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How to Prepare for a Flood

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

 

Shopping for flood preparation products is no fun – and hopefully you'll never need to use them. But being prepared can ease your anxiety and could even save your life. Here are our top recommendations for flood preparedness products, plus all the key information you need to know should a flood occur.

 

How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 36 Models Considered
  • 5 Models Tested
  • 39 Hours Researched
  • 3 Experts Interviewed
  • 242 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Guide to flood preparation, survival, and aftermath

    Last Updated August 2018

    Unless you live close to a body of water, you probably haven’t given much thought to floods and the damage that can result from a flood. However, the possibility of some degree of flooding occurring in your lifetime is more likely than you may realize. Whether you live near a river that floods when it rains or you experience groundwater in your basement after a major storm, flood waters can invade your property and home, resulting in damage and plenty of headaches.

    Awareness is key to pre-flood preparation. You’ll gain peace of mind if you spend a bit of time finding out what services and products you may need in the event of a flood. This level of preparedness will also help you get “back to normal” a lot faster should the unthinkable occur.

    On this page, we provide information that will help you understand what a flood is, how it could happen even in areas with low risk, and the products and services you may need to deal with one. Though it’s not pleasant to think about natural disasters, we understand your concerns and can help make the process smoother.

    Make a plan long before you need one. Include family members, children, and other residents of your home so everyone knows what to do when a flood hits.

    Facts about floods

    What causes a flood? Sometimes, a body of water overflows and invades normally dry territory. People who live close to large bodies of water such as oceans, rivers, creeks, and streams are at greatest risk for this type of flooding.

    Various sources of excess water can also cause overflow. Heavy rains, sudden severe storms, and melting snow are all major culprits.

    It’s true that the closer you live to water, the higher your flood risk. But the fact is that floods of varying degrees can happen almost anywhere. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, floods occur in every state and cost more than any other natural disaster in the U.S. Flood waters that reach several feet can threaten life and cause catastrophic damage. Even several inches of unwanted water can result in structural damage, destroyed flooring, and ruined belongings that cost thousands of dollars to repair or replace.  

    DID YOU KNOW?

    If you live in a low-lying area or near water, you are at greater risk of experiencing a flood. Floods that occur in these areas typically involve larger volumes of water than floods in other areas.

    What to do before a flood occurs

    Maybe you live in an area where flooding isn’t likely. Or perhaps your flood-prone location requires you to be on high alert whenever rain is in the forecast. Regardless, it’s important to prepare yourself well in advance of rising flood waters. Here are some guidelines to follow.

    Check your insurance policy. Many homeowners have made the mistake of assuming their home insurance policy covers flood damage when it actually doesn’t. Flood insurance is obtained through a separate type of policy that is specifically designed to cover some types of flood damage.

    Know the difference between a flood watch and warning. While a watch means to be mindful that conditions could possibly lead to flooding, a warning indicates that a flood is either in process or will happen, requiring those in its path to take immediate safety precautions.

    Make a supply checklist, and keep necessary items on hand. Part of being prepared involves making a list of items you may need before, during, and after a flood. But don’t stop there. The time to purchase the items you’ll need in the event of a flood is long before one occurs.

    • A weather station is a handy device that can help you forecast upcoming weather changes and potential threats. Some models even measure rainfall amounts, which can help you predict if a flood might occur.

    • Sandbags are a useful tool for keeping flood waters from entering your home. Keep enough on hand to stack around the exterior of your home, especially if major flooding is likely in your area.

    • A three- to five-day supply of non-perishable food items will help you get through the initial days after a flood should you lose power or if the roads aren’t accessible.

    • Don’t forget your pets. Keep a three- to five-day supply of food on hand for them, too.

    • Clean water may be difficult to come by following a flood. It’s a good idea to keep some bottled water on hand for drinking and basic hygiene.

    • A emergency kit that includes flashlights, batteries, a radio, extra blankets, personal hygiene items, medications, and first aid items will help you cover many basic needs in the event of a natural disaster like a flood.

    • Cleaning items such as household cleansers, mops, and buckets will be needed as flood waters recede.

    • If a lot of water enters your home, you will want to begin drying it out as quickly as possible. A dehumidifier can draw moisture out of the air and help dry out walls, carpeting, and personal possessions.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Though levees and dams are put in place to reduce the risk of flooding by holding in their confines, heavy rains and damaging storms can result in excessive water, causing pressure to build and barriers to break.

