Preparing Your Home for Flood Season in Houston
Floods are the most common and destructive types of natural disaster since they can happen even in areas that are not necessarily located near bodies of water. Cities are also vulnerable to flooding during periods of heavy rain, such as in the event of a tropical storm, of which we’ve seen an increase in America over the last decade. Because of this, and plenty of reasons more, if you live in an area that is prone to flooding, you should have a plan at the ready.
Unfortunately, Houston has seen its share of flooding over the years, with the last one caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. In the following list, we’ll tell you what you need to know beforehand in order to prepare your home and family, keeping them safe and ready before, during and in the aftermath of a flood. Let’s begin.
Before the flood
First of all, you’ll want to assemble an emergency preparedness kit at home before you even hear the first flood warning. There are plenty of variations on what the basic emergency preparedness kit entails, and several factors can change yours by a lot, including unique medical or dietary needs that a family member might have.
You can find a government-made supply list and maintenance instructions right here, but the basics are water (one gallon per person per day), non-perishable food (three day supply) a can opener, battery-powered or hand crank radio and NOAA Weather Radio, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit, emergency whistle, dust mask, personal sanitation products including waste bags, wrench or pliers, local maps and cell phone chargers.
Create a household evac plan that includes your pets, alternate escape routes and specific plans for family members with disabilities. Keep updated on your NOAA radio or local TV stations about the latest updates on the flood. Know where your local emergency shelters are, and how to reach them from different roads in case some are blocked or inaccessible.
You can fill your bathtubs and sink with water to flush toilets or wash clothing, but never drink from it or wash minors with it. Bring your outdoor furniture inside, and make sure to turn off utilities if told to do so by authorities, including your gas lines and propane tanks. Finally, move all your valuables to higher levels of your home, wrapping them in a water repellent material. You can try and safeguard the inside of your house with sandbag barricades around entrances and by covering your windows to minimize the water leaking inside.
During the flood
Remember never to walk, swim or drive through floodwater, as it is deceptively strong. Six inches of fast-flowing water can knock a grown person over, and just two feet are enough to float and drag a car. In general, avoid floodwater at all costs, since it can also be contaminated with sewage.
If you’re staying indoors, depending on your emergency kits and stock of resources, as the main power and water sources might fail until well after the flood is over. Listen to local radio, NOAA radio or, if available, the local TV stations for updates. If caught outdoors, don’t linger in areas subject to flooding, such as underpasses, dips, canyons, etc.
In case of being evacuated, and only if you have the time for it, double-check that you unplugged all your appliances, turned off power and water mains, closed off propane tanks, and safely stored your valuables.
After the flood
When the flood passes, the first thing you’ll want to do is let friends and family that you’re safe. If you were evacuated, return only when the proper authorities say that it’s safe to do so. Once back home, keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwater. Make sure to carefully check around and inside your home for potential dangers, and wear protective clothing (rubber gloves and rubber boots) when cleaning up.
Start by throwing out items that absorbed water and cannot be disinfected effectively, such as mattresses, carpets, and stuffed toys. Foodstuffs and medicine that have been in contact with water should be thrown out, and all containers as well. If you have a flooded basement, pump out the water about one-third of the way per day, because doing so immediately can cause structural damage and potential collapse.
Floods are inevitable, but you can be prepared for them if you make a plan and stick to it to the end. The above tips are only the beginning, however, so make sure to communicate constantly with your neighbors, local government and listen to authorities when you hear the first warning. Once you’re back and settled, pick up the family’s morale by cleaning up the place or having it repainted, it’ll help you take your mind off things.