How To Survive A Flood Introduction
The water is rising.
It’s been raining for days. The streets have turned to rivers and water is lapping at your doorstep.
Sandbags and plywood are not enough to halt the advance and it’s only getting worse.
You’re now in a flood.
Every era in human history has dealt with devastating floods. Some are a product of hurricanes; others stem from a volcanic eruption while most a occur due to seasonal storms.
But regardless of the cause, often property and lives are lost on a significant scale.
Millions of Americans currently live in floodplains and flood-prone areas. So there’s a risk of becoming a flood casualty – especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.
And for some reason, people underestimate the power of flooding. They don’t realize how devastating it can be to property and the power of moving water.
Surging water will grab a human and toss them around like a rag doll. Helplessly sweeping them away with easy and holding them underwater…
But flooding can happen outside of floodplains as well. Even if you think you’re safe, localized flooding can occur in more places than people realize.
You can check to see if you live in a floodplain here, on FEMA’s website.
If your home is at risk, it’s in your best interest to prepare now. Get yourself, your home, and your family ready today for the possibility of a flood tomorrow.
Know Your Flood
No two floods are identical, there are:
- River floods
- Coastal floods
- Storm surges
- Inland floods
- Flash floods
- Burn scar floods
You must understand which flooding types are most likely for your area in order to properly prepare and ultimately survive a flood.
3 Flood Survival Categories
Now, unlike Noah, you don’t need to build an ark. However, that isn’t to suggest surviving a flood is easy.
It requires several critical steps and a toolbox of knowledge before, during and after a flood. In this article, we’ll cover in detail how to survive a flood in three major categories:
- Preparing For A Flood
- How To Survive A Flood
- Responding In The Wake
Preparing For A Flood
Consider Getting Flood Insurance
First, on a financial note: if you live in an area prone to flooding, buy flood insurance!
You can master every trick in the book like sandbagging, pumping, or redirecting water, etc. But if you’re not covered by flood insurance you could lose everything financially – including your home.
So getting flood insurance is a crucial step to surviving a flood financially.
Before you buy, check out this excellent article that covers 6 flood insurance myths.
Protecting Your Home From Water
If you know a flood is coming ahead of time, you should dam your property from the flood waters.
Damming your home and property is one of the best flood defense tactics.
Sandbags are the most cost-effective way to divert water away from your home. You’ll need to procure a bunch of bags, plastic, and sand. In extreme floods, getting your hands on enough of these can be a real challenge so stock up now so you have what you need later.
If you already have plenty of sandbags, take some time to learn how to fill them and layer them properly for your sandbag wall to be most effective.
Now, sandbags will block and divert mild flooding but building a massive sandbag wall around your entire house will take thousands of sandbags and a lot of work. So you’ll want to consider some alternative solutions.
The Aqua Dam is a much faster and larger scale method to block and divert major water away from your home.
The key is to buy and install an Aqua Dam system that’s taller than the flood waters at peak. This is hard to predict and the taller the dam, the more costly to build. This might be an excellent investment to protect your home from massive flooding damage.
Here are a couple of videos of homes that were protected using an Aqua Dam system.
Here’s where you can find smaller versions of these dams for smaller flooding events.
If you can’t use sandbags or water dams or you just want extra protection, you should look into a door dam. Your doors are often the first place where floodwaters enter a home. So if you dam these weak spots, your home might stay dry with against minor flooding.
A door dam is a plastic or metal plate with rubber seals around the edges that bolts or screws into place to create a dam at a door. It creates a watertight seal and keeps water from coming in under your door.
Here are a couple videos showing varying setups.
You can find a similar product called the National Guard Flood Barrier Shield.
Invest In A Sump Pump
These devices are useful in floods because they help bail your house out of water as it floods.
If you invest in a high-quality high volume sump pump, it will hopefully keep up with the flooding and save your home from the worst damage. However, in the case of massive flooding, no sump pump will be able to up.
Also, get sump pump that runs on batteries, so you won’t need electricity to run it.
These pumps are submersible and can be set up to run water that’s entering your home. You’ll need a way to route the water off your property.
It’s useless to run a sump pump back into the same water that’s flooding your home. Depending on your surrounding topographical elevations, this task may be obvious or impossible.
Research Your Home’s Electrical Disconnect
When the water is rising, and your house is in danger of mass flooding, you’ll want to cut your electricity. Otherwise, you run the risk of short-circuiting your electrical appliances. Shutting off power and gas is something to do before you evacuate to higher ground.
