If you’ve been listening to the news lately, you’ve probably seen at least some coverage of flooding affecting all parts of the world. Devastating flooding in Pakistan over the summer has killed more than 1,500 people in the region, including more than 500 children, underscoring the dangers of this natural disaster.
The US is grappling with its own warnings about rising water levels. Eastern Kentucky faced historic flooding in July: At least 38 people died, and the state was seeking additional federal aid as residents did their best to recover. Hurricane Fiona slammed into Puerto Rico over the weekend, causing power outages in much of the region due to flash flood warnings. Flood risks are also rising in California due to heavy rainfall. People in Alaska have begun assessing damage from major flooding related to the typhoon.
These disasters are understandably disturbing. They also serve as important reminders to make plans if you find yourself in a potential flood zone, Jaclyn Rothenberg, director of public affairs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), tells SELF. “Flooding can affect anyone, anywhere,” she said.
This is especially true during hurricane season, which typically begins on June 1, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Begins and runs until November 30 (NOAA). The government predicts the U.S. will see “above average” hurricane activity this year, with an estimated three to six “major hurricanes.”
Desert people, don’t stop reading now: It may seem counterintuitive, but people living in dry climates aren’t always immune to flooding, Certified Broadcast Meteorologist and FEMA Certified natural disaster preparedness instructor Cheryl Nelson tells SELF. In dry conditions, “dry land acts like a pavement and doesn’t allow rainwater to penetrate the soil easily,” explains Nelson. “If there’s a lot of rainfall, it can run off and cause flooding.” She added that flash floods, floods that start within six hours of heavy rainfall, are “particularly dangerous.”
While it can be stressful to think about all of this, having a clear plan can help you relax because you’ll be ready to take action when needed. Here’s what you should know about staying as safe as possible before, during, and after a flood.
Before a flood is expected
There are many things you can do ahead of time to keep you and your family safe. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recommends the following steps:
- Sign up for a local warning system. If you’re not sure where to start, check your local health department’s website to see if a system is in place to alert residents of flood warnings and other weather-related risks. Alerts are also provided by FEMA’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) and NOAA Weather Radio.
Invest in flood insurance if you can. This is necessary for some homeowners in high-risk areas — because an inch of flooding in your home can cause tens of thousands of dollars worth of flood damage. DHS recommends enrolling in insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program administered by FEMA.
During a flood watch or alert
There is actually a difference between a flood watch and a flood alert; not every alert means it’s time to evacuate your area.