Earlier this month, Hurricane Matthew left many American cities ravaged by flood waters that ruined property and even took lives. And with large parts of North Carolina and Virginia still underwater, it’s never been more important to know exactly what to do to protect yourself in the event of a flood.
According to weather.com, flooding in America has been particularly destructive over the past year, claiming nearly 240 lives from January 2015 to June 2016 in 26 different states. And since Hurricane Matthew hit, that death toll has been raised to 276 people and counting.
If you’re in an area prone to hurricanes or flash floods, here are the things you need to do to make sure you’re ready when a flood strikes.
According to the American Red Cross, being prepared in advance with a few supplies can greatly help in case of a flood. The Red Cross lists the following staples to have at the ready in case of an emergency:
1. Three-day supply of water; one gallon per person, per day
2. Three-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
3. A flashlight
4. Battery-powered radio
5. Extra batteries
6. A First Aid kit
7. A week’s supply of any medications you need
8. Sanitation and personal hygiene items
9. Cellphone and charger
10. Copies of pertinent documents (passport, house deed, etc.)
11. Extra cash
Understanding the Alerts:
The National Weather Service has four different kinds of flood warnings. But the two you want to keep your eye out for are: “Flood Watch: Be Prepared” and “Flood Watch: Take Action!” The first warning will be issued when there is a high possibility of a flood, prompting you to make sure your emergency supplies are ready and your escape route is planned. The second warning requires action and means a flood is imminent or already happening. This warning means you need to get to high ground immediately if you are in the vicinity of the flood.
What to Do When an Alert Is Issued:
1. According to the Disaster Center, if an alert is issued you should be prepared to leave immediately and leave all nonessential possessions behind.
2. Evacuate sooner rather than later (it’s much harder once a flood is underway).
3. Head to higher ground and stay there.
4. Follow all directions of local authorities and recommended evacuation routes.
What to Avoid:
1. Stay out of areas subject to flooding. Dips, low spots, canyons, washes, etc. can become filled with water.
2. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Never try to walk, swim or drive through such swift water. Many flood fatalities are caused by people attempting to cross high water. If it is moving swiftly, even water six inches deep can sweep you off your feet.
3. Avoid already-flooded areas and areas subject to sudden flooding when driving. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams with your car. Most flood fatalities are caused by people attempting to drive through water. Rapidly rising water may stall the engine, engulf the vehicle and its occupants and sweep them away.
What to Do AFTER:
1. Don’t return home until officials have declared the area safe.
2. Check for hazards, such as live wires, the smell of gas or the hissing sound of a propane gas leak.
3. Register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website, or call 1-866-GET-INFO to let your family and friends know about your welfare.