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Preparing for the Flood
Posted by Emily Pazel

As Hurricane Ida came across the country it unleashed a powerful wrath of storms, wind and rain, dangerous flooding throughout the United States – particularly in New York and surrounding areas – and caused many people to go without power and experience flood damages.

As the rains continued, flash flooding became a big problem and even caused deaths throughout the Northeastern region of the United States. Per Reuters News, “… Hurricane Ida unleashed torrential rains that swept away cars, submerged New York City subway lines and grounded airline flights... Across large swaths of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, residents spent the day coping with water-logged basements, power outages, damaged roofs and calls for help from friends and family members stranded by flooding.”

Later that week, President Joe Biden even declared that New Jersey and New York were in a state of emergency and “ordered federal assistance to supplement local response efforts due to conditions resulting from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.”

While seeing a hurricane in the Northeastern parts of the country isn’t usually common, it can certainly happen – as we’ve seen recently with Hurricane Ida. But floods can occur slowly or quickly without warning and can be caused from large amounts of rain, snow, storms, storm surges and even overflows of dams or other water systems. So, it’s never too late to be prepared and know what to do in case of a flood.

How to Prepare for a Flood

Even though floods can come without warning, especially when experiencing a flash flood, there are a few steps in the right direction that you can take in order to prepare your home in case of an emergency. Per ready.gov, there are four major steps that you can take to prepare for a flood:

  1. Know Your Risk for Floods: In order to find out the different types of flood risks in your area, visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center. And, be sure to sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
  2. Purchase Flood Insurance: Purchase or renew a flood insurance policy because homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flooding. And, it may take up to 30 days for a policy to go into effect, so the time to buy is well before a disaster. You can visit the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to learn more about flood coverage.
  3. Make an Emergency Plan: Create an emergency plan in your household, including your pets, so that you and your family know what to do, where to go and what you will need to protect yourselves from flooding. It doesn’t hurt to also learn and practice evacuation routes, shelter plans and flash flood response. Gather supplies, including non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies, and water for several days.
  4. In Case of Emergency: Keep important documents in a waterproof container and create password-protected digital copies. Protect your property. Move valuables to higher levels. It’s also a good idea to de-clutter your drains and gutters, install check valves and even consider a sump pump with a battery.

It’s also important to know that when you receive an emergency alert from the radio or however you receive your news, to know the difference between a flood/flash flood WATCH and WARNING. During a watch, it means that a flood or flash flood is possible, and a warning means that flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur very soon and to take immediate precautions, which leads us to our next section.

What to do in the Event of a Flood Emergency

Although it could be easy to panic when you receive word that a flood is occurring near you, it’s important to remain calm and remember your emergency plans. And, if you don’t have emergency plans, here are a few things you can do according to the American Red Cross:

  • Turn off the power and water mains, if instructed to do so by local authorities
  • Boil tap water until water sources have been declared safe
  • Avoid contact with floodwater; it may be contaminated with sewage or contain dangerous insects or animals
  • Continue listening to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates
  • Don’t use gas or electrical appliances that have been flooded
  • Dispose of any food that comes into contact with flood water
  • Don’t walk, swim or drive through floodwater; just six inches of fast-flowing water can knock you over and two feet will float a car
  • If caught on a flooded road with rapidly rising waters, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground
  • Don’t walk on beaches or riverbanks
  • Don’t allow children to play in or near flood water
  • Avoid contact with floodwater; it may be contaminated with sewage or contain dangerous insects or animals
  • Stay out of areas subject to flooding; underpasses, dips, low spots, canyons, washes, etc. can become filled with water

After a devastating flood, there can be a lot to deal with at first. But more importantly, let your friends and family know you are safe, return only when authorities say it’s safe to do so and continue to listen to local news or radio alerts to stay up-to-date with information and instructions. Once it is safe to return home, you might find that you are going to need a lot more help than just some sunshine and dry air to get things back to normal, and that’s where helpful resources step in.

How to Report Damage and Deal with the Aftermath

Did you know that flood disasters are one of the most common natural disasters, as well as most costly? If you find yourself in a situation where you need to report damaged property as a result of a flash flood, be sure to get pictures and document the situation. It’s also good to know ahead of time what agencies are available to assist you.

During a time when you need it the most, you can always reach out to the American Red Cross, who will assist you with disaster relief plans. Or, you can also report damage to FEMA. In fact, New York City has a site dedicated to disaster assistance programs to help.

“New York City government agencies, along with state and federal government partners, nonprofit organizations, and community-based organizations are working together to connect families and individuals to critical services, including enrollment in public benefits and health insurance, housing food assistance, and mental health counseling at collocated disaster recovery centers.”

Whether you found your basement flooded or your car having been swept down the street during a flash flood, it’s good to know there is disaster relief assistance out there for those that need it. Natural disasters can be stressful and cause a lot of damage that you wouldn’t have thought possible. However, by creating an emergency plan, you can keep you and your loved ones a little more prepared for the next time disaster strikes in your area again. And, it never hurts to spread the knowledge and assist your neighbors in being prepared as well.