Do You Know What to Do if Flooding Threatens?

Prepare for Floods
Stay away from floodwaters.

One of the most common disasters in this country is flooding. Floods can occur anywhere and the American Red Cross wants people to know what steps they should take if their home is threatened with the possibility of flooding.

Floods can be local, affecting a single neighborhood, or very large, impacting entire river basins and many states. Some floods develop slowly, but flash floods can develop in just a few minutes.

If flooding is threatening your neighborhood, you should:

  • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
  • When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
  • If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.
  • Knowing what to do after a flood is important. Return home only when officials tell you the area is safe. Before entering your home, look outside for loose power lines, damaged gas lines, cracks in the home’s foundation or other damage. If power lines are down outside your home, do not step in puddles or standing water.

    Other steps you should remember include:

  • Watch out for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes that may have come into your home with the floodwater.
  • If you smell natural or propane gas or hear a hissing noise, leave immediately and call the fire department.
  • Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwater.
  • Materials such as cleaning products, paint, batteries, contaminated fuel and damaged fuel containers are hazardous. Check with local authorities for assistance with disposal to avoid risk.
  • During cleanup, wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.
  • Make sure your food and water are safe. Discard items that have come in contact with floodwater, including canned goods, water bottles, plastic utensils and baby bottle nipples. When in doubt, throw it out!
  • Do not use water that could be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula.
  • Download the free Red Cross Flood App for information on what to do before, during and after a flood and to receive location-based NOAA flood and flash flood watches and warnings.

    More information on how to respond if flooding threatens your neighborhood is available in the preparedness section of this web site.

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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