— By Tiffany Largey —
5 steps to prepare your property for a flooding emergency.
Flooding is the most common natural disaster and leading cause of weather-related deaths. It is becoming a larger threat each year with 25-30% of all flood losses being in low to moderate flood zones. With global warming, different weather patterns, climate change and inaccuracy of flood maps and zones, we must have a set plan in place to prepare for Mother Nature’s most common catastrophe. There are 5 steps that will help you to prepare. The first step begins with determining your flooding risk.
You can ask community officials or local emergency management offices as resources to learn about the history of flooding for your region. It is important to find out if your property is in the floodplain and if it is above or below the flood stage water level. Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are what are used to determine your flooding risk. If these have proved inaccurate in the past, or you feel the flood insurance is higher than expected for your given area, make sure to contact a highly trained company who specializes in flood prevention assessment and flood map modeling.
Flood risk assessments are available to show you historical flooding on your property and information about flooding in a 100-year or 500- year storm. If you are building or own a commercial property, more in-depth assessments are available to show you modeling in a 1-5 hurricane and storm surge for each year, along with a detailed report assessing your flooding risks.
After you have completed your flood risk assessment on your property (s), determined your flooding risk and elevation data, it is important to assess your susceptible areas within your property. A Vulnerability Assessment provides information and recommendations to improve the functionality of critical capacities and flood proofs expensive equipment.
For example, it is important for prevention of flood exposure to elevators, high voltage rooms, control rooms and other areas that store valuable assets. This mitigation plan and Vulnerability Assessment can help reduce the damage and disruption of operations during severe flooding events. The mitigation plan will also account for loss of power, which is extremely important if you are a property management company and are leasing out to tenants or own a commercial property and cannot afford to have loss of business time.
A team of architects and engineers often conduct the Vulnerability Assessments, working closely with facility managers, operators and maintenance staff to provide detailed and concise information. Findings from such an assessment can lay the groundwork for planning and budgeting capital improvements, identifying mitigation opportunities and developing contingency plans that address flooding risks. Flood proofing equipment and creating redundancies requires emergency planning and explicit documentation in a disaster plan based on a comprehensive understanding of floodproofing, proposed protection and design structure. There are so many different types of flood protection devices and it is important to understand which one is right for you and your property.
Step 3 for preparing for a flooding emergency involves formulating an emergency plan and an emergency kit in advance. It is not only important to create this, but it is also imperative to make sure everyone is aware of the plan and how it will be conducted. This brings us to an important part of your emergency plan, which is to include an emergency communication plan with your family and loved ones. In case you are separated from your family or friends, make sure that you have a plan in place for getting back together. Choose a designated contact person, which is best to have someone out of state to reach (FEMA, 2019). Include all necessary supplies in advance, such as flashlights, batteries, canned foods, water, diapers, formula, pet food, etc. Make sure all flood protection had been stored in a proper place and that new gasket or hardware is secure and in good standing each year prior to deploying.
Step 4 involves preparing your property for the flooding emergency, including securing furniture, equipment and any object that could be uplifted during heavy winds. If you have large trees around your house, make sure to keep trees well manicured to prevent falling on or around your structure. This step also includes deploying proposed flooding protection. It is important to reduce the risk of damage to structures from flooding by waterproofing areas in and around your property that are susceptible to water entry. For commercial properties, areas that have a lower parking garage with elevators and vulnerable equipment should be waterproofed and elevator pits sealed.
Depending on the size and type of structure, different flood protection options are available (Refer to step 1 and 2 for assessing your risk using a trained flood professional to help you find the right flood protection for you and your property. As mentioned in step 3, it is important that flood protection is stored properly and that new gasket or hardware is not needed; otherwise you will not receive the full protection from your device without proper seal.
Step 5 occurs after the storm. Leave barriers and flood protection up until water dissipates. Before entering a building, inspect foundations for cracks or other damage. Be careful walking around. After a flood, steps and floors are often slippery with mud and covered with debris, including nails and broken glass. Don’t go in if there is any chance of the building collapsing. Upon entering the building, do not use matches, cigarette lighters or any other open flames, since gas may be trapped inside. Instead, use a flashlight to light your way (FEMA, 2019).
Until local authorities proclaim your water supply to be safe, boil water for drinking and food preparation vigorously for 5 minutes before using. If your home, apartment or business has suffered damage, call the insurance company or agent who handles your flood insurance policy right away to file a claim. Make sure to photograph damage to your property. It is most important to take steps to reduce your risk of future floods. Make sure to follow local building codes and ordinances when rebuilding. Use flood-resistant materials and techniques to protect yourself and your property from future flood damage (FEMA, 2019).
— Tiffany Largey is partner and COO of Flood Risk America/Flood Risk Canada. For more information, visit www.floodriskamerica.com.