Because of how fast floodwaters can rise coupled with its strong undercurrent, many panic when in reality, they should stay calm and collected as doing so may just ensure their safety and survival.
Here are a handful of tips to keep in mind the next time you find yourself caught in a flood. Remembering them could make the difference between life and death.
1. Stay up to date
When it looks like a storm is brewing outside, it may be advisable to keep tabs on meteorological news reports.
In times of uncertainty, a little paranoia might end up saving your life, so keep your television, radio and mobile phone on to receive the latest weather updates.
Should emergency instructions be issued, follow them. Plan ahead to escape to higher ground if floodwaters endanger your current position.
If you live within visible range of water sources like rivers and drainage channels, keep a safe distance and get frequent updates on the water levels. They may end up flooding before the news can catch on.
2. Prepare your home
You can also work to prepare your home for floods, particularly by moving important possessions to the highest floor.
Remember to disconnect all electrical appliances and to turn off the main switch. Touching water will not kill you, but touching electrified water will.
With all that said, it might be a good idea to insure your house against flooding, especially if you live in a flood-prone area.
3. Prepare your family
If you live in a flood-prone area, putting together a disaster supplies kit before disaster strikes is a good investment.
Such a kit should include the basic necessities you may need in the event of a flood – food, water, clothes and first aid.
Remember to prepare enough supplies for at least three days. You never know how long it will take before the authorities reach you, after all.
Mobile phones will also be lifesavers during an emergency situation, so bring sealable plastic bags to keep them dry and power banks to keep them functional for as long as possible.
Communication is also key to survival. Make sure everyone in your family knows where to go and what to do.
4. Escape floodwaters fast
Speed is of the essence when it comes to keeping yourself safe. Floodwaters can rise faster than you might think, so act quickly and seek shelter.
If it comes down to it, drop everything and run. Your valuables are not worth your life. Just take what you need and go.
Whenever possible, try to avoid crossing through gushing water as you cannot gauge how deep the water is. If unsure, don’t risk it.
Children and pets ought to be kept out of water as much as possible. If adults struggle to cross, it will be even harder for children to do so.
15cm of water is enough to bring most cars to a halt and 30cm can quite easily toss your car around like a paper boat.
If necessary, abandon your car. The last thing you want is to be trapped in a metal tomb as your vehicle is slowly submerged beneath floodwaters. Keep your car windows open for an escape route.
5. Return home safely
Only return home when the authorities give you the go-ahead. Returning home prematurely might put you and your family at risk.
Given that floodwaters can damage the foundations of buildings, be on the lookout for signs of structural damage.
It is a matter of common sense, but stay away from downed electrical lines and flooded areas. You do not want to survive a flood only to be electrocuted when you return home.
Even if floodwaters have receded, don’t immediately turn the electricity back on. Call an electrician to inspect the damage and conduct necessary repairs first.
Keep an eye out for snakes. The slithering reptiles can easily wash up in your home, and pose a threat until removed.
Remember to photograph the damage done to your house for documentation purposes. This will be especially helpful if you do have flood insurance coverage.
With all that done, it’s time to get your hands dirty and clean your home. Disinfect your home after clearing the mud and remember to keep the windows and doors open for the time being.