Flood Control

Written by Bonnie McElfresh
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For those lucky enough to live in an area where flooding never occurs, it can be very difficult to imagine the panic and distress that floodwaters can cause. Very often, a person's whole life can be affected when the waters creep over the threshold of a home. You are likely to experience flooding at some point if you live anywhere near a body of water, and/or on low ground. Other situations may lead to flooding periodically.

Some areas are pretty predictable; they flood every year and should be avoided as a place to live. Others may or may not flood, and it's not always easy to predict where the line of safety lies. However, you can never actually say that a given area will positively never flood. There are so many possible sources of flood water: rising ground water, hillside runoff, snow melt, burst water drains and even burst water mains running close to your home. Even if you live on fairly high ground, you could suffer from hillside runoff.

Safety in Numbers

If you know that flooding is likely in your area, then you should keep up to date with weather warnings and take precautions to protect your property. Because you're likely to be under a lot of stress when it happens, it might be a good idea to write a checklist to follow in times of flooding emergency. Always try to get help. If you live alone, try to have a friend or relative come and help you out, or team up with another neighbor for safety and support.

Flooding can be so destructive to life and property that many people decide to move once they discover they live in a flood area. Sometimes this is not possible though, for any one of a number of reasons. In this case, there are procedures that will help you weather the storm (quite literally) with as little damage as possible.

For those moving into a new area, it makes sense to find out if the area might be prone to flooding before you close the deal on a property. Remember that there are many issues that come into play here. Will you be able to receive regular flood warnings for your area? Will your insurance premiums be higher? (They almost certainly will be).

Taking Steps to Minimize Flood Damage

What are the precautions you can take to minimize damage to your property? There are a surprising number actually. First, always keep your home in peak condition. Fix leaks and damage immediately as soon as they occur. This will minimize the risk if flooding should occur. Then, be aware that there are two stages of dealing with floods: flood defense and flood management.

Flood defense is what you do before a flood becomes a danger. After that, it's flood management. If you are at high risk of flooding, such as an area next to a river, you would think about building a flood defense barrier of some kind such as a wall or embankment. Spending a little money at this stage could save you a great deal later on.

If a flood is in progress, you're into the flood management stage. The first thing you'd want to do is turn off all your utilities such as water mains, gas, and electricity. This should be done well before flood waters reach your property. Remove all electrical items from your lower level rooms and move them upstairs. If you live in a single-story property, try to store them in the attic, on the roof, or even at the top of a closet if there is no other option. The same goes for furniture; if you can move it all upstairs, so much the better. Flood damage can completely ruin furniture.

Use Silicone Sealant and Sandbags

Stuff your sink outlets with something and place a heavy object on top. If you have some silicone sealant on hand, open doors and windows and run a layer of sealant all around the openings. Then close the windows and doors and allow them to dry. Cover all openings to your home with plywood and/or sandbags. You can never have too many sandbags in time of flood. In fact, this point is so important you might want to plan ahead for a source of sandbags in a hurry. Remember that flash floods won't give you much time to react.

For very heavy items that can't be moved, see if you can't at least raise them up on blocks, such as bricks or large wooden blocks. This could help considerably to save your refrigerator and other larger items. If at all possible, remove carpets and rugs to a higher place. Important documents and sentimental items should be kept well away from possible flood waters. Think about keeping these in a permanently safe place, such as upstairs.

Remember that items out in your yard could pose a hazard in times of flood. Large items such as garden swings and lengths of fencing can actually contribute to the hazard of flooding if they get swept away downstream and contribute to clogging up a waterway. Place these items, along with anything else you don't want to lose, in a closed garage if possible. Move dangerous chemicals up to the roof or attic. At least tie them down if you can. If you have manhole covers on your property, also weigh these down, and move your car to higher ground.

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