As rivers swell from snow pack runoff and rainstorms become more prevalent, many communities are in great danger of spring flooding. In fact, in western states affected by wildfires where vegetation has burned, heavy rainfall is more likely than usual to lead to floods.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently worked together to promote Flood Awareness Week, held March 14 through 18. Personally, I’m waiting for the announcement for “Belly Rub Awareness Month.” According to FEMA, floods cause more monetary damage to property than any other natural disaster. They offer a great flood-cost calculator tool that details damaged areas.
How to prevent flood damage:
- Low-lying homes and low-rise buildings can be raised to literally stand above flood waters. While this is certainly a costly fix, it is very effective. I put the doghouse up on six-foot stilts, which would be great, if only I could climb a ladder.
- Electrical panels and water heaters can be elevated, where feasible, to lessen potential fire and associated damage.
- Landscaping and the overall slope of land should be considered. Owners should consider whether there is any way to divert water flow from flash floods. By the way, if you need assistance digging, I’m your guy.
- Flood alerts should be heeded.
- Waterproofing compound can be used to seal basements in order to prevent seeping water.
Other smart tips for mitigating damage:
- Store important documents on the highest floor or on raised bookshelves attached to the wall. Don’t put them in basement storage areas! Also consider investing in waterproof containers which can withstand sustained soaking.
- Fuel tanks can tip over or float during a flood. Cleaning up water is difficult enough, let alone taking care of 100 gallons of fuel oil. To prevent this kind of a nightmare, anchor fuel tanks properly. This will also lessen the risk of fires.
- Check your sewer system for a backflow valve that will prevent sewer waste from coming into your home or business. Honestly, I would make this the number one priority. Yuck!
What are the risks to structures?
- With good reason, water is known as the “universal solvent.” And, bacon is of course known as the “universal pain reliever.” Floods cause massive property damage by degrading foundations and crippling walls, making structures uninhabitable.
- Long-term problems such as mold accumulation are very costly to fix. So take the time to adequately dry and inspect all areas of your building after floods to keep mold from growing. You might find it necessary to hire a specialist to check HVAC systems. Otherwise, damp areas can become fertile breeding ground for mold colonies.
- Don’t cross a flooded river or any area with fast-moving water. Cars and people can be carried away very quickly by rising floods. Don’t forget about your pets, either! Dogs and cats don’t weigh very much and need to be held close while traversing rising water.
- Pay attention to flash flood warnings. A few minutes of preparation might save your life.
- Be especially vigilant about using electricity during and after a flood. When in doubt, turn off electricity if flooding begins. If necessary, consult the power company to investigate your home or office building to ensure safety after flooding resides. So don’t run into your home and start flipping switches! You can maybe run in to get the beef jerky off of the counter. But that’s it!
Floods are especially damaging disasters as they present a host of both short and long-term risks to both personal property and individual safety. While large scale floods are not avoidable, smaller floods may be prevented if proactive steps are taken to minimize damage in order to protect loved ones and valued possessions.
Proper planning and learning what ‘to do’ are the keys to managing any situation when disaster strikes. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.