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Are we at risk for spring flooding?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), floods kill more people in the United States than any other type of severe weather. Some floods develop slowly, while others, such as flash floods, can develop in just a few minutes and without visible signs of rain.  Whatever the cause of a flood, taking steps to prepare will not only help keep your family, tenants and employees safe, but can also help minimize potential property damage and reduce the costs of recovery. Most importantly…it can help save lives!

Although this year’s weather in the U.S. has been relatively odd, with far less snow and rainfall than what is typical, the risk of flooding remains high. In fact, severe winter weather could actually increase your risk of flooding no matter where you live in the United States.

FloodSmart.gov, which is the official website of the national flood insurance program, provides information to property owners designed to help protect assets in weather-related incidents. Take a few minutes to gather the facts so you will be able to prepare for these potentially problematic conditions:

  1. Heavy Rains—several areas of the country are currently at risk for flooding due to heavy rains. Excessive rainfall can happen throughout the year, putting your property at risk.
  2. Rain Following a Fire—after a wildfire, the charred ground where vegetation has burned away cannot easily absorb rainwater. This increases the risk of flooding and mudflow for a number of years. Any property which was directly affected by fires or is located downstream of burn areas are at risk.

To assess your building’s risk for floods, survey the area immediately around the property. Has brush burned? Is your structure located in a valley or in an area where water could pool? If you determine that your property is at risk for flooding, take steps to prepare well before the first raindrop falls.

  1. Ice Jams—these occur when extended cold spells freeze the surface of rivers. When a significant rise in the water level or a thaw breaks the ice into large chunks, these floating masses can jam up man-made or natural obstructions, resulting in severe flooding.
  2. La NinaUSA Today reports that extreme weather can be attributed mostly to a strong La Nina, which is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean and an atmospheric flow that causes drier than normal conditions in the Southwest and wetter than normal in the Northwest. Extreme weather often leads to flooding.
  3. Snow Melt—while heavy rains overtly alert people to the possibility of flooding, melting snow is a subtler, but no less significant threat. Even if you don’t live in Portland or Seattle, you could encounter a flood.
  4. Spring Thaw—a midwinter or early spring thaw could produce large amounts of runoff in a short period of time. Because the ground is hard and frozen, water fails to penetrate and be reabsorbed. The water runs off the surface and flows into lakes, streams and rivers, causing excess water to spill over onto dry land.
  5. West Coast Rainy Season—heavy rains from late October through March mark the rainy season in the western United States, bringing the majority of annual rainfall to the region. Each year during the winter rainy season, residents on the West Coast face the risk of flooding and mudflows that can damage homes and businesses

The National Weather Service puts floods in three categories:

  1. Minor (little or no property damage)
  2. Moderate (some inundation of structures and roads near streams and some evacuations of people to higher ground)
  3. Major (extensive inundation and significant evacuations of people to higher elevations)

Regardless of the cause or severity of a flood, there are several ways you can prepare to handle and recover:

  • Hire a professional to install check-valves in plumbing to prevent flood waters from backing up into the drains of your building.
  • Store enough non-perishable food and potable water for three days.
  • Make sure a First-Aid kit and medications are at the ready.
  • Stay informed. Make sure your “go bag” includes a hand-crank or battery-operated radio. Use it to tune to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.
  • Develop a personal/business evacuation and safety plan. Also, familiarize yourself with your community’s preparedness plan.
  • Keep your automobile fueled. If the flood affects gas station power, you might not be able to get gas for days.
  • If you are driving, when you approach a flooded road, turn around, don’t drown.

These are a just a few ideas to get you thinking. For a comprehensive list of everything you can do to prepare for a flood, check out the free guide produced by NOAA: Floods—the Awesome Power.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit www.RJWestmore.com  for more information.

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