Floods are common hazards
in the United States. Flood effects can
be local, impacting a neighborhood or
community, or very large, affecting entire
river basins and multiple states.
However, floods vary in development and size. Some floods develop slowly,
sometimes over a period of days. But flash
floods can develop quickly, sometimes in
just a few minutes and without any visible
signs of rain. Flash floods often have
a dangerous wall of roaring water that
carries rocks, mud, and other debris and
can sweep away most things in its path.
Overland flooding occurs outside a defined
stream, such as when a levee is breached,
but still can be destructive. Flooding
also occur when a dam breaks, producing
effects similar to flash floods.
Be aware of flood hazards no matter where
you live, but especially if you live in
low-lying area, near water or downstream
from a dam. Even very small streams,
gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds,
or low-lying ground that appear harmless
in dry weather can flood. Every state is
at risk from this hazard.
yourself with these terms to help identify
a flood hazard:
- Flood Watch -
Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather
Radio, commercial radio,
or television for information.
- Flash Flood Watch -
Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared
to move to higher ground; listen
to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio,
or television for information.
- Flood Warning -
Flooding is occurring or will
occur soon; if advised to evacuate,
do so immediately.
- Flash Flood Warning -
A flash flood is occurring; seek
higher ground on foot immediately.
Before a Flood
How to be prepared for a flood:
- Always have a 72 hour (3-day) emergency response kit available to you and each member of your family.
- Consistently be alerted to local weather advisories by using a radio with NOAA auto-alert broadcast capabilities when severe weather threatens your area.
- Avoid building in a floodplain
unless you elevate and reinforce your
- Elevate the furnace, water heater,
and electric panel if susceptible to
- Install “check valves” in
sewer traps to prevent flood water
from backing up
into the drains of your home.
- Construct barriers (levees, beams,
floodwalls) to stop floodwater from
entering the building.
- Seal walls in basements with waterproofing
compounds to avoid seepage.
During a Flood Hazard
a flood is likely in your area, you
- Monitor the radio or television for flood and downpoor warning information.
- In the event of a power outage, which is likely during a flood, have a handcrank radio and handcrank flashlight available.
- Be aware that flash flooding can
occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately
to higher ground with your 72 hour (3-day) emergency kit, handcrank radio and handcrank flashlight. Do not wait for instructions to move.
- Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons, and other areasvknown to flood suddenly. Flash floods can
occur in these areas with or without such typical
warnings as rain clouds or
you must prepare to evacuate
do the following:
- Secure your home. If you have
time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move
essential items to an upper floor.
- If instructed to do so, turn off utilities (water and gas) at the main switches
or valves with the proper emergency tool.
electrical appliances but do not touch electrical
equipment if you are wet or
standing in water.
you have to leave your home
these evacuation tips:
- Remember that the emergency supplies you have when you leave are all the supplies you may have until you are met by assistance.
- Do not walk through moving
Six inches of moving water can make
you fall. If you have to walk in water,
walk where the water is not moving.
Use a stick to check the firmness of
the ground in front of you.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If
floodwaters rise around your car, ensure you have an On-The-Go 72-hour (3 day) emergency kit, stored in your car and available within arm's reach,
abandon the car and move to higher ground if
you can do so safely. Rapid rising floodwaters risks that you and your
vehicle can be quickly swept away.
After a Flood
The following are guidelines
for the period following a flood:
- Listen for news reports to learn
whether the community’s water supply
is safe to drink.
- Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated
by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage.
Water may also be electrically charged
from underground or downed
- Avoid moving water.
- Be aware of areas where floodwaters
have receded. Roads may have weakened
and could collapse under the weight of
- Stay away from downed power lines,
and report them to the power company.
- Return home only when authorities
indicate it is safe.
- Stay out of any building if it is
surrounded by floodwaters.
- Use extreme caution when entering
buildings; there may be hidden damage,
particularly in foundations.
- Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools,
pits, and leaching systems as soon
as possible. Damaged sewage systems are
serious health hazards.
- Clean and disinfect everything that
got wet. Mud left from floodwater can
contain sewage and chemicals.
are important points to remember when
driving in flood conditions:
- Six inches of water will reach
the bottom of most passenger cars
causing loss of control and possible
- A foot of water will float many vehicles.
- Two feet of rushing water can carry
away most vehicles including
sport utility vehicles (SUV’s)
Consider the following
- Flood losses are not covered under
homeowners’ insurance policies.
- FEMA manages the National Flood Insurance
Program, which makes federally-
backed flood insurance available in communities
that agree to adopt and
enforce floodplain management ordinances
to reduce future flood damage.
- Flood insurance is available in most
communities through insurance agents.
- There is a 30-day waiting period before
flood insurance goes into effect,
so don’t delay.
- Flood insurance is available whether
the building is in or out of the identified
If you require more information about any
of these topics, the following are
resources that may be helpful.
After a Flood:
The First Steps. L-198. Information
for homeowners on preparedness,
safety, and recovery from a flood.
Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect
Your House from Flooding. L-235. A
brochure about obtaining information
about how to protect your home from
Homeowner’s Guide to
Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect Your
House from Flooding. FEMA-312.
A detailed manual on how to protect your
home from flooding.
About the Flood:
Elevating Your Floodprone House. FEMA-347. This publication
for builders, code officials and homeowners.
Utilities From Flood Damage. FEMA-348. This
intended for developers, architects,
engineers, builders, code officials and
Other Publications American Red Cross
Repairing Your Flooded
booklet about how to perform
home repairs after flooding,
including cleaning, sanitation,
which professionals to involve for
various needed services. Local Red
chapters can order in packages of
10 as stock number A4477 for a nominal
fee. Also available online at www.redcross.org/services/disaster/0,1082,0_
National Weather Service
Hurricane Flooding: A Deadly Inland
Danger. 20052. Brochure
impact of hurricane flooding and precautions
to take. Available online at
The Hidden Danger: Low Water Crossing.
96074E. Brochure describing the
hazards of driving your vehicle
in flood conditions. Available