Flood Information and Safety Tips
Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters. Flooding may result from rain, snow, coastal storms, storm surges and overflows of dams and other water systems. Flash flooding can occur suddenly and without warning. Flash floods exhibit a rapid rise of water over low-lying areas.
Flood waters can be extremely dangerous. Just six inches of moving water can knock an adult down. One foot of moving water can sweep away small vehicles; two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, including SUVs and pickup trucks. The majority of flood-related deaths have occurred while in a vehicle, trying to drive through floodwater.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), 57 individuals in the U.S. died in flooding incidents in 2020, including four Ohioans. Out of the 57 fatalities, 37 people were driving. As of February 2021, the NWS reports one flood fatality: a woman in Oregon.
Never walk or drive through flooded roadways. It is hard to determine the depth of the water or the condition of the ground underneath. Play it smart. Play it safe. Turn Around, Don't Drown! If you are trapped by moving flood water, move to the highest point possible, and call 911 if able to do, safely.
NWS 2020 Preliminary U.S. Flood Fatalities Map
Know the Difference between a Watch and a Warning
A Flood/Flash Flood WATCH means a flood or flash flood is possible.
A Flood/Flash Flood WARNING means flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon. Take immediate precautions.
Before a Flood
- Know the types of flood risks in your area. Visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center for additional information.
- Check with your local floodplain administrator to determine if you live in a flood-prone area. Visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resource (ODNR) Floodplain Management Program’s list of Ohio floodplain administrators.
- Homeowners, renters and business owners should consider purchasing flood insurance, which is not included in a standard policy. Flood insurance can be secured through an insurance agent, and coverage takes 30 days to go into effect. Visit www.floodsmart.gov.
- Have a disaster supply kit packed, in case you need to leave immediately. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medications. Don’t forget pet supplies.
- Determine your evacuation route. Practice your emergency plan.
- Protect your property before the storm. Move valuables to higher levels. Clean/clear drains and gutters. Consider installing check valves into sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into sewer drains.
- ODNR Floodplain Mapping.
During a Flood Watch
- Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or to a local television or radio station for current weather/ storm information.
- If flash flooding is a risk in your location, then monitor potential signs, such as heavy rain.
- Continue to monitor EAS messages. Be prepared to evacuate.
During a Flood Warning
- Continue listening to local area radio, NOAA Weather Radio, or TV stations for the latest storm information and weather updates.
- Turn off the power and water mains, if instructed to do so by local authorities.
- Fill sinks, jugs and bottles with clean water, in case tap water becomes contaminated.
- Be prepared to evacuate. Have your emergency supply kits packed and ready to go.
During an Evacuation
- Listen to EAS messages on the radio or television for evacuation instructions.
- If advised by local authorities to evacuate, do so immediately. Lock your home when you leave. If you have time, disconnect utilities and appliances. But if you hear buzzing, crackling or popping sounds, leave the building immediately. Stay out of water that may have electricity in it (downed wires).
- Do not attempt to walk, swim or drive through flood waters. Never drive around road barriers. Water can be deeper than it appears and floodwater currents can be deceptive. Remember, it takes only six inches of moving water to knock a person down, and two feed of rushing water to carry away most vehicles. Turn Around, Don’t Drown!
- Follow recommended evacuation routes. Shortcuts may be blocked.
After a Flood
The hours immediately following a flood can be very chaotic and confusing. When disaster strikes, county emergency management agencies and local government initiate any necessary rescue, evacuation and shelter missions, and provide emergency assistance to meet the public’s immediate needs.
If a county declares a state of emergency, the local EMA will contact the Ohio EMA for assistance in coordinating state resources and response activities. Based on the extent of the incident, the governor may declare a state of emergency for the impacted county or counties. If disaster damages exceed state and local capabilities, the governor may request the president to grant federal disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
- Listen to local authorities for information and instructions on returning to your home. Return only when authorities say it is safe.
- Before entering a flood-damaged building, check the foundation for cracks and inspect the porch roof and overhangs to ensure they are adequately supported. You may have to ask a building inspector to check the home before you can enter.
- Be alert for gas leaks. Do not strike a match or an open flame when entering a building, unless you know the gas has been turned off and the area ventilated.
- Be aware of the risk of electrocution. Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off the electricity to prevent electric shock. Do not use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned and dried.
- Avoid wading in floodwater, which can contain dangerous debris or be contaminated. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
- Before removing debris or broken belongings, document your losses to provide to your insurance company. Take photos and/or video. Make a list of the damages and/or damaged items.
- Call your insurance agent or your company’s claims hotline, immediately.
- Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery outdoors ONLY, and away from windows.
Additional Flood Safety Tips
- Evacuate areas that are subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, etc.
- If camping, choose campsites along waterways with care. Remember, storms that are miles away could bring raging water your way.
- If driving during a severe storm, be aware that the road bed may not be intact underneath flooded roadways. Never drive through flooded roads or low water crossings. Turn around and go another way. Rapidly rising waters may engulf your vehicle and sweep it away.
Flood / Flood Insurance Resources