Preparing for Floods
When my husband and I first moved into our condo we had heard that the area was prone to flooding, but we didn’t worry about it too much. After the first major rain storm that we weathered in our new home, though, we definitely realized that flooding isn’t something to gloss over. As I stood on our porch and looked out over the park turned pond across from us, I was somewhat stunned–we had unknowingly bought a waterfront property. While we are lucky to be on the second floor of our building, some of our friends who owned houses with basements were not so lucky.
Floods can be particularly scary as a homeowner as they happen fast and can cause major damage, which can result in thousands of dollars in repairs. The good news, though, is that with some preparation you can defend your home against the rising tide. Here are some tips to help you prepare your home for a flood and avoid major damage.
If you live in an area that is prone to flooding there are a few things that you can do to be prepared at all times. In some places all it takes is an hour of heavy rain to cause floods, so it is well worth your time to set aside a day or weekend to flood-proof your home. Here are some things that you can do immediately to better prepare your home for a flood.
Know the flood level in your neighborhood.
There should be information available to you via flood maps, your insurance agents, and even friendly neighbors, about how high water normally reaches when it floods and where the worst areas are in your neighborhood. Neighbors can be helpful, as they can let you know where good places are to park your cars and find higher ground, should a flood happen. Also, FEMA has a very useful flood map service center where you can input your address and find your neighborhoods official flood map. This is valuable information that can help you prepare accordingly.
Get A Weather and Heat-Proof Safe
Get into the habit of filing important documents into a weather and heat-proof safe. There are tons of smaller lock-box options available that can easily fit into a closet or under a desk. These options are relatively cheap and well worth it when you think about what you may stand to lose in important or sentimental documents. These may include:
- Birth Certificates
- Property Insurance Policies
- Records of Important Investments, Retirement Plans, and Bank Accounts
- Legal Documents such as Wills, Power of Attorney, and Health Care Proxies
- Vehicle Titles, as well as Spare Keys
- Emergency Cash
Check Your Sump Pump
Make sure that your sump pump, which is used to pump water out of basements or damp areas, is working, and consider investing in a battery operated backup. If your power goes out during a bad storm you don’t want to be caught without a way to operate the pump if water levels are rising. It sounds crazy, but floods, and flash flooding in particular, can happen within hours, or even minutes.
Anchor Outdoor Appliances
Anchor your fuel tanks, as well as any other outdoor appliances, so they don’t uproot and either get carried away, or cause damage to your home.
Last Minute Tips
Life is full of surprises and, unfortunately, sometimes flooding is one of them. Haven’t had a chance to prep your home and need some last minute tips? Here are a few things you can do if you fear imminent flooding.
- Move What You Love UP. Move your valuables and any furniture you can manage to the second floor.
- Unplug. If you fear that water is going to reach the first story then unplug electrical appliances and shut off electricity.
- Clear Debris. Clear debris from your gutters and downspouts. Check for anything else that may block water flow.
- Elevate. Elevate your major appliances.
- Safety ALWAYS Comes First. No matter what, no matter how much you love your house or belongings, they are not worth putting you or your family in danger. If water is coming into your home, or the odds are good that it will, evacuate immediately and head for higher ground.
Long Term: If you know that areas of your home are prone to flooding, it may be worth it to consider modifying certain aspects to avoid long term costly damage. For example, have your electrical fixtures raised a foot above the flood level, as well as your furnace, water heater, and any other anchored equipment. Also, consider installing a water alarm in your basement that will alert you at the first sign of leaks. Taking these precautions will go a long way towards protecting your home as well as your bank account.