How to Prepare for a Flood and Survive the Worst of It

Fact: Out of all the natural disasters in the United States, floods are the most common.

Another fact? Prepping for floods is a crucial part of emergency preparedness, even if you don’t live near any body of water. 

In this article, we talk about why you need to care about floods and how to prepare for a flood.

Let’s get started:

Why Should You Be Prepping for Floods?

Floods happen as a result of many things:

  • Heavy rains
  • Storm surges
  • Overflows of water systems like dams and sewers

They can either progress slowly or fast. Either way, you gotta prepare for flooding.

Yeah, you know what a flash flood can do. It can drown you and sweep away cars and trees. But don’t underestimate other types of floods just cause they don’t rise as fast. Even if you won’t drown from it, floodwater on its own is still dangerous.

It can carry:

You also don’t know what things can be hiding in it — manholes, sharp objects, and downed power lines may be waiting to catch you by surprise. 

See why you need to take flood preparation seriously? 

A colossal flood won’t only ruin buildings, your home, and your things. It can also have devastating consequences on your family and the rest of your community. What you do in the first 72 hours will play a big role in your survival, so knowing how to prepare for a flood ahead is essential. 

How to Prepare for a Flood: What to Do Before, During, and After

Before the Flood

Preparing for floods is easier said than done, but with these steps to guide you, you can begin defending yourself and your family before the water surges:

Do Your Homework

the first step in how to prepare for a flood is to learn your risk level

The first step in how to prepare for a flood is to find out what your area’s risk level is.

You can learn this from the National Weather Service. They’re in charge of circulating flood watches and warnings. The NWS shares these on platforms like public radio, NOAA weather radios, and local TV channels.

You should also know the difference between a watch and a warning. A watch is broadcast when a flood is likely. On the other hand, a warning is issued when there’s a flood happening or about to occur. 

Create a Flood Preparation Plan

Let’s say you’re listening to the news when suddenly, you discover your area is under a flood watch. If that’s the case, it’s time to put your flood emergency plan into action. This plan spells out the measures your household will take to survive the flood.

It should include:

  • Steps for safeguarding your home
  • A checklist of survival supplies to prepare
  • Places to evacuate to
  • What to do if your family gets separated (e.g., where to meet, who to contact)

Don’t worry if these sound like a lot. We go into detail about these items in the next sections so you won’t get lost.

Fortify Your Home

Your home is your castle. There’s no way you’re gonna let anyone or anything wreck it — even a darn flood. You need to strengthen your home to lessen damage to your property and belongings and also keep your family safe.

Here’s what to do once a flood watch or warning is issued:

  • Clear out your yard. Take out any lawn furniture and remove debris and dead leaves.
  • Place whatever you can at the highest level of your home.
  • Stash important documents, family heirlooms, and other valuables in waterproof containers.
  • Add backflow valves to toilets, drains, and sewer connections. These valves keep floodwater and nasty sewage from backing up into your drains.
  • Install sump pumps and inspect them every 4-6 months. Sump pumps prevent your basement from flooding. 
  • Invest in a backup generator to keep your pumps and appliances working when the power is out.
  • Secure furniture, fuel containers, and other items that aren’t anchored to anything.

You also want to consider flood insurance if you don’t have it yet. Flood damage isn’t covered in most homeowners insurance. Plus, damages can set you back thousands of dollars. If you’re living in an area considered high risk for floods, this insurance might even be mandatory. Here’s more information about it.

Prep Your Flood Preparation Kit

survival kit essentials

These are the basic survival supplies to secure for your flood preparation kit:

  • Water: Clean bottles, sinks, and bathtubs, and then fill them with water. You also want to set aside one gallon of clean water per person per day for 3 to 7 days.
  • Water filters: Your water supply might get contaminated after the flood, so have water filters on hand to avoid getting sick.
  • Prescription medications: If you or one of your family members are taking prescription meds, make sure you have enough for 7 days at most.
  • First aid kit: You need first aid supplies like bandages, gauze pads, pain relievers, and antibacterial cream. Here’s a more comprehensive list for your reference.
  • Fire starter: Need to make a fire for cooking or for warmth? You can’t go wrong with a BIC lighter, waterproof matches, and a good ol’ ferro rod.
  • Rain gear: Winter isn’t the only time you can catch hypothermia. If you wanna protect your loved ones from the cold, each of them better have boots, a poncho or waterproof jacket, and wool pants.
  • Flashlight: Go for a tac light that’s rechargeable and sturdy.
  • Map and compass: You might have to bug out if the situation gets worse, so keep a map and compass ready. You know how to read them, right? 
  • Important documents: Gather birth certificates, insurance cards, and other important docs and stash them in a waterproof container.
  • List of emergency contacts: Include their names, addresses, and phone numbers.
  • Extra batteries: Better have backup batteries for your radio or flashlight in case the power takes longer to come back than expected.
  • Entertainment: Don’t wanna die of boredom? Then add playing cards, board games, books, and other fun stuff to your kit. 
  • Other essentials: Kids, seniors, and those with disabilities have specific needs you should consider. If you have a pet, you also can’t leave out their essentials.

