Not too many years ago, homeowners didn’t worry much about weather events like 100-year storms or flash flooding. In the past decade, however, Texas weather seems to be getting more and more extreme. So now is probably a good time to take the future into your own hands and develop a flood plan for your home. You may never need it, but you’ll feel better knowing your whole family is prepared.
Do You Have Insurance?
If you’re familiar with your home insurance policy, you’re probably aware whether it covers flood damage. If you don’t know for sure, today is the day to check, as most home insurance policies don’t cover floods. The National Flood Insurance Program offers this coverage.
The most important step is likely to be the most complicated: Consider relocating your home’s electrical components and utilities at least 12 inches above predicted flood levels for your neighborhood. This would include the HVAC system, hot water heater, appliances, electrical panel, walls sockets, etc. Fuel sources like propane tanks should be both elevated and anchored.
An easier action item is to keep your gutters and downspouts clear and to extend their reach well beyond your foundation. At the same time, determine if any entryways such as the garage door or patio doors are likely to let in water. If any are, gather the materials to build a dam by sandbagging or through newer methods such as self-inflating barriers.
Assemble an emergency preparedness kit with everything your family will need to survive. This kit should cover what you’ll need either in a shelter or in a damaged home and should cover at least three days. This should include a gallon of water for each person per day, nonperishable food (and a manual can opener), first-aid supplies, battery-operated flashlights and portable radio, charging “bricks” for smartphones, any daily medications, etc. Don’t forget to store copies of personal and family documents in a safe location. For more details, the American Red Cross maintains a downloadable flood safety checklist.
Along with your kit, develop a detailed family plan for what to do in the worst-case scenarios. Have everyone sign up for weather emergency alerts to be sent to their phones. The whole family should learn how to turn off the main electric breaker, the gas main and the water valves. Map out a safe route (as well as one or two alternates) for leaving the area and decide where you’ll evacuate to. Plan how you will contact each other and where to gather in case of cell phone service interruption. Then drill your family on the plan so that everyone is fully prepared.
Finally, while it’s not common in Texas homes, if yours has a basement, it needs its own flood protection. Install a water alarm, set up and maintain a sump pump, and add a battery-operated backup pump. Those who live in areas prone to flooding are also advised to consider investing in a completely waterproofed basement.
When a Watch Is Issued
The first step is to understand the weather terminology. A flood watch is issued when the conditions are right for flooding. Plan to take action the moment a watch is issued so you’ll be prepared to leave if a flood warning is issued, which means a flood is eminent. At the watch stage, plug in all phones and other portable devices immediately. Monitor local weather conditions as they develop, including the latest information from state and federal officials. If an evacuation is ordered, quickly follow the instructions.
If you have time before any warning is issued, consider doing the following:
- Secure important family documents.
- Unplug all appliances.
- Shut off and secure any propane tanks.
- Put any entry-point dams in place.
- Secure any outside items that might get swept away such as lawn furniture and trash cans.
- Move selected appliances, furniture, framed photos, etc., to higher floors or at least above the expected flood line.
However, this is only if you have time. The crucial actions when a flood is coming are to:
- Shut off your home’s electricity and gas.
- Gather your family and pets, and your emergency kit.
- Head to higher ground.
Action Items After
Once the danger has passed and the water has receded, it’s time to assess the damage. The Red Cross has a guide to repairing your flooded home that includes a detailed walkthrough of the home restoration process. However, here are a few quick tips:
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
- Don’t use any potentially waterlogged electrical appliances or equipment, and don’t touch any cords, plugs or outlets in any area with standing water.
- Use sump pumps to remove any standing water.
- Take lots of photos and notes to document your home’s condition.
- Have a professional check your gas and electric systems before trying to use them.
- Quickly airing out your home may prevent mold and mildew, so open doors and windows and run fans.
- Work with your insurance company to replace or disinfect any part of your home or furnishings that came in contact with floodwater, especially if sewage was involved.
Surviving the More Common Flood
For more flood preparation and survival resources, visit the federal website www.floodsmart.gov/community.
However, not every flood in the home is the result of an extreme weather event. It’s much more common for homes to suffer water damage resulting from plumbing problems such as burst pipes – and these can be particularly damaging if no one is at home at the time. But what if your home could tell you when there is a catastrophic water event happening?
Horizon Plumbing offers the Flo by Moen leak detection system, which uses a series of sensors to actively monitor water flow, pressure and temperature to protect your home from potential leaks and burst pipes. The system sends alerts to your smartphone and even automatically turns off the water in case of emergency. To get the Flo by Moen system and stop worrying about flood emergencies in your home, get a free estimate from Horizon Plumbing today.