Introduction: What is a Flood?

A flood is a natural disaster that submerges land and causes extensive damage to property and human life. Flooding can occur in any season, but is most common in the spring.

Floods are classified as:

1) River Floods, which occur when a river overflows its banks

2) Flash Floods, which happen when heavy rain falls on an area that has been deforested

3) Coastal Floods, which happen when storm waves break onshore and inundate coastal communities

4) Sea Level Rise Floods, which are caused by the gradual rise of sea levels due to climate change

What Causes a Flood?

Floods happen when the ground becomes saturated with water, and it is unable to absorb any more. This can happen when there is a lot of rain or snow melt, or when rivers and streams overflow their banks.

Flooding can also happen due to a natural disaster such as a hurricane or cyclone. These events can cause storm surge, which raises the level of the ocean and sends waves over land. When this happens, areas near the coast are at risk for flooding.

Heavy rain events can also cause flooding if they occur over an extended period of time without any breaks in between. This is because the ground cannot absorb all the water fast enough, so it builds up and starts flowing downstream where it meets another river that has its own source of water from higher up on land.

If you reside in an area that is prone to flooding, you might be subjected to it more frequently as a result of climate change or any of the above events.

How to Prepare for a Flood

Flooding is a natural disaster that can happen to anyone at any time. It is important to prepare for a flood before it happens. You should create an emergency supplies kit for flooding, and make sure you have enough food and water. 

An excellent collection of documents can be obtained from the Australian Government National Emergency Management Agency, known as the “Australian Disaster Resilience Handbook Collection. It’s a great place to start reading and preparing.

You should also take photos of the home before the flood so that you can prove ownership if it gets affected by the flood. 

It is important to prepare for the arrival of a hurricane by purchasing cleaning equipment and personal protective equipment to help with cleanup and safety. It can also be a good idea to organise a portable generator in order to ensure that power needs are met during the storm. This will help limit any potential damage and inconvenience. 

Flood waters can often contain sewage and other harmful substances such as chemicals and asbestos. Wet materials impacted by the flood can also breed viruses, bacteria, and mould. Floods often result in buildings being unstable and damaged and they can also lead to structural damages. This can be due to the heavy rain from the storm, the fast-moving water, or damage from collapsed structures. Some homes are literally washed away. This may include property that is not built on a floodplain as well as those located near waterways such as rivers, streams, lakes and oceans.

Checklist When Preparing for a Flood

Prepare a ‘Go’ Bag 

  • Personal Identification Documents – drivers license, passport, medicare card
  • Insurance documents and policy number details. 
  • Evidence of ownership – store a backup digital copy of all receipts and documents of home contents that may be claimable.
  • Print photos of the home and also store a backup digital copy of the photos on a USB drive. 
  • Portable solar-rechargeable power bank to charge smartphones and tablets.
  • Prepare any medications
  • Health care items like medications and prescriptions
  • Important valuables and momentos
  • Printout important numbers
  • Foods for pets and carriers for transporations
  • Pack a battery-operated radio, torch, phone chargers etc.
  • Clothing and personal items
  • Equipment to boil water. To kill all major water-borne bacterial pathogens, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 full minute. Boil 3 minutes at elevations above 5280 ft. (1 mile or 1.6 km).
  • Also have a portable water filter that removes bacterial, viral and other contaminants such as the Clearly Filtered Water Filter (http://rwrd.io/9us49fs) or Grayl Portable Water Filter (https://amzn.to/39z8KW5). See more at https://www.balancedbb.net/shop/drinking_water/
  • Purchase spare batteries for various devices you may need.
  • “Know Where to Go” – ie shelters, friends etc. – have an evacuation plan and share with family and friends
  • Create a disaster recovery kit: https://www.ready.gov/kit (for a checklist: https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2021-02/ready_checklist.pdf
  • SES NSW Get Prepared for Flood Fact Sheet: https://www.ses.nsw.gov.au/media/5466/ins10113_get_prepared_factsheet_v13_film_web.pdf
  • Preparation Video: https://youtu.be/EccJNKhLtko

What to Do When Your House Is Flooded

Flooding is a natural disaster that can happen to anyone. It can be the result of heavy rain, a storm surge, or even an overflowing river. Flooding can cause significant damage to homes and businesses and it’s important to know what to do when your house floods.