In fact, as soon as you know a flood is inevitable, shut your electricity down because water and electricity can result in electrical fires and gas explosions.
You need to know where your electrical breaker is and which switches turn what off. Everyone should know this information!
Find your breaker, and label each switch so you don’t have to play a memory game every time you turn your breakers off.
Stockpile Emergency Supplies
As with any disaster situation, having a large stock of emergency supplies is “common” sense.
It’s common only because most people understand the importance. But sadly, it’s uncommon to follow this basic survival advice.
In a survey conducted in 2012, less than half of U.S. households didn’t have 3 days for nonperishable food and water at home!
Bottled water is one of the most important resources to have during a flood. Public water often becomes contaminated (or turned off completely) during a worst-case flood emergency.
You cannot rely on your tap water or any flood waters nearby –
“water water everywhere, yet not a drop to drink.”
Drinking contaminated water can make you extremely sick or worse.
So at a minimum, buy a few packs of bottled water and keep them stored for emergencies. Or even better, learn how to store water for the long haul.
You should also build a first aid kit, and learn how to use what’s in it. Basic medical knowledge can make the difference between life and death in a flood.
Floods uproot and knock objects over, break stuff, and human beings can get caught in the turmoil. So practice treating cuts and lacerations because unsanitary water can result in nasty infections.
Stock up on flashlights and batteries, since the electrical grid likely to go out. Also, invest in long-lasting survival candles in the event you run out of batteries.
Bug spray is essential! Insects breed like crazy after a flood in the leftover standing water. Mosquitoes can be hellish.
By that same token, if you’re stranded on a roof with no cover and nowhere to go, you will need sunscreen. So make sure you have some.
Neon paint is also useful in a disaster situation where rescue is the goal because it’s highly visible. Rescuers can see neon paint better than natural shades. If you’re using earth colors to write your “HELP!” messages, your chances of getting spotted are far lower than if you were to use neon pink.
As for storing these supplies, make sure you keep them elevated and off the ground – especially if they’re in a basement! IF you to keep them in the basement, make sure to move them to higher points in your home before the flood. 3rd stories or even attics are better than basements in the event of a pending flood.
It would be devastating to invest money on supplies, and when the time comes to use them, you find they’re ruined because they got soaked.
Plan Your Evacuation Routes
The best way to survive a flood is to get away from it.
Nowadays, people are often warned by weather systems or news broadcasts ahead of time. Meaning, if one is headed at you, you’ll likely have at least some time to get the hell outta Dodge.
And if that’s the case, you want some potential evacuation routes you can take to escape the storm.
The obvious evacuation routes (interstates and highways) are prone to debilitating traffic jams. And getting stuck in your car during a rising flood may be worse than being trapped at home.
So map out several potential evac routes. Use back roads and pathways less likely to get congested by frantic flood fleers.
Keep a local map of your area handy in your flood supplies. Lay out three or four potential evacuation routes to higher ground and safer locations.
Your Irreplaceable/Valuable Items
Keep all your important documents in a single place.
If you have valuables like jewelry, keep it where you can grab it quick. I use a small home safe, where I have compiled all my essential documents and valuables in case of an emergency.
Quick access safes ensure you can grab them before the water does, and it protects your belongings against fire and theft as well.
Many great home safes are available online in every size, model, and shape you can imagine. Yes, some are a bit pricey, but the peace of mind and ease of escape they grant you is worth the price.
Invest In Floatation Devices
Let’s say you don’t get into your car fast enough, and can’t get out in time. It’s possible you have to move to your roof with nowhere to escape.
So keep a couple of flotation devises stored with your flood gear.
These devices provide safe movement to search for help, look for supplies, and even to help others.
How To Survive A Flood
Once the flood hits, you enter the second stage of survival. If you’ve prepared, you have an excellent shot at getting through alive and well.
Turn Off Electricity and Gas
Remember, in preparing for a flood, you were supposed to know where your breaker is and how to use it? Now’s the time to put that knowledge to the test. Find your house’s power switch and shut it down!
Turn off your gas, too, as this can present explosive hazards. Do this before you evacuate so that your house doesn’t burn down or blow up in your absence. Flood damage is bad enough already, you don’t need to add any further disasters.
Don’t waste any time. Pack your things, prepare your home, load your loved ones and get out!
Go to high ground where you’ll be safe and sound. Early evacuation is the best, most efficient, way to survive a flood.
