Staying Safe During a Flood

According to floodsmart.gov floods are the number one natural disaster in the United States, in which all 50 states have experienced flash floods over the past five years. Although flooding can happen anywhere across the US, some areas are more prone than others. In 2014 Florida came top of the total claim reports with 2,655, leading total pay-out of $117,861,100.

It is particularly important to be prepared if you live in a low-lying area near a source of water, such as a lake or river. Coastal areas are at greatest risk during hurricane season, while the Midwest is at risk during spring and the deserts of the Southwest can be hit during the late summer monsoon season.

BELFOR Property Restoration encourages families, businesses and homeowners to review their homes and offices to ensure that they are fully prepared for a flood event. Even though fewer storms than normal are forecast in October and November, it can only take one storm to disrupt a community.

From 2005 to 2014 the average flood claim amounted to almost $42,000 and in the same period total claims throughout the US came to $3.5 billion per year. Flooding may happen with only a few inches of water, but this has the potential to cause great damage.

To help communities understand the risk of flooding, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have developed a flood map to show risk areas.

• High risk areas – There is a 1 in 4 chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. All home and business owners are required to buy flood insurance. • Moderate-to-low risk areas – The risk of flooding is reduced but not completely removed. Flood insurance isn’t federally required. • Undetermined risk areas – No flood-hazard analysis has been conducted in these areas, however a flood could still exist.

Being prepared is a shared responsibility in your community according to BELFOR’s Director of Operations, Rusty Amarante, who explained: "Pre-disaster planning enables more resilient communities if-and-when disasters occur."

John Clague, Professor of Earth Sciences at Simon Fraser University, explained how the public have to accept flooding and adjust behaviour to minimize damage to property:

"My advice is to restrict future development within the active floodway of rivers and streams and use that land for more appropriate purposes such as parkland, green space, golf course. This can be 'easier said than done', but it is cost-effective in the long term. Of course, another strategy is to improve defences works against flooding, notably levees. Unfortunately, defensive measures encourage development on floodplains and can actually increase risk. A third strategy, and one adopted by FEMA, is to make affordable flood insurance available to homeowners. At the end of the day, we must acknowledge that floods are natural phenomena and cannot be prevented. We have to live with flooding, while adjusting our behavior to minimize the damage they cause."

Before a Flood

  • Construct barriers (levees and floodwalls) to stop floodwater entering your home or business
  • Listen to radio or television reports for weather information
  • Seal walls in basement with avoid seepage.
  • Ensure that you have emergency supplies (backup power, hand crank cell phone charger, water supplies etc)
  • Disconnect electrical appliances and disconnect gas supply
  • Elevate critical items to avoid water damage
  • Have a disaster plan prepared – know your evacuation routes, plan transportation and have a place to stay.
  • Keep insurance documents in a safe place
  • Clear debris from gutters and downspouts

During a Flood

If the authorities advise you to evacuate you should follow the “5 P’s”:

  • People and pets
  • Prescriptions
  • Papers – hard copies and electronic on external hard drives
  • Personal needs – food, water, clothes, phones, chargers and cash
  • Priceless items – irreplaceable items

If you see floodwater on roads or across bridges do not attempt to cross. Moving water has great power and can often contain sewage, debris and chemicals.

If you cannot evacuate go to the highest part of the property and signal for help.

After a Flood

Use extreme caution when returning to your home. Avoid standing water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.

Be aware of any potential chemical hazards that may be buried or other industrial chemicals. Avoid coming in to contact with acid that may have spilled from car batteries.

Andrew Miall, Professor of Geology at the University of Toronto spoke about the dangers of flood water:

"Flooding can bring polluted waters, of course, which are a public health danger, but the main issue is likely to be mould from widespread damp, even in places that are not actually put under water by the flood."

If you suspect a gas leak in your home or business, turn off the main gas valve and leave the property immediately. Notify the State Fire Marshall. Be aware that it is against the law to connect generators to your home’s electrical circuits without approved, automatic-interrupt devices. Photograph damage for insurance purposes and contact your insurer for further action.

For more information, please visit www.belfor.com or call 800-800-BELFOR.