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How to best prepare for a flood

How to Best Prepare for a Flood.

We’ve all seen it. Those photos of people walking in chest deep water with their belongings held above their head to keep dry. However, flooding can be much smaller in size and area than the flood that may occur after a hurricane or large amount of rain in a relatively short amount of time. According to the National Severe Storm Laboratory, Floods in the United States kill more people than tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning.

Before we dive into how to prepare for a flood, lets take a look at what a flood is and where they are more likely to occur.

What is a Flood?
To put it simply, a flood is where water submerges any part of land/area that is usually dry. The amount of flooding varies. It may only flood over the normally dry ground by a few inches or it could cover a whole house. There are four different types of floods that can occur, they are: Coastal Floods(Surge Flood), Surface Floods (Pluvial), and River Floods (Fluvial).

Each of these types of floods can happen in a very short amount of time or over a long period of time and vary in size depending upon several factors.

Coastal Floods (Surge Floods) are natural floods that occur along the ocean, lake or coast line of any other large body of water. Coastal floods are caused by extreme tidal conditions. When people think of floods, they usually think of Coastal floods.

Coastal floods are a direct result of severe weather conditions such as high winds (hurricanes or tropical storms) and other types of storms that pick up the water and push it inland. After the storm passes inland, it can then turn into a surface (pluvial) flood where the water is then dumped on low lying areas which usually doesn’t have anywhere for the water to go other than in the homes and yards of those living in the area.

Depending on the classification of the flooding, it can be devastating for those who live there and in some cases, loss of life can occur.

Coastal floods are classified into three different levels.

Classification Description
Minor Slight damage to coastline, homes and businesses.
Moderate Some damage to homes and buildings – fair amount of beach erosion
Major/severe Homes, roads, buildings and other structures destroyed – severe Loss of life and property – considerable amount of beach erosion.

Surface Floods (Pluvial Floods): is caused by heavy or severe rain storms that can occur due to Hurricanes/tropical storms or from large rains in urban areas that are far away from the coastline. Unlike the coastal or river floods, surface floods are not dependent on large bodies of water over flowing but rather, from the rain that is dropped in an given area.

Tropical/Hurricanes Storms:

The size of the flood is directly determined by the size of the storm. Scientists can predict the amount of flooding from hurricanes or tropical storms based on the size, strength, speed and direction of the storm. Each of these different factors play a major role in the amount of damage or flooding that will occur. To better understand how each of these different factors contribute to the amount of flooding that will occur, let’s look at each one more closely.

Storm Characteristic Notes (In relation to amount of flooding)
Size The Larger the storm, the more water that will be pushed inland and dropped beyond the coastline. Additionally, if the storm covers more populated costal area, the more damage that will occur.
Strength A storm that has a higher strength when it hits land means that it will be able to push farther inland where it can do more damage and cause more residential areas to be flooded.
Speed The slower the storm passes over a given area, the more damage and/or flooding it will do. This is because it will drop more water before moving on. The hope is that the storm will move inland quickly, dropping its water over a wide area and not concentrated on one single area, minimizing the amount of flooding.
Direction Storms that hit directly inland are preferred because the storm is able to push beyond the costal cities and towards the open land where there is a lot more area for the water to go and will cause less property damage. Storms that push along the coastline cause more flooding to coastal cities that are ill-equipped or poorly designed for flood control.



Also known as a thundershowers, this storm produces thunder and lightning and is accompanied by a heavy amount of rain or hail. Thunderstorms can occur anywhere and have similar characteristics as a tropical storm, but on a smaller scale.

Flooding occurs when a large amount of rain is dropped in a short period of time in an area that is ill prepared for that amount of rain. The sudden downpour floods the area with more water than it can handle. This leads to basements of homes and buildings being flooding.

Another factor that will determine if your area will be flooded is the geography, or land formation in which the rain is being dumped on. Water always runs downhill. If your home is located at the bottom of a hill, or if the area is poorly designed and doesn’t channel the water away from your home or neighborhood, then you will likely have flooding. This is an important factor to be aware of when building or buying your home. It’s always good to have your home situated higher than the area around it. Try to visualize where the water would go knowing that it always runs downhill, the easiest path with the least amount of resistance.

Just this summer, my parents had a “flood” in the basement of their home. It was raining all day and the rain collected in the rain gutter which was blocked and resulted in it spilling over and directly into the window well below. This caused the window well to fill up with water which eventually leaked into the basement. We spent the next several days cleaning up the water and drying out the carpet mats to prevent mold from growing.

River Floods (Fluvial Flood):When a river or canal exceeds its captivity and floods beyond the water channel, it is considered a river or fluvial flood. These types of floods are a result of too much rain, or from an excessive amount of snow melt.

River floods can be extremely dangerous because the water or flooding will continue downstream and cause more damage over a wider area. Often times, dames, dikes and other structures will break due to the inability to sustain the large amount of incoming water and will cause more flooding.