First, you should take personal protective equipment such as gloves and boots into consideration. You should also avoid going into standing water with your bare feet or touching anything electrical because of the risk of electrocution. You should also make sure you don’t drink any water from the tap because it could be contaminated with sewage or other toxins from flood waters. You should also make sure that you have a plan for pets that are in the home during a flood because they are vulnerable to drowning if they stay in an area where there is too much water on the floor for too long.

Checklist When Returning to your Home

  1. Return home only when local officials say its safe
  2. Look for dangers such as downed power lines, gas leaks. Avoid wading into flood waters.
  3. Contact Utilities Companies (Power, Gas, Water) to make sure everything is off.
  4. Check your water, electricity or gas meter to see if dials are moving or not. If it is moving, then do not enter the property. 
    • do not touch electrical equipment
  5. Check for structural damage of the home.
    • Sagging roof or floors
    • Walls that have shifted, cracked or is leaning. 
    • Gaps and cracks in foundations or exterior walls
    • Missing or broken supporting columns, footings, framing
  6. Contact local emergency officials for your area

Watch Video: https://youtu.be/CkQgTNeEBAo

Taking Precautions When Entering the Home

  1. Ensure all standing water around the home has receded.
  2. Wear personal protective equipment – gloves, eye protection, half or full face respirator, rubber gloves, rubber boots
  3. Make sure area around the house (exterior inspection) is free from hazards such as downed power lines, light poles, gas leaks (See https://youtu.be/DjzhvBMZpV0
  4. Turn off gas valve to your home. 
  5. Turn off water valve to your home. 
  6. Inspect meter box and/or electrical switchboard. If damaged, contact your electrician and do not enter the home. If meter box and switchboard is undamaged, use the wooden pole to switch off all electrical circuits. For more information on electrical safety, go to: https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/safety-and-prevention/hazards/workplace-hazards/dangers-in-your-workplace/storms-and-floods
  7. Wearing full PPE, enter the home cautiously and use a wooden pole to push down on the flooring to check for signs of damage, sagging, structural damage. Ensure all standing water in the home has receded. Check for snakes and other animals. 
  8. Inspect ceilings or walls for any shifts or damage. If there is damage, engage a licensed builder or structural engineer
  9. Inspect for weak spots. 
  10. Open all doors, windows and attic/roof cavity access
  11. Remove water damaged materials such as plasterboard, weatherboard etc. – it is important to dry the building materials out within 24 to 48 hours, otherwise mould and bacteria will start to grow. 
  12. Remove water damaged furniture and determine what personal items needs to be disposed of. 
  13. Unplug appliances and GPO fixtures – check for dirt or mud which can cause shorts. 
  14. Check appliance manufacturer’s guide on appliances that are water damage. 
  15. Take photos of damaged items and itemise
  16. Contact your local insurance company and start the claims process.

Drying Everything Out After a Flood

  1. Remove cabinets and building materials such as gyprock plasterboard. It will also help with drying things out quicker. Review this video on ‘Things to Keep, Clean, or Remove After a Flood https://youtu.be/uZr96sUvzkQ’
  2. Keep indoor humidity between 30 – 60%
  3. Dry with blower fans, heaters and dehumidifiers. Avoid fans if there is visible mould. Use only if safe to do so and there are no electrical hazards. Use a portable generator outdoors if using one. 
  4. Use a moisture meter to measure the moisture of building materials. Materials should be below 15% or less using a pin-probe moisture meter. Without a moisture meter, tape a sheet of clear plastic over the building material for 16 hours and see if moisture collects on the plastic. If there is moisture, keep drying. This can be used on slabs. 
  5. Avoid painting or sealing any areas until the material is dry (ie under 15% using a moisture meter). 
  6. If you see visible mould growth on surfaces, contact a building biologist. If you are cleaning visible mould growth, then ensure you wear full PPE but it is recommended to engage an IICRC Mould Remediator to remove it physically. 

Source: https://youtu.be/axC5AYZsvIw & https://youtu.be/tFpQdjq_2Ig

Resources

Websites and Apps to Monitor During a Flood

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