Surviving Floods

Responding to Floods and Flash Floods

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Floods kill an average of 74 people per year. Staying safe during a flood takes planning. Create a disaster pack to keep at home, or to take along if you need to evacuate. Include enough food and bottled water for three days. The American Red Cross suggests a gallon of water per person per day. Food should be able to be stored at room temperature. Don't wait for bad weather. Make sure you have everything you need before you need it.

There are floods and then there are flash floods. Either can cause property damage, but flash floods are more likely to cause injury or death. Many people see pictures of flash floods on television and think that it would be easy to avoid the rising water. In reality, flash floods are extremely dangerous and unpredictable. Flash floods can occur at any time, anywhere in the country. You need to be prepared, even if you don't live in an area usually affected by flooding.

Flood Terms

FEMA and the National Weather Service use the following terms to announce flood information:

  • Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
  • Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
  • Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

When the Water Comes

If you're expecting flooding in your area:

  • Keep the radio or television tuned to weather or emergency information.
  • Beware of flash flooding. Do not wait for instructions to move if authorities think flash flooding is possible.
  • Beware of streams, ditches, drainage channels, canyons, and other low-lying areas. Flash floods can happen in these places far from the storms that bring the rain.

If you must evacuate, you should do the following:

  • Secure your home.
  • If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture.
  • Move essential items up off the floor, or to an upper floor.
  • Unplug electrical appliances.
  • Turn off utilities (gas and electric) at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • If you must walk through water, only go through standing water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Driving through flooded areas is extremely dangerous. Never drive through flood water.


Duchene M. Emergency management in action: surviving a flood. Home Healthc Nurse. 2011 Jun;29(6):383-7. doi: 10.1097/NHH.0b013e31821b72b8.

Floods | (2016). Retrieved 31 August 2016, from

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