By Hannah Kerns
Flooding is a problem that is a potential threat to every home in the U.S., regardless of the state. In fact, as little as an inch of flood water can cause significant damage to a person's house. For some people this threat may be higher than for others. This depends on where the person's home is located, as areas that are considered high-risk run a greater chance of damage due to flooding than from fire. While property damage and the associated cost is a cause of concern, the risk of physical injury and even death should be an even greater concern. Every year there are roughly 200 lives that are lost to flooding in the United States. There are steps that people can take during a flooding emergency that will help reduce the risk of becoming a victim of flooding due to injury, loss of property or even loss of life.
Securing the Home to Prevent Flood Damage
Preparedness goes a long way when it comes to preventing damage to one's home. Because certain types of floods can happen with little warning, it is important that people take preventative steps well in advance of any actual flooding. The obvious way to prevent property damage due to flooding is to avoid building homes in areas that are of high-risk. If this cannot be avoided then the home should be elevated to avoid future flood damage. Flood zone areas will typically have regulations regarding what elevation homes must be at. Building officials in the area will be able to tell homeowners what the minimum height is to meet these regulations. Another step that should be taken is to raise certain home appliances so that they are less likely to be damaged by flood water. This includes the washer and dryer, the water heater, air conditioner, and the furnace. Electrical panels should also be moved higher. Elevating these items can be as simple as moving them to a higher floor in the house. To prevent drains from backing up, back-flow valves may be installed in sewer traps. Homeowners should closely check the basement for any cracks or openings in the walls that could let water into the home. These openings should be sealed. Because no precaution is perfect, it is also highly advisable for property owners to obtain appropriate flood insurance coverage.
Safety Tips During a Flood
During a flood a person should think about safety at all times as floods present a very real threat of injury, infection, electrocution, and drowning. Even water that appears to be slow-moving can be faster than what it appears and can carry a person away. If one is outside they should stay away from any ditches or drains. If there is a stream of water, avoid it if possible. If the need arises to cross the stream, only do so if it is below the knees. If it is at knee level or higher, do not attempt to cross. Some people may feel more confident if they are in their cars. This can give them a false sense of security. If a road is flooded the driver should not attempt to drive through it. Often flooded areas do not appear as deep as they are and can trap cars and their drivers or carry them away. Water may also cause a person's vehicle to stall. If this happens and the water is significantly below the knee, leave the car. The goal during a flood is to move to higher ground. If a person is indoors, he or she may wait until water begins to enter the home before moving to the second floor of the building or the attic; however, if there are warnings of flash flooding it is important to move higher immediately. Parents should keep their children with them at all times to ensure that they do not wander off or play near streams. It is important to explain the danger associated with flooding to children who are old enough to understand.
Overcoming Flood Damage
Following the flood, emergency services will tell people when it is safe to return to their homes if there was an evacuation. A home that has been flooded poses a danger to the homeowner. Immediately upon returning home, the electricity will need to be turned off. If there are power lines that are down, the utility company must be notified. To overcome the effects of the flood, the home must be carefully inspected and any remaining water will need to be pumped from the home before clean-up begins. Homeowners should dress so that their arms and legs are covered, and they should wear rubber gloves and boots to protect their hands and feet. Disinfectants should be used to wash items that have been rinsed free of mud and debris. Furniture, clothing, rugs, and bedding will need to be placed in a dry area outside so that they can dry completely. Thorough drying is important to prevent mold and mildew. Before drinking water, it should be boiled for safety and any food should be thrown out. If the gas has not been turned off, the homeowner should take care not to smoke, light candles or handle any type of flame.
photo credit: Jon Blair Photo