There are two main types of river/fluvial flooding that can occur, they are:

Flooding Type Description
Over Bank Flooding Over bank flooding occurs when the water rises above and over the edge of the river bank. This is very common and can happen in any size of river, large or small. The process is slow but steady.
Flash Flooding Flash flooding occurs when an intense amount of water comes rushing down an existing riverbed channel with little to no warning. The sudden rush of water is due to a large amount of rain water, or an ice dam that suddenly breaks and unleashes water which rushes downstream. The process is quick and rapid.

Where is a flood more likely to occur?

Floods can happen anywhere in the world, however, some places are more prone to floods than others due to the climate, surrounding landscape, and water proximity.  Below is a chart that shows where the different types of floods are more likely to occur.

Flood Category or Type Location
Coastal Along the coastline of the ocean or along large bodies of water such as the Great Lakes.
Surface Anywhere in the US – areas with higher precipitation are more likely to have surface flooding.
River Anywhere that is located within the flood plain of a river, or downstream of rivers and canals.


Where is a flood more likely to occur?

Floods can happen anywhere in the world, however, some places are more prone to floods than others due to the climate, surrounding landscape, and water proximity.  Below is a chart that shows where the different types of floods are more likely to occur.

Flood Category or Type Location
Coastal Along the coastline of the ocean or along large bodies of water such as the Great Lakes.
Surface Anywhere in the US – areas with higher precipitation are more likely to have surface flooding.
River Anywhere that is located within the flood plain of a river, or downstream of rivers and canals.


How to prepare for a flood

Depending on the type of flood and the location, you might have 48 hours to prepare while other floods, such as flash floods, will strike without warning. Being prepared ahead of time is the best way to protect yourself from the devastations of a flood, regardless of its size. You should listen to the radio to get real-time updates on the situation so that you can quickly evacuate if needed. Keep in mind, not all floods are the same and will require that you take different steps to better protect yourself and your family.

There are five main things you should do when protecting yourself from a flood or any other emergency, they are:

1- Contact Your Local Emergency Management Office.

If you are unfamiliar with the historical flood patterns of the past, you should contact your local Emergency Management Office to learn more about what risks you may encounter. I know that here in the Rocky Mountains we don’t have to worry about a tsunami hitting us any time soon. However, we do have surface and river floods that occur every year and have flooded some homes in the neighborhood.

Some questions you may want to ask are:
a- What floods are likely to occur in your area?

  • Is there some sort of community warning system?
  • Is there a community evacuation system or plan?
  • How can you help others if needed?

2- Make a Plan – Be Prepared
Whether you are alone or with a family, make a plan and stick to the plan. If you have kids, you should practice your plan with them periodically to ensure that they are prepared and able to do the tasks assigned, or what they should do if you are not with them when the disaster strikes.

Studies have shown that if you have a plan and follow that plan you and your family are more likely to survive the disaster.

Some things to consider when making your plan are:

  • Contact a family or friend that is out of town to let them know your plans. If there is a problem, they will be able to inform the authorities where you were heading and can send help if needed.
  • What are some activities you or your family do – where will they be during the day?
  • Where is the best place to meet together before, during and after disaster strikes? (regardless of the disaster type)
  • What are the best exit roads to take considering each of the disasters that could occur
  • What safety equipment do you need with you – emergency bag?
  • What emergency numbers do I need?


3- Have a Checklist Update and Maintain as Needed.
Having a master checklist is a great way to not only ensure that you follow all of the steps to your emergency plan, but should also have a list/documentation of valuables that are within your home so that you can account for them after the disaster passes.

You’ll also want to have a record of when your emergency food expires and needs to be rotated, or when you need to change the batteries in the smoke alarm. Over time, you’ll want to update this list so that it is current.

4-  Check Your Emergency Evacuation Bag
Having an emergency evacuation bag that you can quickly grab and go is extremely important and might just save you. However, you should check it periodically to ensure that the contents are still good and have not expired.

5-  Update Your Insurance Policy
 If you live in an area with a high risk for floods, whether it be surface floods or coastal, we recommend that you get flood insurance and know what is covered and what is not.

To better help you, we have broken down our recommendations on how to prepare for a flood into three different sections, before, during and after.

12-56 hours before the storm/flood will hit you should do:

  • Fill all your cars and gas cans with gas.
  • Turn off your propane or gas line to minimize the chances of a fire. If you turn off the gas, you will need to call a professional after the flood to turn it back on.
  • Remove furniture or other important items from the basement to the upper levels. Items that are too heavy or unable to move to a higher level, try placing them on pallets or blocks to keep them out of the water.
  • Freeze water bottles and place them in the fridge or freezer to help minimize loss of food if the power goes out. Bring in your yard toys and furniture.
  • Place sand bags around your home or in doorways to prevent water from getting in.
  • Unplug your appliances and other electrical devices to prevent damage to them in the event there is a power surge.


