The tragedy of the 2005 hurricane season still lingers in the collective memory of our country. The devastation wreaked on the Gulf coast should be a reminder to all Californians that flooding is a constant threat, and we should take precautions to ensure the safety of your family and minimize damage to property.
Floods can occur over the course of a few days or even within a few minutes or an hour (a flash flood). They can strike without warning. However, a comparatively small amount of time planning and stocking up on key supplies could make an important difference in what happens to you and your loved ones.
The best time to think about what will happen during a flood is before it strikes! If you follow just a few simple steps now, you have a better chance of being prepared should disaster occur in the future.
Make a Plan
Planning for a flood, or any natural disaster, can seem overwhelming. However, simply writing down key information you might need and coming up with answers to important questions will go a long way toward putting your mind at ease. Consider the following problems faced by many when disaster strikes:
- Where will you meet your loved ones if your home is unavailable (is this point on higher ground in the event of flash flood)?
- Who should your children trust if you cannot get to them?
- How will you know where to go should you evacuate?
- What should you bring with you?
- What about insurance?
- Medical care?
In the event of an emergency, answers to these questions will need to be automatic. Teach your children how to call 9-1-1 and who to contact in the event of a flood or other emergency. Practice evacuation from your home and the route you will travel to escape. Prepare a portable disaster kit that you can take should you need to evacuate. Fill out a downloadable “Family Disaster Plan” sheet and keep it with your emergency kit.
Get a Kit-Your kit should be lightweight (without the food and water) and portable, and should contain the following:
- Non-perishable Food and Water for Three Days: Store at least one gallon of water per person per day. Keep water in original, unopened containers. Replace items as they expire
- First Aid Kit-Assemble a kit for your home and one per car. It should include: bandages of various sizes; alcohol-based sanitizer or germicidal/antiseptic wipes; non-latex gloves, adhesive tape; anti-bacterial ointment; cold pack; small scissors; tweezers; CPR breathing barrier; and other items specific to your needs.
- Tools and Supplies: Disposable plates, cups and utensils; battery operated radio and flashlight with extra batteries; utility knife; matches in a waterproof container; extra cash and coins; feminine products; glasses or contact lenses; maps with evacuation routes clearly marked; sturdy gloves; cloth face masks (for mold leftover when flood waters recede); sturdy plastic garbage bags to keep belongings dry; rolls of duct tape and plastic sheeting; a fire extinguisher; and household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper (when diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant, or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water-do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners).
- Clothing and Bedding: One complete change of clothing and footwear per person, along with blankets or sleeping bags.
- Special Items: Some families have special needs, like for the elderly or young children. Remember: Keep important documents, such as insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, bank account numbers and credit card numbers in a waterproof, locking fire-box or other portable container. Also, make sure to stock up supplies for your pets.
- Learn CPR—it could save a life; and
- Check your first-aid and disaster preparedness kits for expired supplies; and
- Learn where “high ground” can be found in the event of a flash flood.
Know where to get information
- Know where to listen for announcements from local authorities on TV, local radio or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather stations or channels;
Make a card with contacts for:
- Family members and trusted friends;
- Medical providers;
- Fire department;
- Poison Control;
- Police; and
- Local Office of Emergency Services.
- Purchase flood insurance if you do not have it already;
- Take pictures of your belongings; and
- Know your insurance agency’s contact info.
- Now is the time to implement your family disaster plan.
- Review your completed “Family Disaster Plan” downloadable sheet;
- Based on the information you have gathered from news, police, or informed family and friends, determine whether you and your loved ones should evacuate;
- If you decide to evacuate (and you have time), leave your contact information and a sign saying you have evacuated on your front door. This will enable local officials to contact you when the danger has passed and not waste critical time searching your home for disaster victims.
- Get your prepared emergency kit and fire-box with important documents;
- If you are separated from loved ones, meet at your designated gathering spot;
- Get to safety; and
- When you and your family are safe, help others.
Return to Normal
- Make sure it is safe before you return to your home—contact local police, fire departments, or disaster relief agencies for information;
- Register as “Safe and Well” with the American Red Cross, so your family and friends will know your status and can obtain your contact information. Utilize the Red Cross and local services to locate lost loved ones. Visit http://www.redcross.org/ for more information;
- Contact your insurance provider to make a claim for damaged property;
- After life has returned to normal, evaluate what happened during this emergency for what worked well and what aspects you can learn from in preparing for the next disaster.