Flood Safety Tips Following Harvey

The recent destruction from Hurricane Harvey exposed just how devastating floods can be. Flooding is responsible for billions of dollars in the U.S. each year and is the most common cause of property damage related to bad weather. Quickly rising waters create life-threatening conditions. You should know the facts to avoid and better deal with a dangerous situation.

Realize the Risk

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, works with local municipalities across the country to identify floodplain and flood zone locations. Flood maps are continually updated and detail the community’s risk of being flooded by heavy rains, ground waters, and tides. As a homeowner, you should be well aware of the flood risks to your property. Check your property’s flood zone and whether the risk of your home being flooded is high or low.

Local flood maps are located on FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center, and you can also contact your local government for official plats. Insurance providers will help answer any questions you have.

If you live in a high-risk area prone to flooding, you should strongly consider getting flood insurance. Mortgages from federally regulated or federally insured lenders may already require homeowners to carry flood insurance if they are in high-risk areas. Moderate and low-risk flooding areas are typically not required to purchase flood insurance, but homes in these areas are responsible for over twenty percent of claims filed with National Flood Insurance Program. Floods can be unpredictable, and having protection can help your family recover completely after water damages your home.

Protect Your Home from Floods

  • Electronic components should be at least twelve inches above the base flood elevation for your area. This includes switches, wall sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring in the wall.
  • HVAC systems should be stored on an upper floor with flood-proof paneling built around it.
  • Install proper gradients and slopes to your yard to direct floodwaters away from your home.
  • Tanks used to store fuel outside should be anchored to the ground. Floodwaters can carry tanks away and crack them, releasing toxic chemicals into the environment.
  • Put sewage backflow valves into place to prevent backflow from returning into the house.
  • Hire a professional to inspect the sump pump and confirm everything is working properly.
  • Prevent contamination to your water well by having a professional inspect it and make improvements.

Preparing for a Flood

  • Be able to evacuate your home at any time during the storm. You may not have much time to gather things, so be organized and have easy-to-carry bags by the door. Bring copies of important documents in plastic bags or other waterproof containers.
  • Raise furniture and electronics off of the floor. Tables, couches, and large appliances can be carried off in heavy floodwaters. Don’t store things on top of these items.
  • Shut off all the utilities. Flip the circuit breaker, turn the main water valve off, and turn the gas off.
  • Communicate to members of your household the plan that includes a place where the group can safely meet if you get separated.

Dealing with a Flood

  • Pay attention to severe weather warnings in your area. If a flood or a flash flood warning is issued, get to higher ground immediately and stay put.
  • If you come across floodwaters turn around, don’t drown. It only takes six inches of swiftly moving water to easily sweep adults off their feet.
  • Driving through six inches of water can cause the engine to stall, and a foot of water can cause the vehicle to float. Two feet of moving water will carry moving vehicles, including SUVs and trucks.
  • If your vehicle is surrounded by water, but the water isn’t moving, quickly escape to higher ground.
  • Drivers who get stranded in quickly rising waters should stay calm and act efficiently. Roll down the window, get on the roof, and wait for help.
  • Drivers that are trapped in a vehicle that is submerged underwater are at great risk. Find a pocket of air in the vehicle and get ready to escape. Take a deep breath, and roll the window down. If the window doesn’t open, you will need to break the window. The best solution is to prevent this from happening by avoiding floodwaters.

How to recover after a flood

  • Visually inspect the house for structural damage. Large foundation cracks, missing vertical pillars, and major sidewall damage can put a building at serious risk of collapsing. If the building looks like it is going to fall, do not enter and get help.
  • Be cautious approaching the house as active power lines, leaking gas lines, and sharp debris are not easy to detect. If you smell gas, evacuate the area and contact the fire department. Avoid water that is touching electrical wiring to prevent being shocked.
  • Keep an eye out for wild animals trapped inside your home that may have entered during the flooding event.
  • Floodwaters are health hazards that can cause disease and contain toxic chemicals. Throw out any items that absorbed floodwater, including blankets, furniture, bedding, and carpets.
  • Contact water officials in your area to determine if the drinking water is still safe to use.

Contact an Attorney

With the help of an experienced attorney, you can ensure that you and your insurance company are doing everything in their power to recover after a flood. Contact the attorneys at Williams Hart at (713) 352-0031 for more information.

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