    What to do when a flood occurs

    If you know that flood waters are rising, there are steps you can take to protect yourself, loved ones, pets, and belongings.

    • Move yourself and loved ones to higher ground. If you can’t leave your home, move to a higher floor.

    • If you plan to stay in your home, place sandbags around the doors and exterior.

    • Keep your pets safe by taking them with you if you evacuate. If you stay, move them to a higher floor in the home. Never leave them outside, as they could easily drown.

    • Turn off the electricity and gas at the main hookups, and unplug appliances to help prevent electrocution and fires.

    • If you have valuables you want to protect, remove them from ground level.

    • Keep items you may need during the flood handy, such as flashlights, clean clothing, and food.

    • If possible, monitor the weather with a radio or smart phone app.

    Flood dos and don'ts

    All of your attention should be directed toward safety and survival in the event of a flood. Knowing what to do – and what not to do – is key.

    Do stay focused on alerts and the flood status. Local officials will provide updates when possible and make announcements through media outlets.

    Do keep a close eye on loved ones and pets. This is especially important when it come to children, the elderly, anyone with a medical condition, and small animals that could wander into flood waters and drown.

    Don’t ignore directions to evacuate. If officials tell you to leave your residence, there are good reasons, including the possibility of major flooding and the inability for first responders to reach you until after flood waters recede.

    Don’t attempt to walk or drive through water. It takes only a few inches of rushing water to sweep you off your feet. A vehicle can be swept away in about a foot of water.

    Don’t go near fallen electrical lines. Just because they are down doesn’t mean they aren’t live. Stay away from downed power lines to avoid the risk of electrocution.

    EXPERT TIP

    Ask flood restoration companies you’re considering for references, proof of licensing, certification from the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC), and bonding.


    Aimee  | Pediatric Occupational Therapist

    What to do after a flood

    Just because a flood has passed doesn’t mean there aren’t still dangers to consider. Additionally, there are tasks you’ll need to handle to fix any damage caused by high water.  

    • Even if it appears that water levels are decreasing, continue to avoid walking or driving through standing or rushing water. Not only is it difficult to know the depth, but the water could also contain dangerous debris or other contamination. The risk of injury and illness is still significant.

    • If you have been evacuated, wait until authorities say it’s safe to return to your home.

    • Seek medical attention for any injuries you, loved ones, or pets sustained during the flooding. This will help prevent issues from worsening or infections from developing.

    • Contact your insurance company about damages your property sustained during the flood. Take photographs to record the damages for your claim.

    • Clean up what you can with caution. Even minor flooding can cause extensive damage. In such cases, a flood restoration company would likely be your best option for repairing and restoring flooded items and areas.

    Don’t assume that you are safe from flooding just because you live a fair distance from a body of water. If heavy rainfall occurs, flood waters could travel to areas that remained dry during the storm.

    FAQ

    Q. How do I purchase a flood insurance policy?
    A. Flood insurance can be confusing, so don’t try to find a policy on your own. Contact your insurance agent to find out what type of policy would fit your needs. You need to find out some critical information from him or her, including the flood zone you live in, the level of coverage suitable for your property and valuables, and what kind of damage would not be covered by a policy.

    Q. I’m putting together a flood plan to share with my family. How do I talk to my kids about the importance of being prepared for a flood without scaring them?
    A. You definitely want to be honest with your children about the seriousness of floods and how taking precautions can keep the family safe. Be calm and reassuring, and encourage your kids to ask questions. Consider involving them in your emergency plan; doing so will help build the confidence that comes with being aware and prepared.

    Q. How long does it usually take for flood water to recede?
    A. There is no specific answer to this question, because the rate at which flood water recedes depends on several factors, including the type of soil in the area, how saturated the ground was before the flood, and how much water flooded the area. While flood water sometimes begins receding once rain ceases, major floods can takes weeks or months for water levels to return to normal.

    The team that worked on this review
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      Alvina
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      Amos
      Director of Photography
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      Branson
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      Ciera
      Production Assistant
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      Eliza
      Production Manager
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      Jacob
      Editorial Manager
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      Jennifer
      Writer
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      Senior Editor
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      Web Producer