Floods and Flash Floods - Before, During and After.....

A "flood potential outlook" is issued when forecast meteorological conditions indicate significantly heavy precipitation may occur. The "flood potential outlook" is generally issued 36 hours or more before the potential event. A "FLOOD WATCH" is issued when meteorological conditions raise the threat of flooding, but occurrence is neither certain or imminent. A "FLOOD WATCH" is generally issued 12 to 36 hours before the potential event. A "FLOOD WARNING" is issued when flooding is expected within 12 hours or is in progress.

Take action to protect lives and property immediately. The following are recommendations for before, during and after a flood.


Find out if you live in a flood-prone area from your local emergency management office or Local Red Cross chapter. Identify earthen, irrigation, hydro-electric, etc. dams, that are up stream from your area, and could be the source of potential problems.

Ask whether your property is above or below the flood stage water level and learn about the history of flooding for your region.

Learn flood warning signs and your community alert signals. Know the terms "Flood Watch", "Flood Warning", and "Urban and Small Stream Warning".

Request information on preparing for floods and flash floods.

If you live in a frequently flooded area, stockpile emergency building materials.
These include plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber nails, hammer and saw, pry bar,shovels, and sandbags.

Have check valves installed in building sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing up in sewer drains.

As a last resort, use large corks or stoppers to plug showers, tubs, or basins.

Plan and practice an evacuation route.

Contact the local emergency management office or local American Red Cross chapter for a copy of the community flood evacuation plan.

This plan should include information on the safest routes to shelters. Individuals living in flash flood areas should have several alternative routes.

Have disaster supplies on hand.

Develop an emergency communication plan.
In case family members are separated from one another during floods or flash floods (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.

Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

Make sure that all family members know how to respond after a flood or flash flood.
Teach all family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water.

Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, fire department, and which radio station to tune to for emergency information.

Learn about the National Flood Insurance Program.
Ask your insurance agent about flood insurance. Homeowners' policies do not cover flood damage.

Keep all insurance policies and your household inventory in a safe place.



If Indoors:

If Outdoors:

If In A Car:



Flood dangers do not end when the water begins to recede. Listen to a radio or television and don't return home until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.

Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance--infants,elderly people, and people with disabilities.

Be aware of areas where flood waters have receded and may have weakened road surfaces.

Consider health and safety needs. WASH your HANDS frequently with soap and clean water if you come in contact with flood waters.

Contact your insurance agent.

Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage.

Stay out of buildings if flood waters remain around the building.

When entering buildings, use extreme caution.

Look for fire hazards.


Check for gas leaks--If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.

Look for electrical system damage--If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician for advice.

Check for sewage and water lines damage--If you suspect sewage lines are damaged avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid the water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.

Return to FCEM's Natural Hazards Page

Phone FCEM