Thanks to our guest blogger, Angela Burrell, Public Relations Manager at our corporate company, Universal Services of America. As a show of appreciation for her help, I have refrained from adding my usual “firedogisms” to this post.
Being prepared for any type of man-made or natural disaster is the focus all month long during September. The first week of National Preparedness Month is devoted to flood awareness. Please review the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Ready.gov tips to help make sure you know how to prepare for a flood.
Flooding can occur in any region or any season. It may be in the form of a few inches of water or enough to cover a house. For example:
- Coastal areas are at greater risk during hurricane season (June to November).
- The Midwest is most at risk in the springtime and during heavy summer rains.
- Low-lying areas near a body of water or downstream from a levee are also at-risk areas.
Types of Flooding
- Slow onset occurs due to prolonged rain over several days, whereby flood waters receded slowly.
- Rapid onset happens when heavy rainfall occurs within hours or days.
- Flash floods, caused by rapid onset rainfall, occur with little or no warning. They can also be caused by breaks in levees, dams, ice jams or water systems.
- Storm surges happen when strong winds from a tropic cyclone or hurricane push seawater up onto land and, in some cases, causing storm-tide surges of up to 35 feet high.
National Weather Service Alert Systems
- Flood Watch advises area flooding is possible. Be prepared to evacuate or move to higher ground on short notice.
- Flood Warning indicates flooding is occurring or will occur soon. Follow any evacuation advisements.
- Flash Flood Watch denotes threats of flash flooding in a region, or near a coast or river. You may be advised to evacuate or move to higher ground on short notice.
- Flash Flood Watch Warning signals a flash flood is in progress or may soon occur in a region, or near a coast or river. You will be advised to immediately seek higher ground.
- Visit FloodSmart.gov to learn how to determine your flood risk:
- Know your evacuation routes. Plan ahead by selecting methods and routes to evacuate, whom you will notify of your status and where you will stay.
- Reduce your risk of damage to structures by elevating critical utilities, including electrical panels, switches, appliances and waterproofing basements.
- Keep emergency kits and supplies on hand and business continuity plans in place.
- Install battery-operated generators as backup in case of power outages.
- Hold a tabletop exercise. See a guide in FEMA’s Prepare Your Organization for a Flood Playbook.
Protect your business
- To prevent structural damage, ensure your building’s drains are free of any debris; you may consider calling a roofing contractor to ensure your roof is water-tight.
- Ask your engineering, janitorial and security teams to walk through your building frequently to identify any water intrusions.
- Always protect your data with backup files, and make plans for alternate communication in the event of a power outage.
- In the event of rain, consider placing heavy mats in all major paths of travel.
- Review your insurance coverage ahead of time to make sure you will be covered in the event of weather-related damage.
- Establish a procedure to communicate warnings and other information to employees and tenants during an emergency.
- Read the RJWestmore Case Study: Hurricane Sandy for examples of how one commercial property management team dealt with severe flooding caused by the 2012 natural disaster.
When driving in the rain
- Allow for more travel time and drive at a slower pace than normal, as heavy rains, mixed with the buildup of oil and grease on our roads, could lead to extremely slick driving conditions.
- Brake earlier and with less force, and do not use cruise control.
- Stay toward the middle of the road and never attempt to cross running water.
- After crossing a puddle, tap your brakes lightly to knock off some of the water from your rotors.
- Keep your headlights on, defog your windows and watch out for pedestrians.
- If you start to hydroplane, slowly release the gas pedal until the car regains traction—never brake suddenly or jerk the wheel.
- If you can’t see the road or car in front of you, pull over immediately and wait until visibility is good.
If a flash flood occurs
- Never drive through a flooded area, even if it appears shallow enough to cross. Just six inches of moving water can knock a person off his feet, and a foot of water can sweep a vehicle off the road.
- If your vehicle stalls, leave it and seek higher ground to avoid being swept away.
- Keep away from storm drains, streams or ditches, and beware of swift-moving water.
- Do not go near downed power lines or electrical wires, and report any you see to the authorities.
- If caught outdoors, be aware of quick wind shifts and drops in temperature, and never try to outrun a flood—move to higher ground immediately.
If you are trapped
- Call 911 for help. Give your location and detailsand wait for help.
- Get to the highest level of a building. However, avoid attics, and particularly basements and lower floors. Only retreat to the roof as a last resort.
- Stay in the vehicle if it is trapped in rapidly moving water.
- Turn your vehicle around, if you can do so safely, if floodwater is blocking a roadway.
- Seek refuge on the vehicle’s roof, if you are trapped and water is rising inside.
- Move to higher ground, climbing as high as possible on a sturdy object, if necessary.
Another failsafe of being prepared is to stay informed by monitoring your local weather reports via news media. Consider signing up for community weather alerts via text or email. Coordinate with your security and emergency preparedness teams and heed any evacuation orders from local authorities.
We hope the FEMA resources and this blog post will motivate you to do whatever it takes to #BeSafe in floods as well as every other type of emergency…particularly if you live or work in a high-rise building! A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.