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How to Survive a Flood or Flash Flood

Survive A Flood
by James Roberts, Copyright ©
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Floods are really one of the most costly and often occurring natural disasters we deal with in this world.
Did you know you can be washed away in only 4 inches of water and that one wrong turn in your car or truck can be the end of you and your family as you're suddenly swept away by a flood you never saw coming?

Some researchers actually attribute up to 90% of the damage from disasters to floods (the kinds of disasters that increase water, anyway). Said another way, floods can stand alone but also tend to accompany extreme levels of rain and natural disasters.

After all, who can forget Hurricane Katrina? The amount of flooding from Katrina literally changed the landscape. Areas of New Orleans that had once been -- were now gone.

Oklahoma and Texas Flash Floods, May, 2015

Update: Massive flooding is right now taking place in parts of Oklahoma and Texas, including Houston, with dozens of people killed and several other people simply missing. These floods reveal the danger that a flash flood can bring, especially to people stuck in vehicles when flood waters suddenly appear.

Experts say that as little as 4 inches of moving water can be enough to carry some vehicles away. The best move to make, instead of driving through any possible flood waters, even if only a couple inches above the road, is to turn around and quickly get to higher ground.

It's better to spend the evening in your vehicle, up on a hillside, than to risk drowning in your vehicle, if its washed away by sudden flood waters.

(With all the loss of life and missing people adding up right now in Texas and Oklahoma, my prayers are for the families and communities struck by this sudden devastation.)

What if you're caught in flood waters, and you're on foot?

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A flash flood can hit you with the strength of a rising river, as that is essentially what is -- part of a river that has risen several feet. It's foolish to attempt to swim across as the speed of the river is likely to quickly fatigue you and debris or rocks under the water's surface can catch you and the water can pin you under, and now you drown.

Rather than attempt a freestyle swim stroke, an expert interviewed by NBC's Today demonstrates in this video how to swim on your back, feet first, and use your arms behind you to help steer. Swimming in this way is only a last resort, if no other option is available and you can't stay were you're at because of the rising water.

2013 Floods Destroy Parts of Colorado

2013's catastrophic floods across the Colorado landscape have taken the danger of floods and the importance of flood survival to a new level.

The rains that came down in Colorado were called a "1000 year" event.

What happens when the next 1000 year event comes to your region of the country? There are a lot of people in Colorado that probably never expected to be swept away in a flood. Yet hundreds of people went missing in Colorado -- several probably dead and swept away by a flood they never saw coming and never took the time to prepare for.

Wouldn't it be better to be prepared, just in case your region is next?

What causes flooding

Usually, prolonged and intense rainfall. However, floods can also be caused by short extremely intense rainfall and/ or ice or debris jams that cause a body of water to overflow. Further, floods tend to occur in low lying areas such as New Orleans most frequently. These low sea level areas are often called floodplains.

A flash flood is one where there is little to no warning. These are often caused by very intense rainfall or ice/ debris jams that let go.

How to survive a flood when it's about to happen or is happening

The most important thing is to pay attention to emergency personnel and your situation. If your home is located in a floodplains area, you have to pay particular attention to the National Weather Service. They will oftentimes let you know about floods- sometimes on the tail of a large scale weather event like a hurricane- in advance with warnings and/ or watches.

Something to pay particular attention to is this. If emergency personnel tell you that you should evacuate to higher ground, do it! Do not play hero; it is not a prudent course of action to take.

By the way, that's the key. When a flood comes rolling in, people that live on floodplains and low lying areas should move to higher ground. Remember that only two feet of water can literally carry an automobile away. Along with this, playing or swimming in flood waters can be very dangerous. It should never be done.

Another interesting note is that snakes are oftentimes carried away from their homes in flood water. Thus, this adds another danger to the overflow, particularly if you live in an area with snakes of the poisonous variety.

Planning for a flood

First thing's first. Have homeowner's insurance. The next thing to understand is that homeowner's policies do not directly cover flooding expenses in most cases. Thus, ask your insurance agent about the National Flood Insurance Program.

In addition, if you live in a flood zone have all insurance and important paperwork/ materials in a waterproof lockbox in an area of your house least likely to be hit by flood waters. Further, having a sump pump put into your house, if appropriate, could be beneficial. For readers not familiar with a sump pump, this is an inexpensive appliance that is installed in the basement area of a home. If water ever spills into the basement, a sump pump turns on automatically and then pumps flood water back out and through a hose, taking the water out of the basement area -- saving your home (or greatly reducing) from the damages associated with flooding.

Beyond that, here are some other things to consider.

1. Have a preordained place for you and your family to meet if you live in a frequently flooded area, along with an escape route that does not travel along low lying roadways (if possible). Also, have a chain of contact plan (keep cell phones on your person, if possible).

Obviously, the place you choose to meet should be on higher ground.

2. If you live in a floodplains area, build your home in an elevated manner (possibly on stilts, if appropriate). Ask your builder for more specific and pertinent information.

3. Put your furnace, water heater, and electric panel on a higher floor/ area of your home.

4. Consider the damage that could be done to low level areas of your home and act accordingly with furnishings. In other words, don't install an insanely expensive carpet on the lowest level of your home. You could come to regret it.

5. Know where you plan on putting valuables in your home when a flood is coming. However, you should only enact this plan if you have time, and that is dictated by what emergency personnel tell you.

6. Consider installing check valves in building sewer traps.

7. Basement walls should be sealed with waterproofing compounds. However, if you don't already know this one then you probably don't often deal with floods where you live!

8. Consider having a water vacuum on hand for after flood activities (aren't they always fun).

9. Consider putting up flood walls or levees. Always remember to check the building codes before doing any work.

10. Have extra emergency building materials on hand.

11. Ask emergency personnel in your area in advance what else you might want to do!

Flood Emergency Kit

Beyond all of this, have an emergency supplies kit on hand that can easily become mobile in case of flood. This kit should at least have:

1. A few days worth of non-perishable food and water. The reality is you should have much more than this considering the state of the world today. See the following article on surviving the best survival foods for emergency food storage.

2. A radio and batteries.

3. Money, credit cards, identification, and bank information.

4. Medicines or health related things you may require (don't forget your glasses).

5. A warm sleeping bag.

6. Kitchen (ex. Can opener, forks) and sanitation (bathroom tissue) supplies.

7. A personal and local phonebook.

8. A map.

9. Emergency materials (signal flares, a compass, a knife).

10. A change of clothes.

11. First Aid Kit.

In sum, most people in this world -- one way or another -- are going to experience the after effects of a flood or two. Thus, it's important to know how to survive such a situation both physically (follow emergency personnel suggestions and get to higher ground) and economically (look into insurance options and protect your home). So don't wait. Begin planning now because it could mean heartache if you don't.


Flood and Flash Flood Preparedness

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