., and this is especially tragic since many are preventable. Of the nearly 100 flood-related fatalities each year, most occur as people attempt to drive on flooded roads. In many cases, the water is either too deep or moving too fast for drivers to maintain control of their vehicle, and in extreme cases the roadway may be washed away entirely," said Jack Hayes, director, NOAA's National Weather Service, which produces an array of flood outlooks and forecasts, including watches and life-saving warnings. "Remember, if confronted with a water-covered road follow National Weather Service advice: Turn Around, Don't Drown."
How to Prepare For a Flood
- Be informed and know flood terminology:
- Flood Watch—Flooding is possible. Stay tuned to radio or TV for more information.
- Flash Flood Watch—Flash flooding is possible. Stay tuned to radio or TV for more information. Be prepared to move to higher ground.
- Flood Warning—Flooding is currently occurring or will occur soon. Listen for further instructions. If told to evacuate, do so immediately.
- Flash Flood Warning—Flash flooding is currently occurring or will occur soon. Seek higher ground on foot immediately.
- Determine whether your home or work place is in a predetermined flood plain.
- Avoid building in a flood plain unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
- If feasible, seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds and construct barriers to redirect and stop floodwater from entering the building.
- Obtain flood insurance – There is typically a 30-day waiting period from date of purchase before a new flood policy goes into effect. The National Flood Insurance Program is one available resource created by Congress.
- Identify where you can go if you need to reach higher ground quickly and on foot.
- Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel in your home if you live in an area that has a high flood risk.
- Consider installing “check valves” to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
- Make a written evacuation plan as a family.
- Make a written emergency communication plan in case family members are separated.
- Build an emergency kit.
What to Do If There Is a Flood
- Move to higher ground immediately. Do not wait for instructions to move.
- If there is time, move important items to a top floor.
- Stay tuned to the radio or TV for further information and instructions.
- If you are ordered to evacuate:
- Take only essential items, including your family emergency kit.
- Turn off gas, electricity, and water.
- Disconnect appliances.
- Make sure your car’s gas tank is full.
- Do not walk in moving water.
- Do not drive in flood water. As little as six inches of water can cause loss of control and stalling of a vehicle.
- If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly.
- Follow the designated evacuation plan, and expect a high volume of traffic.
- If you are NOT ordered to evacuate:
- Stay tuned to emergency station on radio or TV.
- Listen for further instructions.
- Prepare to evacuate to a shelter or neighbor’s home if your home is damaged.
- Once you are in a safe place, muster with your command if you are military or civilian personnel or a member of the selective reserves.
What to Do After a Flood
- Listen to news reports for additional flooding or flash floods that may occur and to make sure water supplies are not contaminated.
- Beware of downed power lines.
- Help emergency workers who will be assisting people in flooded areas by staying off the roads and out of the way.
- Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
- If you come upon a barricade, a flooded road, or a road where waters have receded, go another way. Roads may be closed because they have been damaged or are still covered by water. Roads weakened by flood waters could collapse under the weight of a car.
- Stay clear of flood waters (standing and moving) as they may be contaminated or deeper than expected.
- Be extremely cautious when entering buildings and homes as there may be unseen damage.
- Clean and disinfect everything that was touched by flood water as it can contain sewage and other contaminants.
- After a declared emergency, register your needs with the Navy through the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS) at https://www.navyfamily.navy.mil/ or call 1-877-414-5358 or 1-866-297-1971 (TDD).
Where to Find Additional Information
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/floods/
- Department of Homeland Security (Ready.gov)—www.ready.gov/floods
- National Flood Insurance Program—https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/