Here are some basic steps to take to prepare for storms and floods:
- Contact the local county geologist or county planning department to find out if your home is located in a flash-flood-prone area or landslide-prone area.
- Learn about your community's emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and locations of emergency shelters.
- Plan and practice a flood evacuation route with your family. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be the "family contact" in case your family is separated during a flood. Make sure everyone in your family knows the name, address, and phone number of this contact person.
- Post emergency phone numbers at every phone.
- Inform local authorities about any special needs, i.e., elderly or bedridden people, or anyone with a disability.
- Identify potential home hazards and know how to secure or protect them before the flood strikes.
- Be prepared to turn off electrical power when there is standing water, fallen power lines, or before you evacuate.
- Turn off gas and water supplies before you evacuate. Secure structurally unstable building materials.
- Buy a fire extinguisher and make sure your family knows where it is and how to use it.
- Have a licensed electrician raise electric components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring) at least 12" above your home's projected flood elevation.
- For drains, toilets, and other sewer connections, install backflow valves or plugs to prevent floodwaters from entering.
If you are under a flood watch or warning:
- Gather the emergency supplies you previously stocked in your home and stay tuned to local radio or television station for updates.
- Medications currently used by family members staying with you should be placed in individual plastic bags. Please label bags with the names of medication user.
- Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.
- Have your immunization records handy or be aware of your last tetanus shot, in case you should receive a puncture wound.
- Bathtubs, sinks and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach. Rinse and fill with clean water.
- Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills and trash cans inside or tie them down securely.
- Secure all legal documents such as birth certificates, passports, vaccine and health records, insurance documents by placing them in a sealed plastic bag.
Emergency supplies you will need
The supplies needed, include:
- Several clean containers for water, large enough for a 3-5 day supply of water (about five gallons for each person).
- A 3-5 day supply of non-perishable food and a non-electric can opener.
- A first aid kit and manual and prescription medicines and special medical needs.
- A battery-powered radio, flashlights, and extra batteries.
- Sleeping bags or extra blankets. Water-purifying supplies, such as chlorine or iodine tablets or unscented, ordinary household chlorine bleach.
- Baby food and/or prepared formula, diapers, and other baby supplies.
- Disposable cleaning cloths, such as "baby wipes" for the whole family to use in case bathing facilities are not available.
- Personal hygiene supplies, such as soap, toothpaste, sanitary napkins, etc.
- An emergency kit for your car with food, flares, booster cables, maps, tools, a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, sleeping bags.
- Rubber boots, sturdy shoes, and waterproof gloves.
- Insect repellant containing DEET, screens, or long-sleeved and long-legged clothing for protection from mosquitoes which may gather in pooled water remaining after the flood.
Preparing to evacuate
If you live in a designated "low area" you must be prepared to evacuate when a flood watch is issued. Expect the need to evacuate and prepare for it. When a flood watch is issued, you should:
- Fill your vehicle's gas tank and make sure the emergency kit for your car is ready.
- Assure children and young adults of the need to seek safe shelter and a quick return home.
- If no vehicle is available, make arrangements with friends or family for transportation.
- Fill your clean water containers.
- Review your emergency plans and supplies, checking to see if any items are missing.
- Tune in the radio or television for weather updates.
- Listen for disaster sirens and warning signals.
- Put livestock and family pets in a safe area. Due to food and sanitation requirements, emergency shelters cannot accept animals.
- Adjust the thermostat on refrigerators and freezers to the coolest possible temperature.
If you are ordered to evacuate
You should never ignore an evacuation order. Authorities will direct you to leave if you are in a low-lying area, or within the greatest potential path of the rising waters. If a flood warning is issued for your area or you are directed by authorities to evacuate the area:
- Take only essential items with you.
- If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity, and water.
- Disconnect appliances to prevent electrical shock when power is restored.
- Follow the designated evacuation routes and expect heavy traffic.
- Do not attempt to drive or walk across creeks or flooded roads.
If you are ordered NOT to evacuate
To get through the storm in the safest possible manner:
- Monitor the radio or television for weather updates.
- Prepare to evacuate to a shelter or to a neighbor's home if your home is damaged, or if you are instructed to do so by emergency personnel.
Standing Water Precautions
Following hurricanes, tropical storms and heavy rains, residents should be aware of the potential dangers from standing water. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommends extreme caution in the event of floods and resulting.
Please adhere to the following precautions/recommendations if standing water is in your area:
- Do not drive through the water. Depth cannot be determined in murky water and even six inches of water can cause a car to float.
- Standing water can carry a number of contaminants including sewage and chemicals. Do not let children play in flood waters and avoid them as much as possible.
- Following a heavy storm, sharp debris could be hidden in the water causing injury.
- Standing water may contain harmful bacteria that could cause infection.
- If downed power lines are hidden under standing water, there is the risk of electrocution.
- Allow the proper authorities to restore drainage by removing debris and sediment from drainage grates.
- Watch for snakes. Most Florida snakes are not poisonous but may still react if approached.
References: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Environmental Protection Agency, Florida Department of Health, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.