How to stay safe when a flood is threatening your home
Last updated: February 2023
When a flood is predicted, you may want to take some steps to help prepare yourself and your home. Here are some things to consider if your area is at risk of flooding.
If a flood threatens your area, it’s important to stay informed. In addition to keeping up with weather and safety news from local media outlets, there are a number of ways you can receive emergency alerts, according to Ready.gov:
- Community notifications. Some local municipalities offer an alert system, so you can register and receive text alerts on your cellphone when local emergencies are in effect.
- Wireless emergency alerts. The federal government has an emergency alert system that local officials can use to send cellphone alerts, even if you haven’t subscribed.
- NOAA weather radio. A NOAA weather radio broadcasts weather forecasts, along with watches and warnings, from the National Weather Service 24 hours a day.
Flood watches vs. warnings
As you monitor local information, it’s important that you understand the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning. According to the American Red Cross, a flood watch means that conditions are favorable for a flood or flash flood, while a flood warning means a flood, or a flash flood, is either happening or about to happen.
Protecting your home from a flood
If you learn that a flood is possible or imminent, there are some important steps you can take to help protect your family and home:
Gather emergency supplies
According to Ready.gov, a basic emergency kit should include several key items, such as a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day), nonperishable food, a battery-operated or hand-cranked radio, first aid supplies, a flashlight and batteries.
Prepare your home
Before floodwaters reach your area, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety suggests taking the following steps to help protect your home:
- Clear gutters and downspouts of debris, so water can run freely.
- Elevate furniture and electronics; set appliances on concrete blocks.
- Inspect your sump pump and back-up batteries to make sure they’re operational.
- Shut off utilities if the breaker panel could end up underwater.
You might also want to consider sandbagging if there’s enough time before water reaches your area, says FloodSmart.gov.
Take safety precautions
If your area floods, consider the National Weather Service’s advice on keeping everyone in your home safe:
- Avoid electrical hazards. Don’t enter the basement, or any room where floodwaters cover electrical cords or outlets.
- Obey local evacuation orders.
- Stay out of floodwaters. Don’t walk or drive through them.
Floods can happen anywhere, so it’s important to also consider whether you may need flood insurance — because homeowners insurance doesn’t typically cover flood damage. Contact your local insurance provider to discuss the risks in your area and the coverage you may need.