County emergency services warn community of flooding dangers

PAT FRIDGEN

Franklin County Department of Emergency Services has teamed up with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and National weather Service in an effort to educate the community to the dangers of flooding.  Flooding is the nation's most common natural disaster and can happen in and around Franklin County. Flooding can develop slowly during an extended period of rain, or in a warming trend following a heavy snow. Flash floods can occur quickly, even without any visible signs of rain. It's important to be prepared for flooding, particularly if you are in a low-lying area, near water or downstream from a dam. Even a very small stream or dry creek bed can overflow and create flooding.

Typically, flooding is the result of weather events such as snow, rain, or tropical weather.  However, damage to dams and failures in water control systems may also cause flooding.  This winter has seen especially heavy snow fall.  Each cubic foot of snow can hold several gallons of water.  When snow melt is coupled with spring rains, water drainage systems can be quickly overwhelmed.  New building developments may also alter previous drainage systems.  This is because buildings, parking lots, and other structures cover surface area that was previously able to absorb water, resulting in increase water runoff. 

Before the flood

Prior to any flood, it is important to educate and prepare yourself, your family, and your home.  The purchase of flood insurance will help to ease the financial burden caused by flooding.  You should also create a documents file which includes copies of insurance information, an inventory of your possessions, and copies of all other important documents.  The file should be kept in a safe location in a waterproof container. 

You should also create an emergency supply kit which provides supplies in the event that you are cut off by flooding or are forced to evacuate.  It should include food and water, prescription medication, comfort items, baby formula and diapers, and other essentials to make weathering the flood more comfortable.

A family plan is essential to preparedness.  It should be developed and reviewed regularly.  The family plan includes information on what to do in the event of an emergency, how to contact each other, and where to meet.  It is often easier to contact someone out of the area who can relay information back to the area.  Taking the Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) training course will provide you with the basic skills needed to survive and assist your family and community during flooding and other emergencies.  Also, make sure that your plan provides for your pets, who may be cut off without food or water during the incident.

Finally, look to prepare your house for flooding.  This includes ensuring that your sump pump, and the battery operated back up, is working.  Installing a water alarm in your basement will let you know if water is building up.  Be sure and clean your gutters and that all downspouts are able to drain water away.  If you have fuel tanks on your property, make sure that they are anchored so that they do not float away during flooding.  If you are able to do so, raise electrical components to at least 12 inches above the flood elevation of your home and, if flooding is predicted, raise your appliances and furniture on cement blocks. 

If Flooding Occurs

If flooding occurs, there are a number of safety precautions to take.  First, if directed and it is safe to do so, move to higher ground and stay away from areas that are likely to flood.  Never walk across flowing streams or drive through flooded roadways.  Flowing water, as shallow as two inches deep, can sweep cars off roadways.  If water rises before you have the opportunity to evacuate, move to the highest level in your house.  Listen to your battery operated radio after turning off all electricity and gas valves.  If you come into contact with flood waters, wash your hands with soap and clean water. 

After the flood

If flooding has occurred, contact your insurance agent as soon as possible if you have a damage claim.  Make sure to take pictures to assist with damage reporting and make a comprehensive list of damaged or missing property.  Before entering your home, ensure that it is structurally sound to avoid becoming trapped.  Do not turn the electricity or gas on until they systems have been inspected for safety.  Until told to do so, continue to boil water.  To prevent the buildup of mold, begin moving wet and damaged property outside immediately.  Wet items may be cleaned with a pine-oil cleanser, bleach based disinfectant, or similar products to minimize the growth of molds and fungus.  Make sure that any contents that you are seeking to bring back inside are fully dry.

For more information on flooding, emergencies or the Community Emergency Response Team please contact the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services or your local fire department or emergency management coordinator.