Except for heat related fatalities, more deaths occur from flooding than any other weather hazard. Why? Most people fail to realize the power of water.
Turn Around, Don't Drown
National Weather Service data shows that nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are vehicle-related. Ironically, many drivers rescued from flood waters report that they were in a hurry to get home-home to safety-as a reason for tempting the danger of driving into water.
Even slow moving water can pose a serious threat. For example, six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock a person off his or her feet, and most cars will float (and be swept away) in only 18-24 inches of moving water. Trucks and SUVs offer little addition protection.
The safest practice during a flood or flash flood is to avoid driving onto water-covered roadways, even if the water depth appears low. Water depth is very difficult to estimate on roads, especially at night, when many flood deaths occur. In the case of a flash flood, waters rise very quickly. Water that covered a road by only 6 inches at one moment could easily be 2 to 3 feet deep just seconds later.
Escaping from a vehicle once flood waters have carried it away is very difficult, and in some cases nearly impossible. Among the problems: water pressure on the outside of the vehicle prevents occupants from opening doors; the vehicle could overturn into a ditch or ravine and become inundated; and even if a person were able to get out of the vehicle, the strong current and undertow of the flood waters would likely be too much to overcome in attempting to swim to safety.
If your car stalls in a flooded area, DO NOT remain in the car. Abandon it as soon as possible and seek higher ground. Floodwaters can rise rapidly and sweep a car (and its occupants) away. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles.
Rising water: Is Your Family Ready?
The best protection against any natural disaster is a well-though out response plan. AAA encourages you to discuss various scenarios with your family, and rehearse the actions you'll take when disaster strikes. To help prepare for the worst, we recommend a handy, easy to follow guide prepared by the Red Cross: Download Family Disaster Preparedness Plan (280k pdf). [NEED LINK/PATH]
Responding to Flood Watches and Warnings
Learn what flood related warnings mean and how to react when you hear them.
What it means: Flooding is possible in and around the watch area.
What to do: this is your cue to be prepared in the event a warning is issued. You may wish to move valuable items, including furniture, to higher ground.
What it means: Flooding is occurring or imminent.
What to do: Stay tuned to radio, television outlets for further information. Evacuate if told to do so.
Flash flood watch
What it means: Flash floods are possible in and around the watch area.
What to do: Be prepared to act quickly in the event a warning is issued.
Flash flood warning
What it means: Flash flooding is occurring or imminent.
What to do: Evacuate and seek higher ground immediately. Seconds could be the difference between life and death.
Urban and small stream flooding advisory
What it means: Flooding is occurring or imminent in urban areas, but is expected to be more of an inconvenience rather than life-threatening. Flooding of low-lying and poor drainage areas is likely and small streams may spill over banks.
When Flooding is Imminent
The safety of your family is the most important consideration.
During A Flood
Since flood waters can rise very rapidly, you should be prepared to evacuate before the water level reaches your property.
The following tips can help to keep you safe.
Most important of all - stay away from flood waters
Gas: Turn off all gas appliances, or turn off the appliance gas shutoff valve at each appliance. If you are unable to shut off the gas to appliances, turn off your gas service shutoff valve, normally located near the gas meter.
Electricity: Turn off the electric supply to the entire premises at the main electric switch. Warning: Never touch the electric switch or circuit breaker with wet hands or while standing in water.
If you did not get the electricity turned off before the water entered your residence, do not turn it off. Get out of the water.
Steps To Take Today
Make an itemized list of personal property, including furnishings, clothing, and valuables. Photographs of your home - inside and out are helpful. These will assist a claims adjuster in settling claims and will help prove uninsured losses, which are tax deductible.
Learn the safest route from your home or place of business to high, safe ground if you should have to evacuate in a hurry.
Keep a portable radio, emergency cooking equipment, and flashlights in working order.
Persons who live in frequently flooded areas should keep on hand materials such as sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, and lumber which can be used to protect private property. (Remember, sandbags should not be stacked directly against the outer walls of a building. When wet, the bags may create added pressure on the foundation.)
Consider flood insurance. Contact your AAA Sales Representative to learn about eligibility for flood insurance, which is offered through the National Flood Insurance Program. Generally, there is a five-day waiting period for this policy to become effective, so don't wait until the last minute to apply.
Keep your insurance policies and a list of personal property in a safe place outside of your home, such as a safe-deposit box.
Know the name and location of the agent(s) who issued the policies.
After a Flood
If your community has been flooded, and your property has suffered flood damage. Stay calm and stay safe in the days ahead by following these instructions:
FIRST STEP: If your home has suffered damage, call your AAA Sales Representative to file a claim. If you are unable to stay in your home, make sure to say where you can be reached. To make filing your claim easier, take photos of any water in the house and save damaged personal property. If necessary, place these items outside the home. An insurance adjuster will need to see what's been damaged in order to process your claim.
• Check for structural damage before re-entering your home. Don't go in if there is a chance of the building collapsing.
• Upon re-entering your property, do not use matches, cigarette lighters or other open flames since gas may be trapped inside. If you smell gas or hear hissing, open a window, leave quickly, and call the gas company from a neighbor's home.
• Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety.
• Check for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect damage, avoid using the toilets and the tap and call a plumber.