Flood Facts & Safety Tips

Learn more about the amazing power of moving water and how to stay safe around it

Floods have long been an important part of human life, bringing both sustenance and destruction. These days, since we no longer rely upon flooding for agriculture, we're left to deal primarily with its dark side. In the spirit of "knowing your enemy", we've compiled a few interesting and useful facts to compliment our articles on flood prevention and mitigation. Hopefully, these can help you to prepare and deal with any flooding that may occur in your area.

Flood Facts

  • Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States - every state has experienced a flood in the past five years.
  • 90% of officially-declared national disasters are flood-related.
  • River flooding is the most common type of flood event. If the flow rate exceeds the capacity of the river channel then flooding of the surrounding area can occur.
  • Flash floods occur very quickly, often without warning and with little or no excessive rainfall. Flash floods are typically the result of a river blockage (either natural or artificial) giving way and releasing a massive amount of built up water.
  • Flash floods are the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the United States.
  • During a drought, soil dries and hardens, decreasing the amount of water it can absorb. When too much rain falls too quickly, it has nowhere to go but everywhere. If your area is in the midst of a drought, heavy rains may be a blessing, but not before they're a curse. Be prepared!
  • Floods cause roughly $6,000,000,000 in damage, and kill around 140 people each year.
  • Even a few inches of water can cause untold damage if precautions have not been taken beforehand (placing appliances and important materials off ground-level is key).
  • A car can be carried away by as little as 12 inches of fast-moving water!
  • Trying to drive through water is the leading cause of injury and death during floods.
  • Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) are floodplains at a particularly high risk of flooding. In these areas, there is a 25% chance of flooding over a 30 year time period. Still, 25% of floods occur outside these areas.
  • Homeowner's Insurance is great… just not for floods. These policies do not cover flooding. Flood Insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program, and is required if you live in an SFHA.

Staying Safe Before, During & After a Flood

While some of this information may be alarming, we feel it is always best to know the facts and be able to prepare as best you can. If you live in a flood-prone area, chances are you already have a sump pump (and hopefully a backup!) system. If you don't have a sump pump, pick one up here. It is a good idea to do regular maintenance and testing of these systems to ensure they're in good working order prior to you actually needing them.

However, sometimes even a sump pump system in perfect working order can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of water that can enter your home during a natural flood. While we have a number of resources to help you prevent, be notified of, and mitigate other types of flooding in your home - i.e., pump failure, broken pipes, appliance malfunction, etc. - prevention of a natural flood is impossible and mitigation is a best case scenario. Thus, we strongly encourage you to take the steps you can to protect your home, but most importantly, to protect yourself and your family before, during, and after a flood event.

Prior to the start of the rainy season or before potential flood-causing weather is predicted:
  • Make sure any pump systems you have are working. If the flooding is mild or slow, this could mean the difference between a completely flooded basement and a basement with only a couple of inches of water.
  • If you have access to sandbags, prepare them ahead of time as it can take more time than you might think to fill them.
  • Install (or have your plumber install) check valves and backwater prevention devices to help prevent flood waters or sewage from backing up into your drains.
  • Clearly mark electric circuit breakers in case they need to quickly be turned off.
  • Make sure any storm drains, French drains, gutters, and downspouts around your home are clear of debris like yard waste and piles of leaves. Try to create as many easy ways for water to move away from your home as possible.
  • Try to store your most valuable or important belongings and documents someplace high or have them ready to go with you in case you need to evacuate your home.
  • Get flood insurance (if you don't have it already) - but be aware that these policies can take at least 30 days to go into effect, so don't wait until the actual storm is approaching because you probably won't be covered.

Additionally, just as you would for a home fire or earthquake, create a family safety plan. While this may be somewhat trickier, since you don't always know where water will go, it is important to at least have a plan for communicating with one another during and after the flood.

If you are evacuated, there will be little to no time to pack essentials, so be sure to do so at the first sign of potential flooding, especially if you or a family member requires medications or other items that may be difficult to obtain during a storm. Use a backpack that is appropriate to your body size (especially with children) and that you can carry comfortably and with your limbs unobstructed for a reasonable amount of time - suitcases, large bags, rolling carts, etc. will only pose difficulties and may have to be abandoned, making all of your careful planning useless.

During a potential flood, it's key to stay aware of what is happening in your area. Local news and radio stations are a good source of information, and there are even apps out there now that will send you notifications during major weather changes - just remember to plan ahead for potential power outages, charge important devices ahead of time, and have a battery or hand-crank radio or some other way to get emergency updates.

If your home or location is flooding:
  • If you see water coming, get you and your loved ones to higher ground immediately - remember that things can be replaced or restored, but people cannot.
  • If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Do not try to protect belongings or bring things (unless you've got that backpack of essentials ready to go). We cannot stress enough that your and your family's safety is always priority #1.
  • Avoid electricity. Don't go into rooms if the electrical outlets or any cords are underwater and stay out of water that may have electricity in it.
  • Do not walk or drive through flood waters. Even a few inches of moving water can knock you off your feet and float cars. If you are trapped by moving water, get to the highest possible point and call for help.

After the storm has passed, it is still important to stay informed about what is happening. It may take time for flood waters to recede to safe levels, for contaminated water to be cleaned or removed, or for the area to be declared free of electrical or other safety hazards. As much as we know you'll be anxious to return to your home, wait for the "all clear" to do so from local authorities.

Once you're home again, remember to practice basic electrical/water safety and focus on getting things dried out. Be sure to heed all road closures, cautionary signs, and warnings from local officials and avoid unsafe areas. Rebuilding and repairing the damage will take time, and as hard as we know it can be, try to be patient and keep a positive outlook.

It's just a fact of life that natural floods happen, but the best defense we have is planning ahead and being prepared for the event. With a little foresight and a lot of focus on safety, you'll be able to help further the protection of what's really most important - the people you love. We here at PlumbingSupply.com care about you and your family. We know a lot about water and its power to change lives (for better or worse). Please respect that power and stay safe.

We have a variety of flood-preparedness and prevention products!

You may also be interested in these additional DIY and educational articles:

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