Flood Safety Tips from the National Weather Service
Flooding is a coast-to-coast threat to some part of the United States and its territories nearly every day of the year. This site is designed to teach you how to stay safe in a flood event. If you know what to do before, during, and after a flood you can increase your chances of survival and better protect your property. For instance, it is vital to know what to do if you are driving and hit a flooded road. Here you will find an interactive flood map, information describing the different types of flooding and educational material. You will also learn how the National Weather Service keeps you aware of potentially dangerous flooding situations through alerts and warnings.
If you, or someone you know, have been a victim of a flood, please share your story so we can prevent others from becoming a victim. When you write, please note that NWS has permission to use your story and, if possible, let us know the town and state you were in and the year the event took place.
What is the difference between a Flood Watch and a Flood Warning issued by the National Weather Service?
Flash Flood Warning: Take Action!: A Flash Flood Warning is issued when a flash flood is imminent or occurring. If you are in a flood prone area move immediately to high ground. A flash flood is a sudden violent flood that can take from minutes to hours to develop. It is even possible to experience a flash flood in areas not immediately receiving rain.
Flood Warning: Take Action!: A Flood Warning is issued when the hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening. A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.
Flood Watch: Be Prepared: A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a specific hazardous weather event to occur. A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding. It does not mean flooding will occur, but it is possible.
Flood Advisory: Be Aware: A Flood Advisory is issued when a specific weather event that is forecast to occur may become a nuisance. A Flood Advisory is issued when flooding is not expected to be bad enough to issue a warning. However, it may cause significant inconvenience, and if caution is not exercised, it could lead to situations that may threaten life and/or property.
Before a Flood
Sometimes floods develop slowly, and forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen days or weeks before it occurs. Oftentimes flash floods can occur within minutes and sometimes without any sign of rain. Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind.
Create a Communications Plan – It is important to be able to communicate with your family and friends in the event of a disaster. Whether it is having a specific person identified to contact for status updates or a safe location to meet up with family members, having a plan in place will give you peace of mind if disaster does strike.
Assemble an Emergency Kit – It is good practice to have enough food, water and medicine on hand at all times to last you at least 3 days in the case of an emergency. Water service may be interrupted or unsafe to drink and food requiring little cooking and no refrigeration may be needed if electric power is interrupted. You should also have batteries, blankets, flashlights, first aid kit, rubber boots, rubber gloves, and a NOAA Weather Radio or other battery operated radio easily available.
Know Your Risk – Is your home, business or school in a floodplain? Where is water likely to collect on the roadways you most often travel? What is the fastest way to get to higher ground? Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time can save your life.
Sign Up for Notifications – The Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service provides RSS feeds for observed forecast and alert river conditions to help keep the public informed about local water conditions
Prepare Your Home – Sometimes floods develop slowly and forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen days or weeks before it occurs. Oftentimes flash floods can occur within minutes and sometimes without any sign of rain. Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind.
1. If you have access to sandbags or other materials, use them to protect your home from flood waters if you have sufficient time to do so. Filling sandbags can take more time than you may think.
2. Have a professional install check-valves in plumbing to prevent flood waters from backing up into the drains of your home. Make sure your sump pump is working and consider having a backup. Make sure your electric circuit breakers, or fuses, are clearly marked for each area of your home.
3. Since standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding, ensure coverage by contacting your insurance company or agent to purchase flood insurance. This must be done before there is even a threat of flooding as insurance companies stop issuing policies if there is a threat of flooding. (i.e. an approaching hurricane). Many flood insurance policies take at least 30 days to go into effect so even if you can buy it as a storm is approaching, it may not protect your investment.
Prepare your Family/Pets – You may be evacuated, so pack in advance. Don’t wait until the last moment to gather the essentials for yourself, your family and/or your pets.
Charge Your Essential Electronics – Make sure your cell phone and portable radios are all charged in case you lose power or need to evacuate. Also make sure you have back-up batteries on hand.
Leave – If it is likely your home will flood, don’t wait to be ordered to leave; evacuate yourself! Make alternative plans for a place to stay. If you have pets, take them with you or make arrangements to board them at a facility well away from the flooding danger.
During a Flood
During a flood, water levels and the rate the water is flowing can quickly change. Remain aware and monitor local radio and television outlets. Avoid flood waters at all costs and evacuate immediately when water starts to rise. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
Stay Informed: Listen to radio and television, including NOAA Weather Radio if possible, check the Internet and social media for information and updates.
Get to Higher Ground: If you live in a flood prone area or are camping in a low-lying area, get to higher ground immediately.
Obey Evacuation Orders: If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Lock your home when you leave. If you have time, disconnect utilities and appliances.
Practice Electrical Safety: Don’t go into a basement, or any room, if water covers the electrical outlets or if cords are submerged. If you see sparks or hear buzzing, crackling, snapping or popping noises–get out! Stay out of water that may have electricity in it!
Avoid Flood Waters: Don’t walk through flood waters. It only takes 6 inches of moving water to knock you off your feet. If you are trapped by moving water, move to the highest possible point and call 911 if possible. Do NOT drive into flooded roadways or around a barricade; Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Water may be deeper than it appears and can hide hazards such as sharp objects, washed out road surfaces, electrical wires, chemicals, etc. A vehicle caught in swiftly moving water can be swept away in seconds 12 inches of water can float a car or small SUV, 18 inches of water can carry away large vehicles.
After a Flood
When flood waters recede, the damage left behind can be devastating and present many dangers. Images of flood destruction depict destroyed homes and buildings, damaged possessions, and decimated roadways. However, what you can’t see can be just as dangerous. Floodwaters often become contaminated with sewage or chemicals. Gas leaks and live power lines can be deadly but are not obvious at first glance.
Stay Informed: Stay tuned to your local news for updated information on road conditions. Ensure water is safe to drink, cook or clean with after a flood. Authorities may ask you to boil water for a while after a flood. Utility companies often have apps to update you on getting service back. Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death after storms when areas are dealing with power outages. Never use a portable generator inside your home or garage. Review generator safety.
Avoid Flood Waters: Standing water hides many dangers including toxins and chemicals. There may be sharp objects under the water or the road could have collapsed. If it is likely your home will flood, don’t wait for evacuation order, get out! Talk to friends and family about emergency visits. If you have pets, take them with you or get them somewhere safe.
Avoid Disaster Areas: Do not visit disaster areas. Your presence may hamper rescue and other emergency operations.
Heed Road Closed and Cautionary Signs: Road closure and other cautionary signs are put in place for your safety. Pay attention to them!
Wait for the All Clear: Do not enter a flood damaged home or building until you’re given the All Clear by authorities. If you enter a flood damaged building, be extremely careful. Water can cause floods to collapse, ceiling to fall, etc. Make sure the electrical system has been turned off. Have the power company or a qualified electrician fix wire. Contact your insurance agent to discuss property damage. If you have a generator, follow proper safety procedures.
Contact Your Family and Loved Ones: Let your family and close friends know that you’re okay so they can help spread the word. Register with or search the American Red Cross’s Safe and Well listing.