Take note that it’s not enough to gather all this prepper gear. Don’t forget—you still need to inspect the flood preparation kit regularly to make sure every one of your supplies is in working order. When it comes to food and medications, look at their expiry dates and toss out any old ones.

Know What to Do if Evacuation Is Necessary

With backup generators, a three-level house, and loads of food in your pantry, you might feel confident that you can bug in comfortably. 

But don’t be too assured. Knowing how to prepare for a flood means being ready for the possibility of evacuating.

For instance, if a flash flood made its way to your neighborhood, you might be more vulnerable at home. Also, you can’t defy your local government’s orders. They probably have more details about the threat than you do.

Another thing you need to think of is where you’ll go if you have to evacuate.

While your community has an evacuation plan ready, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan B, C, or D of your own. A few fallen trees can block your path to safety, so having several backup routes and bug out options will come in handy. 

Here’s what you need to do if you have to bug out:

  • Turn off your water, gas, and electricity.
  • Unplug all your appliances.  
  • Lock your doors and close your windows.
  • Fill your bug out vehicle’s gas tank and stash extra fuel.  
  • Grab your bug out bag (stash it near the front door so you won’t upend your home looking for it).

Establish a Family Communication Plan

group of people engaged in conversation

What if your household gets separated during the flood? It’s far from ideal, but you need to think about it because it CAN happen. 

Gather your family together and discuss a game plan everyone can follow. It should include:

  • An out-of-state contact who will serve as your family’s point person
  • A list of important contact information (ex. friends, relatives, emergency services) that each family member should have
  • Recent pictures of your household to use as references when asking other people if they’ve seen them

Got everything? Nice! Next up, we talk about what to do in the middle of a flood. Let’s get right to it:

During the Flood

The flood is here. What should you do now?

The first step is to check the news. What are the weather updates? Did you get evacuation orders? Other instructions?

Then, remember these: 

If You’re Staying at Home

  • Your furniture and other belongings should be at the higher levels of your home by now. If you haven’t, then move them BUT make your safety the priority.
  • Shut off your utilities if you’re told to do so. 
  • If water breaks in, don’t swim through it. Make a beeline for your home’s highest floor. In a worst-case scenario, you might have to clamber up to your roof.
  • Don’t wait it out in a closed attic. If the water rises high enough, it can trap you inside the room.

If You’re in Your Car

cars wading through a flooded road
  • Don’t drive through floodwater. A tiny car can be swept by 12 inches of water, while two feet of water is enough to propel a larger car away.
  • Run to higher ground if the water level rises and you can’t move or restart your car. 
  • But if the water is moving fast, don’t get out unless water enters and rises in the vehicle. Climb and stay on the roof. 
  • Avoid bridges if they’re over quick-moving water. Rapidly rising water can make a bridge collapse. 

The biggest takeaway of all of this? NEVER swim, drive, or even walk through floodwater. If it doesn’t drown you, it might either poison or electrocute you. 

What to Do After a Flood

person walking side by side with their bike on a flooded road

While the flood is gone, that doesn’t mean you can bring out the burger patties, fry up the old grill, and throw a party just yet. Preparing for floods also means being ready for what comes after.

Remember the following steps to keep your family safe post-flood:

  • Don’t go back home till the authorities say it’s alright (if you evacuated).
  • When you’re home, check for issues like mold, gas leaks, and loose floorboards.
  • Inspect sewer systems and septic tanks for leaks.
  • Take out carpets that got soaked during the flood.
  • Wear protective gear when you’re cleaning up the debris. This includes gloves, boots, and a face mask.
  • Get rid of food that came into contact with floodwater, even canned goods.
  • Let your kids, pregnant family members, and anyone with bad immune systems step inside the house only AFTER the cleaning is done.
  • Continue to avoid driving in flooded areas. Stay far away from standing water.

If you want more detailed information, here’s a great resource from the NCHH.

Final Thoughts

Floods are common and potentially deadly, so you can’t afford to take any chances with them. Know your risk, develop a plan, and get your home and survival kits ready. Expect the possibility to bug out, too. 

The earlier you start to prepare for flooding, the more you can lessen its impact on your family, property, and sanity.

What item is first on your flood preparation list? Let us know in the comments!

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