Stay Above Water: Flood Safety 101

Flash flooding is one of the biggest killers in the U.S.  And it happens everywhere, in all 50 states and practically any community. Do you know what you can do to stay safe and minimize damages? First, you must understand the severity of the threat as reported by the National Weather Service.

Credit: ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd. via Flickr

Credit: ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd. via Flickr

FLOOD/FLASH FLOOD WATCH is issued when expected rainfall could cause creeks, streams and/or rivers to overflow. These are updated every 6-8 hours with another “Flood Watch” until the threat of flooding has ended or a Flood Warning is issued. If this happens:

  • Be alert and be prepared for a flash flood emergency.
  • Look for signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate, if necessary.
  • Look for signs of heavy rain (thunder and lightning), especially upstream.
  • Watch for rising water levels.
  • Know where high ground is and be prepared to get there quickly if you see or hear rapidly rising water.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes.
Credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources via Flickr

Credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources via Flickr

FLOOD/FLASH FLOOD WARNING is issued when creeks, streams and/or rivers are expected to reach or exceed flood stage. This is updated at least once a day until water levels drop below flood stage or the threat for flooding had ended. You must act quickly. You may have only SECONDS to save yourself and your family!

  • Residents living in low-lying areas or near a body of water should listen to local radio and TV stations and use the WeatherBug mobile application for continuous updates.
  • Go to higher ground immediately! Get out of areas subject to flooding such as dips, low spots, canyons, washes, and areas along streams and creeks. In urban areas, stay away from clogged storm drains and underpasses. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately!
Credit: RaeAllen via Flickr

Credit: RaeAllen via Flickr

Here are a few additional tips and ideas to help minimize the flooding damages before, during and after the flooding event.

BEFORE the flood:
  • Keep fuel on hand. If electric power is cut off, you may need gas to keep a generator running and therefore essential electrical appliances running.
  • Store drinking water in clean bathtubs and in various containers. Water service may be interrupted.
  • Keep a stock of food that requires little cooking and no refrigeration; electric power may be interrupted.
  • As always, keep first aid supplies on hand.
  • Keep a battery-powered portable radio, emergency cooking equipment, and flashlights in working order. Install check valves in building sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
Credit: Thomas Good via Flickr

Credit: Thomas Good via Flickr

DURING the flood:

  • Avoid areas subject to sudden flooding.
  • If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, Stop! Turn around and go another way.
  • Do not attempt to drive over a flooded road. The depth of water is not always obvious. The road bed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped.
  • Children should NEVER play around high water, storm drains, viaducts, or arroyos.
Credit: Elspeth and Evan via Flickr

Credit: Elspeth and Evan via Flickr

AFTER the flood:

  • If fresh food has come in contact with flood waters, throw it out.
  • Boil drinking water before using. Wells should be pumped out and the water tested for purity before drinking. If in doubt, call your local public health authority.
  • Seek necessary medical care at the nearest hospital. Food, clothing, shelter, and first aid are available from the Red Cross.
  • Do not visit the flooded areas. Your presence might hamper possible emergency operations.
  • Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
  • Use flashlights, not lanterns, torches or matches, to examine buildings. Flammables may be inside.
  • Report broken utility lines to appropriate authorities.
  • Take additional care when driving at night, as flooded areas become extremely difficult to spot.

Click here for additional flood safety information

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey via Flickr

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey via Flickr

Minimize your risk of sudden, dangerous weather! Download WeatherBug for your smartphone today to get the fastest alerts and Know Before™ (it’s free!):

WeatherBug for Android

WeatherBug for iPhone


Or if you’re on a computer:

WeatherBug for your Desktop Computer

WeatherBug for Chrome



This entry was posted in Flooding, Safety.