It’s National Preparedness Month, which means it’s time to make sure you’re ready for whatever life … Read more Read more
How to Survive If You’re on Foot
As soon as you receive word of a flash flood, immediately head for higher ground and stay put until help arrives. If you see floodwaters,
follow the NOAA’s advice and “turn around, don’t drown.” That means avoiding all moving water, even if it seems to be very shallow. Just six inches of moving water can trip you up and knock you over. You could hit your head, break a bone, or worse, get swept away into much deeper, faster-moving water. Anything deeper than your ankles is bad news, especially at night when it’s much harder to see.
If you have no choice but to walk through water, go where the water is shallow and isn’t moving, then
use a sturdy stick to check the depth as you walk, as well the firmness of the ground underneath. Mud and other slick surfaces can also easily topple you over. If you have children with you, carry them and keep them out of the water at all times if possible. As you make your way to higher ground, avoid touching or getting near any electrical equipment since you’re probably wet or standing in water. And if floodwaters have reached your home, do not use your home’s power.
If you get swept away by floodwaters,
Desmond Johnson of Utah’s Unified Fire Authority’s Swift Water Rescue team suggests you grab or climb onto something as soon as you are able. As you move through the water, float backwards on your back so you can push away from any large debris flowing down the water toward you, and always go over obstacles, never under. Once you’ve got a good grip on something, keep your feet pointed downstream, then yell loudly for help and wave an arm if possible. Johnson says it’s hard for rescue teams to spot people trapped in the water, so anything you can do to make yourself more noticeable is a big help. Don’t give up—keep yelling and waving until you’re rescued.
How to Survive If You’re in a Car
Driving can also be incredibly dangerous during a flash flood.
FEMA guidelines suggest that as little as six inches of water can cause loss of control and possibly stall your vehicle, a foot of water can actually float many vehicles, and two feet of rushing water is enough to carry SUVs and pickup trucks away. Not to mention, it can take as little as a quarter-inch of water to cause hydroplaning if you’re driving fast enough. Slow down and keep your eyes peeled.
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If it isn’t clear already,
do not ever attempt a water crossing with your vehicle. It will not go well. Besides, you can’t accurately tell how deep water is from inside your vehicle, and you could be driving right into a sinkhole. Turn around and find another route. A good portion of the roughly 80 flood deaths that occur every year are due to poor decisions made with vehicles.
If the water comes at your vehicle suddenly and you have no time to get away, you need to get out as quickly as possible. If you’re stuck and the water is rising, unbuckle your seatbelt, roll down your windows,
break them with a specialized tool, or kick them out to allow water to flow freely into the vehicle. If you don’t, you won’t be able to open your doors because nearly 2,000 pounds of pressure will be pushing against it. Once water comes in and the pressure equalizes on both sides—which will take less than a minute—you’ll be able to open the car doors or swim out of the window opening. Abandon your car and move to higher ground following the on-foot rules explained above.
How to Stay Safe After the Flood
Flood environments can still be dangerous even after the rain and rushing water is gone. Don’t go home until authorities say it’s safe, and listen to news reports to make sure the local water supply is still safe to drink. Also,
stay out of any leftover pools of floodwater, and continue to avoid all moving water. It could be contaminated with all sorts of nasty stuff, like oil, gasoline, and sewage, and it may even be electrically charged from downed power lines.
As you make your way home, stay aware and watch for areas that were clearly damaged by floodwaters. Weakened roads, bridges, and other routes can be dangerous to drive over. Take the safest route possible. If your home is surrounded and filled by floodwaters, do not go inside. It’s too dangerous. The water could be electrically charged and the building could be structurally unsafe. Even if your home was only slightly flooded during the storm,
be extra cautious about using your home’s power. Lastly, be sure to clean and disinfect everything that got wet or muddy during the flood to avoid any further contamination or health hazards.
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