Floods are some of the most common and widespread natural disasters. Since they can occur anywhere there is significant rainfall in a short amount of time, there is risk of floods most everywhere. Many floods affecting large areas take days to build, giving you more time to prepare. Flash floods, however, occur within hours or minutes. In Michigan, flash floods are common during spring and summer storms. Whether from a levee or dam failure, or torrential rain, floods are deep, powerful, and can cause extensive property damage and death. Knowing how to prepare for a flash flood involves understanding the risks in your area, recognizing the signs, and planning for evacuation.
Effectively preparing for a flash flood is like preparing for any disaster. Understanding the risks of flooding in your area and having an emergency response plan are the best ways to generally prepare. In you live in a Michigan floodplain, the risks increase substantially. Watch the weather and tune into the radio or television broadcasts during storms and heavy rains for information about potential flooding. Flood watches and warnings are distinct so you should know the difference and have a plan in the event a flash flood warning is declared.
Like earthquakes or tornadoes, having an emergency disaster preparedness kit is a good idea for floods as well. Keeping an emergency kit in a safe, accessible place can be essential to survival. If a flood affects your home and you need to evacuate, having survival essentials like flashlights, batteries, radios, blankets, food, water, and first aid kits in an emergency kit can be the difference in comfort and personal safety during a flood.
Having a communication plan and an understanding of where to go during a flood evacuation is very important as well. During a flood you need to find higher ground, so having an evacuation route for getting out of the water’s path will help increase your chances of survival. If flood waters rise quickly, you may not be able to use your vehicle. In this case, planning a route on foot and rehearsing it is a good idea.
Surviving a Flood
If you get caught in a flood, there are a few essential things to do to increase your chances of making it to safer ground. Monitoring the radio broadcasts and following any evacuation instructions is the first thing to do during a flood. This is one reason to keep a radio in your emergency kit. If you are still in your home, tune into the local TV stations for instructions. If you must evacuate, only bring essential survival items since you may not have much time to vacate. Also, if there is time, disconnect appliances and shut off the gas, water, and electricity.
Finally, evacuate as instructed and as planned beforehand. If you can drive safely, do so; if the water is too high, don’t drive. Safely evacuating on foot is a matter of discretion. If the water is stable enough to get to higher ground quickly, walk to a safe place. If the water is fast moving and you cannot evacuate, get to the highest point in sight. This may be the roof of your house or a tall tree. This is definitely the worst case scenario. Remaining vigilant about the weather, evacuation orders, and being prepared overall will help you avoid this situation and get out of a flash flood area safely.
by Ben Vaughn
Ben Vaughn writes on disaster preparedness, building an emergency preparedness kit, flash floods, and storm damage cleanup. Many of his pieces address water damage, fire damage, mold removal, and other events involving disasters.