Could You Survive a Flood?

Slow and steady water flow created the Grand Canyon and other spectacular sights around the globe. Millions of years of slow and steady water flow along a path might be called “creative destruction.” When that same water is fast, and especially unexpected, the result is just plain old destruction.

Being prepared for a flood is much less taxing than surviving one, and of course the best way to prepare for surviving a flood is not to live where one might occur. The Federal Emergency Management Administration hosts a web site at, where you can find information on flood maps and flood insurance. Living where you have a river, lake, or ocean view can be wonderful until Mother Nature roars at you with persistent heavy rain or a sudden warm spell after a winter of heavy snow. And, as the recent problems at Oroville Dam in California have proven, the efforts of man can be just as deadly.

So the first rule of flood preparedness is, when considering where you want to live, give an honest risk assessment to the possibility of flood before you buy or rent and possibly place all your worldly possessions, not to mention your life, in the path of potential flood waters.

The danger from a flood is not just the water, but the debris carried by it. The water may contain raw sewage, creating a health hazard if swallowed or even if it only contacts the eyes. The water may be deadly cold, with risk of hypothermia if you’re caught in it.

Water Temperature

(Fahrenheit and Celcius)

Time before exhaustion or unconsciousness

32.5° .3° < 15 minutes
32.5° – 40° .3° – 4.4° 15 – 30 minutes
40° – 50° 3.3° – 10° 30 – 60 minutes
50° – 60° 10° – 15.6° 1 – 2 hours

Whether for flood, earthquake, meteor strike, or any other possible hazard you can think of, there should be a readily accessible an emergency kit in the home. The American Red Cross suggests these minimum contents:

  • Backpack with multiple pouches and removable organizer (Joe suggests any of the Maxpedition backpacks for their extremely good quality and well-thought out designs.)
  • 1 Battery powered flashlight (2D cell batteries included)
  • 1 hand crank emergency radio
  • 1 Emergency blanket, 4.5′×7′
  • Moist towelettes (individually wrapped)
  • 1 Pen light
  • Food packets, 2,400 calories total, 5 year shelf life (ingredients include wheat flour, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, salt, water and coconut flavoring)
  • Water pouches, total of 16 ounces, 5 year shelf life
  • Procedural breathing mask
  • Rain poncho (adult sized)
  • 1 Roll of duct tape, 2″ × 30 yds
  • 1 Water container, holds 3.5 gallons
  • 1 Whistle
  • 1 Hygiene kit, including toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, soap, deodorant, washcloth, comb, and mesh shower bag
  • 1 45-piece First aid kit, including compresses, adhesive bandages, first aid tape, antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizer, gauze, and latex-free gloves
  • At least a week’s supply of any medications that might be needed – asthma inhalers, prescription medication, along with a spare set of eye glasses. If you wear contacts, plan to be without them for the duration.
  • If you have infants, ensure their special needs are supplied. Diapers, powder, formula, etc.
  • If you have pets, plan for their survival with adequate food and water.

Keep in mind, the expendable items above are per person. Clean water after a flood may be difficult to find. You’ll need at least 3 gallons per person per day for consumption, cooking, and sanitation.

The actual flood waters don’t have to reach your house to cause problems. The ground itself can be saturated with water, causing normal ground water table levels to rise. If you have a basement and there is any chance of ground water seepage, ensure you have a functioning sump pump. In addition, there are a multitude of products that will seal cracks in concrete so water doesn’t have an easy path into your home. You may also consider sealing the entire floor and walls of your basement. There are a multitude of products available at big box home improvement stores and on the web.

When heavy rains fall for days on end your home’s roof is going to be your first line of defense. The time to repair ANY possible leak is when the sun is shining. When bad weather approaches you may not be able to find qualified repairmen, and the con men will be crawling out of the woodwork when the SHTF. (i.e., when the excrement comes in rapid contact with the air oscillation device.) In addition to having a secure roof, keep gutters clear and ensure runoff water has a clear path away from the foundation of the house. When ground water tables are rising is no time to help the problem by dumping rain water close to the house’s foundation.

If flood water may be approaching, and it can happen quickly, prepare your house for water.

  • Roll up rugs and try to move furniture to a higher location. Wet rugs can easily grow mold, which can be virtually impossible to remove. Water can irreparably damage valuable furniture by soaking wood, causing joints to fail and any upholstered furniture is also susceptible to mold when the water recedes.
  • Appliances should be moved at least a foot above the highest level the water is expected to reach.
  • Turn off the electricity to avoid causing shorts and possible fires when water enters electrical outlets.

During a flood, use common sense.

  • If you’re asked or told to evacuate, do.
  • If you cannot leave the area, look for the highest ground, which may be the roof of your house in extreme situations. Try to avoid the water, as it will be filled with debris and possibly raw sewage containing little organisms you DO NOT want to come into contact with.
  • If you are on the move, avoid driving through flood waters on the road. Their depth can be unknown, inundating even the most virile of 4X4 vehicles, leaving you stranded where no one can help you. If at all possible, do not try to cross on foot; water current can be extremely powerful.
  • If you come into contact with flood water, wash with clean water and soap as soon as possible. You do have soap and water and some kind of disinfectant in your emergency kit, right?

Finally, prepare for any disaster or emergency situation by having a Family Emergency Plan. This should be written down and stored in a water-tight bag. Include, at a minimum, this information:

  • A contact person or persons not in your area – a family member or close friend in another city or state. Include all contact information: name, phone numbers, address, email, social network accounts.
  • Primary meeting place if the home is inaccessible.
  • Secondary meeting place if the primary is inaccessible.
  • Tertiary meeting place if the secondary is inaccessible.
  • Your bug-out bag or personal emergency kit should include strips of yellow or orange tape and thumb tacks. Use these to indicate to other family members that you have been to one of the meeting points and could not stay. The plan would then tell others that you had gone to the next rendezvous point on the Family Emergency Plan.
  • Information about each family member – name, date of birth, SSN (national ID number), vital medical information.
  • Medical contacts – family doctor, dentist, specialists, pharmacy, medical insurance group and personal numbers.
  • A list of all financial institutions with their addresses and phone numbers and your account numbers.
  • Cash – plan as if you had no access to a bank or ATM for at least a week.
  • If you have children in school, ensure you know their emergency plan also.

Much of the information in the emergency plan can and will change. Plan at least annually to review and update your Family Emergency Plan and review it with all family members.

Stay Safe,


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