When a major flood hits, you will either be advised by government officials whether you should stay in your home or evacuate to a safe place.

There are safety measures you can take to keep you and your family safe. Below is a chart that lists some of the safety tips that should be taken to keep you and your family safe.

Staying Safe In Your Home Staying Safe While Outdoors
 Turn off power and water to home if directed by the authorities

Don’t use electrical appliances

Dispose of any food or water that comes in contact with the contaminated flood water

Avoid contact with the flood water as it could be contaminated with sewer water

Boil any water from the tap as it too could be contaminated

Continually Listen to the radio and be aware of any updates by the authorities

Always have your emergency bag near you in case you need to escape quickly

Avoid the flood water as to stay clean and away from the contaminated water and so that you don’t get swept away – whether in your car or traveling by foot

Keep kids near you at all times – tell them of rule one mentioned above

Follow rules and advisory warnings from locals

Move to higher ground if water approaches

If your car is caught in high water – leave your car and move to higher ground

Have a buddy system

Have your emergency bag with you at all times


Local authorities will inform you when it is safe to return to your home. If you are lucky and the storm didn’t do much damage to your home there will be very little work that needs to be done. However, if the storm was large scale and a lot of damage occurred then there will be a lot more work that needs to be done. Consider these safety tips when returning to your homes.

  • Let friends and family members know that you are safe and that you are planning on returning to your home.
  • If you have internet access, register you and your family on the “safe and well” website. (
  • Continue to listen to the local news, radio channel, and emergency channels for any news and updates.
  • Have your kids stay with other friends and family until the site is cleaned up and safe for them to return.
  • Be aware of the emotional and mental state of mind of your loved one and yourself. Dealing with a devastation such as a flood can be difficult and stressful.
  • Wear the proper safety gear (gloves, hard boots, masks, warm clothing, safety glasses, etc.)
  • Be on the alert for snakes or other animals that may have washed into or around your home.
  • Watch out for any powerlines that may have fallen and are still “live wire.”
  • Document the condition of your home and belongings for your insurance.
  • Inspect the home’s condition before entering.
  • Help others where you can.


Best Safety Gear to Have to be Prepared for a Flood?

Wet/Dry shop vac
Whether you get a lot of water into your home or a little, having a heavy duty wet/dry shop vac to help clean up the water and get you living in your home sooner is a must. I like having one that can hold a little more water and has a strong suction. That’s why I recommend getting the Vacmaster 12 Gallon, 5 Peak HP, Wet/Dry Vacuum with Detachable Blower. Great reviews and a durable motor. Click HERE to see the prices on Amazon


Sand bags are a must if you live in a high risk flood zone. By filling the sand bags, you’ll be able to create a wall that will protect your home from the rising water. I strongly recommend getting the more durable sand bags so that you can reuse them if needed. That’s why I strongly recommend getting the military sand bag which you can find on Amazon. Each bag will hold over 50 pounds of sand and have a strong drawstring to seal the bag and prevent the sand from coming out. Depending on your needs, you can buy 10, 20, 50 or 100 bags at a time. Click Here to see the Prices on Amazon.

Quick Dam Flood Barriers
The idea with these is that you use water rather than sand to contain or divert flood water away from your home. You can place these at doorways or on garage doors. This is a great solution if you don’t have access to sand or don’t have the time to get the sand. Simply place the Quick Dam Floor Barrier down in front of the door, garage  or window and either fill it with water or wait for the flood water to reach it where it will absorb the water and prevent any more water from getting in. Click HERE to view prices on Amazon.

Emergency bag
Regardless of the natural disaster, you will want to have a “go-to” emergency bag that has all of the essentials in it for you and your family. This Premium Emergency Survival Bag is a great one for two people to last 72 hours after the disaster has struck. You can see the latest price HERE on

The Emergency Zone Deluxe Survival Kit- is perfect for a family of 2-4 You can click HERE to see the latest prices on

Portable radio
Having a high quality radio is essential. You will want it before during and after the disaster. I believe the American Red Cross FRX#+ Emergency Weather Radio is the best choice out there. It comes with a Smartphone Charger and has a durable hand crank lever to generate power should you be without power or batteries. I highly recommend having this in your home or car. You can Fine these on Amazon as well. Click HERE to see the latest price.

Water Pump
The Simmer Submersible Utility Pump will help remove the water from your basement after. It can be used to drain your basement after the disaster or can be used to combat the flood in real time. Drain the water before it causes severe and expensive damage to your home.

This is a great option if you have a window well that is continually filling up due to rain or runoffs.

Click HERE to see the latest Price on Amazon.

Generators are extremely useful to have in the event of any disaster. The WEN 1800-Watt Portable Power Generator has a great motor and durable frame that will provide you and your family with power during the disasters. Click HERE to see the latest price of the WEN 1800-watt Power Generator.