FLOOD AWARENESS WEEK: March 12-16, 2012

The threat of river and coastal flooding is the greatest natural hazard risk that we face across New York State. Last summer, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee endangered the lives and safety of individuals and communities across the State, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, and resulting in two major federal disaster declarations.

The New York State Office of Emergency Management is committed to identifying new and better ways to support and communicate with local governments, not just during emergencies and disasters, but before they strike. But you can do your part too - by using the information below and on NYSOEM's Flood Safety Tips webpage to learn what to do before flooding occurs, how to stay safe during such an event, and where to find help when you need it.

Terms to Know

Flood or Flash Flood Watch: Indicates that flooding or flash flooding will occur within a few hours of heavy rainfall, a dam or levee failure, or water is being released from an ice jam..

Flood or Flash Flood Warning: Inundation of a normally dry area near a stream or other watercourse, or unusually severe ponding of water has been reported or is imminent

Be Prepared!

  • Learn the safest route from your home or business to high, safe ground in case you must leave in a hurry.
  • Develop an emergency plan; identify a place to meet if family members are separated.
    emergency tool kit supplies
  • Make an itemized list of all valuables including furnishings, clothing, and other personal property. Keep the list in a safe place.
  • Plan what to do for your pets.
  • Keep your automobile fueled. If electric power is cut off, gasoline stations may not be able to pump fuel for several days. Have a small disaster supply kit in the trunk of your car.
  • Find out how many feet your property is above and below possible flood levels. When predicted flood levels are broadcast, you can determine if you may be flooded.
  • Have emergency supplies on hand.

Before the Flood

  • Stay informed! Monitor the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Weather Radio or your local radio and TV station broadcasts for information.
  • If local officials advise evacuation, do so promptly.
  • If directed to a specific location, go there.
  • Know where shelters are located.
  • If there is time, move essential items and furniture to the upper floors of the house.
  • Disconnect electrical appliances that cannot be moved - do not touch them if you are wet or standing in water.
  • If you are told to shut off water, gas, or electrical services before leaving your home, then do so.
  • Secure your home: lock all doors and windows.

Travel with Care

Water moving at two miles per hour can sweep cars off a road or bridge!
water over road
  • Leave early to avoid being marooned on flooded roads. Follow recommended routes. Do not sightsee.
  • As you travel, monitor local radio broadcasts for the latest information.
  • Watch for washed-out roads, earthslides, broken water or sewer mains, loose or downed electrical wires, and falling or fallen objects.
  • Watch for areas where rivers or streams may suddenly rise and flood, such as highway dips, bridges, and low areas.
  • Do not attempt to drive over a flooded road. Turn around and go another way.
  • If you are in your car and water begins to rise rapidly around you, abandon the vehicle immediately.

After the Flood

  • Listen to the radio or TV for instructions from local officials.
  • Wait until an area has been declared safe before entering it. Be careful driving, since roads may be damaged and power lines may be down.
  • Before entering a building, check for structural damage. Turn off any outside gas lines at the meter or tank. Let the building air out to remove foul odors or escaping gas. Upon entering the building, use a battery-powered flashlight. Do not use an open flame as a source of light. Gas may be trapped inside.
  • When inspecting the building, wear rubber boots and gloves. Watch for electrical shorts and live wires before making certain the main power switch is off.
  • Do not turn on electrical appliances until an electrician has checked the system and appliances.
  • Throw out any medicine or food that has had contact with floodwaters. Test drinking water for potability. Wells should be pumped out and water tested for drinking.
  • If the public water system is declared "unsafe" by health officials, water for drinking and cooking should be boiled vigorously for 10 minutes.

Additional Links

For additional tips on how to be prepared for floods
NYS Office of Emergency Management: Flood Safety Tips


Kevin E. Wisely