How to Prepare for a Flood

A woman wears yellow rain boots in a flood.

Mother Nature is a powerful force. Whether you live near a major river, downstream from a dam, or have a seemingly benign creek or pond on your land, you just never know when the tides could rise, flooding your home. In fact, even without a major water source nearby, your house could flood from broken pipes, a faulty water heater, or overflowing storm drains, so it’s important to have a plan in place if it ever happens. Here are some tips to help you be prepared in the case of a flood.

Do Your Research

Check with the county to identify the projected flood elevation for your area. Counties keep records that could even tell you the highest water level in the past 100 years. That will give you an idea of how likely it is your house will flood and at what point you can expect it to enter your home. Then you can set electrical outlets above that point and consider whether you need a sump pump to remove water from beneath the house.

Put Your Landscaping to Work

Sandbags in front of a flooded building.

The slope of your yard can be a major contributing factor in which way the water runs. Although high waters will even run uphill, a properly landscaped yard can offer protection from minor floods. Make sure all landscaping slopes away from your home or you’re inviting a pool of water around your foundation. Also make sure that you have the materials to make sandbags or purchase a commercial flood-blocking device that creates a barrier between the water and your home.

Check Your Drainage

In addition to the landscaping keeping water away from your home, check to make sure your drainage systems are doing their jobs. For example, those French drains that transfer your excess backyard water to the street in front of your house should flow freely. Make sure you don’t have any breaks in the line and that all clogs from dirt, leaves, and tree roots are removed. Clean out your rain gutters before the wet weather hits and make sure downspouts are aimed downhill away from the house or go directly underground. Also check the storm drain at the end of your block and clear it of any debris.

Protect From the Inside

A flooded street.

Consider installing backflow valves in your toilets, sinks, and tubs so that a storm back-up can’t drive sewage into your home. If you don’t have a backflow valve, block drains with sandbags during a flood. Place all important documents in an easy-to-grab waterproof container. Make sure you have a supply of food, batteries, medication, and drinking water. Remember to never drink city water during a flood.

When Flooding Occurs

If preventative measures aren’t enough to keep the water from flooding in, take measures to protect your home from further potential damage by disconnecting appliances and turning off the power, water, and gas. Roll up rugs and move items to higher levels.

Create an Emergency Kit

An emergency, first aid kit.

If you need to take cover upstairs, crawl out onto the roof, or evacuate, you’ll want to have some basic supplies with you. This should include water, medications, and food for yourselves and pets, flashlights, blankets, battery-powered radio, raft and oars, life jackets, warm clothing, cell phone, important documents, and a mirror or white fabric for signaling to rescuers.

Sometimes flood warnings give you ample time to prepare, but other times a flash flood or household malfunction can bring the unexpected in a rush so it’s best to be prepared just in case a flood ever happens at your home.