Home > Hydrological Information > General Flood Info > Preparedness > What You Can Do To Protect Yourself And Your Family
What You Can Do To Protect Yourself And Your Family

Remember...Simple Steps Can Save Lives

The best way to protect yourself and those you care about from floods and flash floods is through preparedness. Floods may be slow or fast rising, but generally develop over a period of days with enough time for advance warning and preparation. Flash floods, however, usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain in a brief period and may occur with little or no warning. Whether you are dealing with a flood or a flash flood, it is to everyone's advantage to know exactly what steps to take to stay safe.

Before a Flood
  • Create a family disaster plan, including a family disaster supplies kit.
  • Plan an escape route and be aware of which roads near your home flood easily. Plan ahead where the best place to go would be. A shelter? A friend's home?
  • Educate family members about emergency procedures. Make sure everyone, including children, know where electric fuse boxes, water service mains, and natural gas mains are and how to turn them off if necessary.
  • Plan for your pets. Since pets aren't allowed in shelters due to health regulations, make sure you have a plan to keep your pets safe.
  • Ask an out-of-state friend or family member to be your contact should family members get separated during an evacuation. Make sure everyone in your family has contact numbers.
  • Check your sump pump. Keep it clean and test it regularly.
  • Keep an accurate, complete list of the possessions in your home stored off site in case you later need to file insurance claims. An example of a free tool is the Allstate Insurance Digital Locker, a home inventory application that allows you to create and manage a list of your possessions through online cloud storage. 
During a Flood Watch
  • Be prepared to evacuate.
  • Listen to a battery-powered radio for the latest storm and flooding information.
  • Move valuables to higher locations.
  • Move hazardous materials such as paint, oil, pesticides, and cleaning supplies to higher locations.
  • Fill bathtubs, sinks, and jugs with clean water in case water becomes contaminated.
  • Bring outdoor items indoors.
  • If so advised by local authorities, turn off all utilities at the main switch. Close the main gas valve.
During a Flood

If in a car...

  • Do not attempt to drive through a flooded area. Cars may easily be swept away in just two feet of moving water. Turn the car around and find a safer route.
  • If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground. Do not risk your life trying to move a stalled vehicle.

If indoors...

  • Stayed tuned to a battery operated radio or television to get the latest emergency information.
  • Keep your pre-assembled family disaster supplies kit close at hand.
  • Evacuate your home if asked to do so.

If outdoors...

  • Climb to high ground and stay there.
  • Stay clear of flood waters. Do not try to walk through as just 6 inches of moving water can knock you off of your feet.
During an Evacuation
  • If asked to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Make sure that every person in your family has the same contact person (friend or family member) in case you should become separated during the evacuation.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio for evacuation instructions.
  • Follow recommended evacuation routes.
  • Leave early to avoid being trapped by flooded roadways.
After a Flood

Flood Dangers Do Not End When the Water Begins to Recede!

  • Return home only when advised and stay out of building if flood waters remain around the building.

 When entering buildings where flood waters have receded:

  • Wear sturdy shoes and use only battery-powered lanterns or flashlights.
  • Examine walls, floors, doors, and windows to make sure the building is not in danger of collapsing.
  • Take pictures of the damage (both to the house and destroyed personal items) for insurance claims.
  • Watch-out for animals, especially poisonous snakes, who might have entered your house with the flood waters.
  • Look for fire hazards such as broken or leaking gas lines, flooded electrical circuits, or submerged furnaces.
  • Throw away food that has come in contact with flood waters (including canned goods).
  • Pump-out flooded basements gradually (1/3rd the water per day is a general recommendation) to avoid structural damage.
Home Safety Information Links

Food and Water in an Emergency (pdf 589 KB) - A joint Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - American Red Cross brochure.

Flood Information for Your Home - Terrific site created by the North Dakota State University Extension Service (NDSU). Details what to do before and after a flood, including suggestions on how to prevent snow melt water problems.

Plan Ahead: Prepare for Disasters in Order to Protect Your Family and Property FEMA web site.

Helping Your Child Cope With Disaster - Informs parents about what they can do to help children deal with the trauma of flooding (NDSU).

Ready.Gov Publications - Available for downloading, but printed copies also may be ordered.