Road closed sign in a flood

Data suggests that natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity causing more destruction than at any other time in recorded history. Further, many studies show that over the last 50 years the number of natural disasters has increased by fivefold.  Floods and flash floods are among the most frequent and impactful disasters in the United States.

Prior to joining Nationwide Children’s Hospital, I worked for the American Red Cross as a Disaster Program Specialist and Manager for 10 years. I was often deployed to natural disasters around the country to assist in the area’s recovery. I’ve witnessed firsthand the tremendous negative impact that these events can have on communities and their families.

As daunting as these events can be, there is always hope! In the face of a disaster, I have seen acts of kindness and resilience that would bring tears of joy to your eyes.  Even now, writing this, I have goosebumps thinking about these experiences and want to empower you to act before it’s too late. Here are some helpful tips that we can all take to be better prepared for a flood.

Before a Flood

  • Know the Terminology:
    • Flood Advisory – flooding is possible (Be Ready)
    • Flood Watch – conditions are right for flooding (Get Set)
    • Flood Warning – flooding is already occurring or will occur in your area (Go!)
  • Stay Informed. Use a NOAA Weather Radio, listen to local news, and register for an emergency alert notification system.
  • Assemble an emergency kit. Consider packing a go-bag with items you and your family would need during an emergency. Common items include water, food, infant supplies, batteries, flashlight, batteries, cell phone chargers, first aid kit, medication, masks, gloves, and duct tape.
  • Have a plan and review it with your family. Know how and where your family can safely retreat and how you will communicate with them if separated.

During a Flood

  • Follow local authorities’ guidance. Elected officials and first responders are excellent resources for information, current conditions, and will help you navigate flooded areas and other hazardous conditions.
  • Move to higher ground. During a flood, you should move to higher ground and avoid standing, flowing, or rising water.
  • Turn around, don’t drown! Just 6 inches of water can knock adults off their feet and sweep them away. Half of all flood-related deaths are attributed to individuals driving or walking into floodwaters.

After a Flood

  • Wait for the “All Clear.” Before returning home, ensure that local authorities have deemed the area safe. Ongoing hazardous conditions such as chemicals, electric lines, and sharp debris can remain even after flood waters have receded.
  • Contact your family. This step can seem obvious but letting those who care about you know you’re okay can reduce stress and keep lines of communication open should you need additional resources.
  • Recovery. Once safe to do so, follow local authorities’ direction when cleaning or discarding household items. Materials that cannot be readily disinfected, such as children’s stuffed animals, should be discarded.

It is not always easy to think about situations like this, but a relatively small investment today could make all the difference tomorrow.  Additional tips and resources about flooding can be found on the National Weather Service website.

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Chris Marrero

Chis is a Emergency Preparedness Coordinator at Nationwide Children's Hospital 

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