10 Things You Need to Do to Prepare Your Home For a Flood

by Becky BlantonAugust 5, 2016

Floods can happen anywhere in the U.S. at any time of the year. From bad weather to clogged storm drains, water can destroy your home or foundation in a matter of hours. There is a lot of information on the Internet about preparing you and your family for a flood, but how do you prepare your home for a flood? The time to prepare and protect your home is before flooding is imminent. (And if you are thinking of buying in a flood zone here are 7 things to think about.)

River flood

  1. Buy and install sump pumps with backup power

    Sump pumps can be battery powered, or hook into your existing power supply or both. Get both. Storms that bring floodwaters often knock out electric power for days or weeks. You’ll need a system that can run on backup batteries or a generator. When the power goes out, pumps running on electrical current won’t run as long as those designed to run specifically on a12-volt battery. Have a knowledgeable electrician or plumber evaluate your system and recommend the best backup for your home.

  2. Have a licensed electrician raise electric components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12″ above your home’s projected flood elevation.

    Not only will this prevent electrocution in case of a flood, it will protect expensive components from water damage.

  3. Waterproof your basement and any entrances to the basement

    Waterproofing your basement before a flood can reduce damage in the event of a flood. Waterproofing means making sure your gutters, storm drains are clear, and your property slope directs water away from the home. This includes diverting water flow from window wells and entrances into your basement that could flood in high waters.

Image of flooded interior

  1. Create a checklist for “things to do in case of flooding” and attach it to your refrigerator or someplace easy to access in case of flooding.

    Make sure everyone in the house knows how to do each task. In the event you must evacuate:

    • Disconnect appliances to prevent electrical shock when power is restored.
    • Turn off all electrical power at the main breaker boxes as well at each appliance
    • Turn off all gas at the main line.
    • Turn off all water at the main line. Pipes inside the house can burst during a flood. Leaving your water on can only make flooding worse.
  2. For drains, toilets, and other sewer connections, install backflow valves or plugs to prevent floodwaters from entering.

    During a flood sewer and storm drains can back up and force sewage into your washing machines, bathtubs, sinks, and dishwashers, which can then overflow onto your floors. Cleanup after a flood is nasty enough without having to clean all your appliances and rooms of sewage and storm water. Talk to a plumber about installing valves and plugs to prevent this.

  3. Install septic pump alarms

    Alarms can alert you to flooding before it becomes a serious issue. If you have a septic system and it becomes flooded during a storm or for other reasons, do not flush your toilets until an expert has looked at the system first. Tanks can often float free, rupture — sending sewage into your home tubs, toilets and sinks. Tanks should not be used or pumped out until floodwaters have receded and an expert has examined the tank for rupture and sediment. Do not use your septic system during high waters, or extreme rain as the more demand on the system when the drain field is flooded, the more likely it is to back up into your home or fail completely. For more information on protecting your septic system during heavy rain or floods, look at the EPA guide.

  4. Anchor fuel tanks which can contaminate your basement if they’re torn free.

    An unanchored fuel tank outside your home can be swept downstream and damage other houses, break open and contaminate water, catch fire or even explode or burn if exposed to sparks from downed power lines or other sources.

  5. Have a backup water supply

    After a flood, do not drink water from your well or even city water systems until the water has been tested and verified as safe by your local health department. Store five-gallon bottles of water, or buy an advanced water filtration system such as a Berkey system, considered the number one water filtration system in the world. It’s also one of the most expensive, but there are other alternatives from a variety of manufacturers.

  6. Have a backup toilet system

    The more use a septic system gets when flooded, the more likely it is to fail. Have a backup system such as a porta-potty or even a 5-gallon bucket with heavy-duty trash bags you can use until floodwaters recede. If city water services are disrupted you may need an alternative system to flush your toilet (collecting and using rain or floodwater in the tank). If you’re caught unawares and unprepared and can’t use the toilet, then flush your toilet, turn off the water to it, and drape heavy-duty trash bags or red sanitation liners over the toilet seat and into the now dry toilet bowl. That way you can still use the seat and toilet. Close up the sanitation liner or trash bag when it’s full. Use twist ties or duct tape to close the bags and keep flies and bacteria and odors down.

Image of Wall of Sandbags and Tarp for Flood Protection

  1. Buy and learn how to properly use sandbags, plastic liners and sheets.

    Sand bags, even when properly employed, don’t keep all the water out of your home. However, they can reduce and redirect water flow to prevent water from seeping into sliding glass doors or windows at ground level. You’ll need to buy sand or use soil to use them. There are also systems for homes and businesses, like MuscleWall, that will protect your home from heavy water flow. They’re expensive but effective.

With the average flood damage ranging from $10,000 to $30,000 it just makes sense to spend a few hundred, or even a couple of thousand dollars to protect your home.


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About The Author
Becky Blanton
Becky Blanton is a full-time ghostwriter and writing coach for Fortune 500 companies, CEOs, and business speakers. In 2009 she spoke at TED Global at Oxford University, her first ever public speaking gig. When she's not writing, she's kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay. Her dream home is to live aboard a sailing or houseboat.