Grab your bug out bags and get the hell out.
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If you’ve prepared properly, there’s nothing else you can do to help your property and things. It’s best to leave your home and return once the flooding is subsiding.
If you’ve invested in flood insurance, grabbed your family and valuables you’ve got nothing to fear and no good reasons to stay!
Anything material that’s lost can be replaced but you or your loved ones cannot!
If you leave early enough, you won’t have to deal your vehicle flooding or having to cross flooded roadways. However, if you left too late or didn’t have any forewarning and your vehicle is submerging is deep water, get out and get to higher ground.
Get Out Of A Sinking / Flooded Vehicle
Staying inside a sinking or flooding vehicle is extremely dangerous.
You can get stuck inside, suffocate, drown, or get smashed by flood debris. So getting out fast is imperative. You can do this with a tool called a Life Hammer.
This tool has a double-sided, steel hammer that breaks through side and rear windows. It also has razor-sharp blade cuts easily through safety belts.
But here’s the tricky part: you need to be careful getting out of your vehicle.
In fast-moving flood waters, you may be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
If you’re not in water that will fully submerge your vehicle, and think it’s more dangerous outside of the vehicle – stay in the vehicle and roll down your windows, so you have an escape route ready.
Avoid Electrified Water
You can also get electrocuted when driving, running, swimming, or paddling your way through flood waters.
Electrified H20 occurs when electrical lines are downed during storms, and submerged in water.
- If you fall into this water, it can kill you.
- Even driving through it can electrocute you, and kill you.
- If someone falls into electrified water, DO NOT FOLLOW THEM IN, again it can kill you.
You need to keep your distance and try and throw them something to grab so you can pull them to safety.
If Stuck In Your Home
Even if you decide not to leave, you still need a plan. While we don’t recommend anyone stays for flooding events when their time to evacuate, we live in a free country.
So if you choose to stay, make sure you extra prepared. And if theirs a flash flood, you may need to scramble to safety and wait for rescue.
Use Neon Paint to Signal for Help
Among the supplies you should have stocked, is neon paint. If you get stuck, this can be used to write on roofs, or pieces of plywood, or other debris.
The neon colors make it extremely easy for rescue teams to spot people in distress. Make bright signs that can get the attention of people who can help.
Nothing is worse for a survival situation than nerves and anxiety. Sure, nerves are a natural thing, especially in a severe flood.
However, try to keep your emotions under control – stay calm, and collected. You’ll be better equipped to make sensible decisions and deal with challenges.
Panic is the enemy of the survival mindset.
Responding In The Wake
When the carnage is over, and the water has retreated, there will be a lot of devastation leftover. Houses will be ruined, belongings lost, even people missing.
There’s a lot of work to do to rehabilitate your home and your community after it’s experienced a severe flood. Here are a few of the initial steps:
Contacting Friends and Relatives
You’re going to want to check in with people you know and care about to make sure they aren’t missing or worse.
This functions as a way to calm your worries. But it also helps law enforcement and rescuers to know who’s still missing.
Take Lots of Pictures
Remember that flood insurance you bought? Well, those guys are going to want proof you lost what you claim you lost.
So get a camera and start going around your house taking pictures of everything. Make a written list that backs up the photos.
Document everything! It will come in very handy later on when you’re dealing with the insurance companies.
Leave the Electricity and Gas OFF
As tempting as it is to turn your power back on and get back to normal, but DON’T DO IT. Leave that stuff alone until it has been properly inspected. Not only does it create a potential safety hazard, but it also might mess with the insurance claim.
Starting an accidental fire because you wanted to test the toaster could get your insurance claim voided.
The best course of action is to document the damage as best as you can, then step back and leave everything alone until properly inspected.
Dealing With Looters
Just when you think you’ve survived the flood and you’re out of the woods, looters come along and rob you blind.
Looters are an unfortunate phenomenon in areas devastated by flooding. They are notorious for going through abandoned neighborhoods and taking anything valuable.
So make sure to fortify your home ahead of time to make your home a hardened target.
When you go back to your house, stay vigilant, and arm yourself so you can protect yourself from these scoundrels.
Help Rebuild Your Community
There will be no shortage of volunteer opportunities in the aftermath of a flood. It’s an intense community bonding project to rebuild the place you live in together.
It’s extremely gratifying to chip in and help others in need.
It makes you feel good to help others who need it. And it also gives them a reason to help you later on down the road, when you might need a few extra hands to rebuild your life.