Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States. Flood effects can be local - impacting a neighborhood or community, or very large - affecting entire river basins and multiple states.
All floods are not alike. Some floods develop slowly, sometimes over a period of days. But flash floods can develop quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes and without any visible signs of rain. Flash floods often have a dangerous wall of roaring water that carries rocks, mud and other debris that can sweep away most things in its path. Overland flooding occurs outside a defined river or stream, such as when a levee is breached, but still can be destructive. Flooding can also occur when a dam breaks, producing effects similar to flash floods.
What to do before a flood
Here are some basic steps to prepare for the storm:
- Use the Oregon HazVu: Statewide Geohazards Viewer to see if your home could be impacted by flooding.
- Learn about your community's emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and locations of emergency shelters.
- Build an emergency kit and create a family disaster plan.
- Plan and practice a flood evacuation route with your family. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be the "family contact" in case your family is separated during a flood. Make sure everyone in your family knows the name, address and phone number of this contact person.
- Post emergency phone numbers at every phone.
- Inform local authorities about any special needs, i.e., elderly or bedridden people, or anyone with a disability.
- Identify potential home hazards and know how to secure or protect them before the flood strikes. Be prepared to turn off electrical power when there is standing water, fallen power lines, or before you evacuate. Turn off gas and water supplies before you evacuate. Secure structurally unstable building materials.
- Check out the National Weather Service Turn Around - Don't Drown (TADD) campaign for information on safe driving practices during floods.
- Buy a fire extinguisher and make sure your family knows where it is and how to use it.
- Buy and install sump pumps with back-up power.
- Have a licensed electrician raise electric components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring) at least 12" above your home's projected flood elevation.
- For drains, toilets, and other sewer connections, install backflow valves or plugs to prevent floodwaters from entering.
- Anchor fuel tanks which can contaminate your basement if torn free. An unanchored tank outside can be swept downstream and damage other houses.
What to do during a flood
If you are under a flood watch or warning:
- Gather the emergency supplies you previously stocked in your home and stay tuned to your local radio or television station for updates.
- If travel is necessary, check road conditions at the Department of Transportation's TripCheck website.
- Check out the interactive map of river conditions from the National Weather Service.
- For the latest non-emergency flood information you can check out 211info's flood alerts page or dial 211 toll-free from any phone.
- Follow the Oregon Health Authority on Twitter and Facebook for health and safety tips.
- Follow the Oregon Emergency Management Twitter feed for the latest updates.
- Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.
- If using a generator, make sure to run it outside your home or garage. Using generators indoors or in an enclosed space can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
- Have your immunization records handy or be aware of your last tetanus shot, in case you should receive a puncture wound or a wound becomes contaminated during or after the flood.
- Fill bathtubs, sinks and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach. Rinse and fill with clean water.
- Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills and trash cans inside or tie them down securely.
Flooding of homes and other buildings frequently results in damage to clothing and other items. Depending on the items involved, some may be easily salvaged while others probably are not worth the work or expense to clean and disinfect them.