By Karla Simon, Industrial Hygienist, Army Public Health Center (Provisional)June 15, 2016
Here comes the rain! For most of us, we only suffer from wet feet and damp clothes during rainy season. However, a torrential downpour or a slow-moving storm system can create a very dangerous situation for people in low lying areas. Heavy rain can simply overwhelm drainage systems and overflow nearby rivers, lakes and streams.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency reports that in the past five years, all 50 states have experienced flooding. Floods are among the most common and costly natural disasters in the United States. Each year it causes more deaths than any other weather hazard.
Swift moving water is a powerful force and just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and two feet of moving water can sweep your vehicle away. Even sport utility vehicles and pick-ups cannot withstand its might. NEVER drive through flooded roadways and DO NOT drive around barricades. Roads can easily be washed out by moving water and you cannot determine its depth with a casual glance. If you come across fast moving water crossing a road, make the safe choice: Turn Around, Don't Drown?.
Although drowning is a major hazard during flooding, catastrophic flooding can threaten life in several other ways: falling trees and power lines, electrocution, mudslides, building collapse and drinking water contamination. Being able to respond appropriately during a flood saves lives. If you are affected by a flood, here are things you can do to stay safe:
• Stay tuned to your phone alerts, TV, or radio for weather updates, emergency instructions, or evacuation orders.
• Don't walk through a flooded area. Just six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet.
• If forced to walk in flood waters, remember the ground can be slippery and the murky water is littered with debris that has sharp edges and raw sewage.
• Don't drive through a flooded area. A car can be carried away by just two feet of water.
• If floodwaters rise around your vehicle but the water is not moving, abandon it and move to higher ground. Do not leave the vehicle and enter moving water.
• Keep away from downed power lines and electrical wires.
• Check buildings for structural damage before entering. If you suspect damage to utilities (e.g., water, gas, electric, sewer lines) contact authorities.
• When returning to your home, you can also have unwanted guests, humans and animals may seek shelter in your home.
Preparation is the best defense. Before a flood warning is in effect, make a flood emergency plan. Be aware of flood hazards no matter where you live or work. Here's what you need to do to prepare for rising water:
• Know your flood risk. To help communities understand their risk, FEMA has created flood maps.
• Consider buying flood insurance.
• Assemble or restock your emergency preparedness kit, visit www.ready.gov to get a detail list of items for a supply kit.
• Consider trenching for exterior or interior foundation drains, slope the yard away from the house, direct water from gutter downspouts away from the foundation, install a sump pump in the basement, seal foundation cracks and basement walls with waterproofing compounds to keep out seepage.
• Familiarize yourself with the local government emergency plans. Know where to go, how to get to higher ground and official evacuation routes.
Most importantly, make sure you receive weather related alerts, whether you're at home, in the car or outdoors.