Before the Flood
If you think you live in an area that "never floods," think again. Flooding is the most common reason for disaster declarations, and not just in the flood plains. If you live in an area where flooding is common, the first and most important step in flood preparedness is to assess whether you are truly prepared to do what is necessary to live in a flood-prone location.
Residents must realize that flooding and the cycle of evacuation, response, clean up, and recovery will be a recurring fact of life. Reassess: do you really want to stay? Then put together your disaster plans and chose your flood-proofing strategy.
As part of your disaster plan, for flooding be sure that your emergency supplies are ready to take along, primary and alternate evacuations routes are identified, and alternate locations for your family and vehicles, trailers, etc. to stay have been arranged.
Find out what your coverage is. Homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. A separate policy under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will be needed. NFIP policies cover surface water flooding damage to the building, contents, costs for moving and storing property to protect it, and flood debris removal. It doesn't cover problems like sewer back-up, vehicles damaged by floods, or items in finished basements. Homeowners need to find out in advance.
Permits and inspections will be required for flood proofing a home or a business. Check with local building inspectors to determine the specific requirements for your area.
Flood proofing refers to methods to protect your home and property or minimize the damage from floodwater. Choose the type that suits your home, property, and location best. There are 5 basic types.
- Elevation: Raising the building until the lowest floor is above flood level.
- Relocation: Moving the building out of the flood-prone area. This is the surest way to protect against flood damage. Elevation or relocation are considered the only reasonable choices for protecting a home that is subject to deep flooding (of more than 6 feet).
- Flood walls: Flood walls, berms and levees are constructed to keep flood waters from reaching the home. Flood walls are usually concrete and berms are small levees are usually built from fill dirt. These measures work best in locations where flooding is less than 3 feet deep. In areas where floodwaters are subject to rapid currents, flood walls can't be used and they may not be appropriate for homes with basements.
- Dry flood proofing: Means sealing a building to keep floodwaters out entirely. All areas below flood level are constructed to be water-tight and coated with waterproofing compounds or sheeting. Doors, windows, vents, etc. are either closed permanently or temporarily sealed. Dry floodproofing is generally not appropriate for houses with basements or crawl spaces, or where floodwaters are expected to be more than 3 feet deep.
- Wet flood proofing: Means the building is modified so that floodwaters are allowed to enter the structure causing only minimal damage. In rooms below flood level, furnishings are lightweight and easily removed before a flood. Difficult to move objects like furnaces, appliances are either on elevated platforms, walled off, or installed on upper floors.
When flooding is imminent, everyone wants to sandbag, often because they don't know what else to do or have no other flood proofing measures in place.
Sandbagging's primary effectiveness is in conjunction with other flood countermeasures such as closing openings in existing flood walls or berms. Sandbagging is expensive, manpower intensive and less secure than other flood proofing methods.
Most do not understand the number of sandbags or the proper placement required to construct a wall that will withstand the pressure exerted by floodwater. According to a commonly used formula, it takes 100 sandbags to produce a 1 foot high wall, 20 feet in length.
Unless butted up to land contours or floodwalls, sandbagging by itself, is frequently insufficient for most residential protection needs.
Try these links to detailed information about flood preparedness and floodproofing.