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Flood Preparation and Safety Tips

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Floods cause more damage in the United States than any other weather-related event and can happen anywhere in any of the states or territories in any season. Floods happen fast; winter storms and snowmelts can cause mild to extreme flooding. Here are some tips for staying safe in a flood and getting prepared for a reduction or halt of normal services due to a flood emergency:

Assemble an emergency kit – the Red Cross recommends an emergency kit with these items:

  • Water—at least a 3-­day supply; one gallon per person per day
  • Food—at least a 3 -day supply of non­perishable, easy-­to-­prepare food. Dehydrated food or freeze-dried food is ideal because it’s light.
  • Flashlight
  • 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)
  • Multi­purpose 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

Stay informed – NOAA Weather Radio, the NOAA website, or local TV or radio stations will issue flood warnings and reports from the National Weather service. If a flood warning is issued for your area, be prepared to evacuate right away and move to higher ground.

Stay away – do not enter floodwaters, even if it seems shallow. Water that only comes to your ankles can sweep you off your feet. If you’re driving, turn around and do not attempt to cross flooded roads.

Protect emergency food and water

  • Basements are excellent for emergency food storage because of their low, constant temperatures. However, if there is danger of flooding ensure that food is elevated enough to stay dry. Better yet, temporarily move your supply to the highest level of the house.
  • Keep a supply of bottled water or keep a Katadyn water filter nearby. If you have a well, do not use the water from it until it has been tested and deemed safe.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables and prepare baby formula with safe water.
  • Don’t eat anything that’s come in contact with floodwater.
  • Throw out food that is not in waterproof containers (screw caps, pull tops and crimped caps are not waterproof).
  • Food in metal cans and flexible metal or plastic pouches can be cleaned by removing labels and sanitizing containers before opening.
  • Thoroughly sanitize food prep pans, countertops, dishes and utensils with hot soap and water or a bleach solution.

Return carefully

  • Return home only when officials have declared the area safe.
  • Before entering your home, check for loose power lines and damaged gas lines. If you see or hear either one, leave immediately.
  • As you enter, be aware that wild animals, especially poisonous snakes can seek shelter in flooded houses.
  • Wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.
  • Contact your local or state public health department for specific recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area after a disaster as water may be contaminated.

As illustrated by recent events, even if you’re not in a designated flood plain you may be at risk for high water damage in extreme weather conditions. Take some time to assemble a kit and familiarize yourself with basic safety information.

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