Flood Preparedness

Flooding is a year-round threat in the Houston-Galveston area and the most common natural disaster in the United States. If you know what to do before, during, and after a flood you can increase your chances of survival and better protect yourself, your family, and your property. 

Prepare for Flooding

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), some floods develop slowly, meaning forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen days or weeks before it occurs. Alternatively, flash floods can occur within minutes and sometimes without any sign of rain. Being prepared can save your life.

Follow these tips on how to prepare for a flood and learn more from the provided additional resources:

  • Know Your Risk: Is your home, business or school in a floodplain? Where is water likely to collect on the roadways you most often travel? What is the fastest way to get to higher ground? Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time can save your life
  • Write or review your Family Emergency Plan: Before an emergency happens, sit down with your family or close friends and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go, and what you will do in an emergency. Keep a copy of this plan in your emergency supplies kit or another safe place where you can access it in the event of a disaster. Make a plan at Ready.Gov
  • Prepare your Family and Pets: You may be evacuated, so pack in advance. Don't wait until the last moment to gather the essentials for yourself, your family, and/or your pets
  • Prep an emergency supply kit:   
    • Water: One gallon of water per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation  
    • Food: Have at least a several-day supply of non-perishable food such as canned food and a can opener, dry cereal, and protein-rich foods like nuts and energy bars
    • Baby, special needs gear: If you have a baby or family member with special needs, pack diapers, and any special formula or food
    • Pet supplies: Food and water   
    • Wearables: Rubber boots, rubber gloves
    • Radio: Battery or hand cranked
    • Flashlight: Replace the batteries before the season starts and pack extras
    • First Aid Kit: Also check that you have essential medications
    • Basic toolkit: Pliers, wrench, screwdriver, or otherwise
    • Charged Cell Phone: Keep a spare charger as well  
  • Sign Up for Notifications: The Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service provides RSS feeds for observed forecast and alert river conditions to help keep the public informed about local water conditions
  • Leave: If it is likely your home will flood, don't wait to be ordered to leave; evacuate yourself! Make alternative plans for a place to stay. If you have pets, take them with you or make arrangements to board them at a facility well away from the flooding danger

Preparing Your Home

In the event there is advance warning of a flood, you can take these steps to protect your home from a flood: 

  • Sandbags: If you have access to sandbags or other materials, use them to protect your home from flood waters
  • Plumbing: For drains, toilets, and other sewer connections, install backflow valves, check valves, or plugs to prevent floodwaters from entering 
  • Be prepared to turn off electrical power: When there is standing water, fallen power lines, or before you evacuate you should turn off electrical power. Make sure your electric circuit breakers, or fuses, are clearly marked for each area of your home. If you can, have a licensed electrician raise electric components at least 12″ above your home’s projected flood elevation
  • Turn off gas and water supplies before you evacuate 
  •  Secure structurally unstable building materials 
  • Fire Extinguisher: Buy a fire extinguisher if you don’t already have one. Make sure your family knows where it is and how to use it
  • Review Your Insurance Policies: Review your insurance policies to ensure that you have adequate coverage for your home and personal property. Homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover flooding. It typically takes up to 30 days for a policy to go into effect so the time to buy is well before a disaster
  • Important Documents and Valuables: Keep important documents in a waterproof container and create password-protected digital copies. Move valuables to higher levels
  • De-clutter drains and gutters
  • Consider a sump pump
  • Anchor fuel tanks: An unanchored tank outside can be swept downstream and damage other houses

Prepare your car by airing up tires, checking your battery, filling up your gas tank, and reviewing your emergency supply kit.  If you must drive in a storm, first check that your route is accessible on DriveTexas

Staying Safe During a Flood

During a flood, the NWS cautions that water levels and the rate the water is flowing can quickly change. Remain aware and monitor local radio and television outlets. Avoid flood waters at all costs and evacuate immediately when water starts to rise. Don't wait until it's too late!

  • Stay Informed: Listen to radio and television, EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions regarding flooding. Evacuate immediately if told to do so. Lock your home when you leave. If you have time, disconnect utilities and appliances
  • Vehicle Safety
    • Respect Barricades: Do NOT drive into flooded roadways or around a barricade, they are used to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas 
    • Swifty Moving Water: A vehicle caught in swiftly moving water can be swept away in seconds. 12 inches of water can float a car or small SUV, and 18 inches of water can carry away large vehicles 
    • Stay off bridges over fast-moving water: Fast-moving water can wash bridges away without warning
    • Stay inside your car if it is trapped in rapidly moving water: Get on the roof if water is rising inside the car
  • Get to Higher Ground: If you live in a flood-prone area or are camping in a low-lying area, get to higher ground immediately. Get to the highest level if trapped in a building. Only get on the roof if necessary and once there signal for help. Do not climb into a closed attic to avoid getting trapped by rising floodwater
  • Electrical Safety: 
    • Don't go into a basement, or any room, if water covers the electrical outlets or if cords are submerged
    • If you see sparks or hear buzzing, crackling, snapping, or popping noises--get out
    • Stay out of water that may have electricity in it
  • Avoid Flood Waters: Do not walk, swim or drive through flood waters. Turn Around. Don’t Drown! It only takes 6 inches of moving water to knock you off your feet. Water may be deeper than it appears and can hide hazards such as sharp objects, washed-out road surfaces, electrical wires, chemicals, and more. If you are trapped by moving water, move to the highest possible point. 

After a Flood

When returning to a home that’s been flooded, be aware that your house may be contaminated with mold or sewage, which can cause health risks for your family. Ready.gov and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) make these recommendations for returning after a flood:

  • Pay attention to local officials for information and special instructions before returning home
  • Be careful during clean-up: Wear protective clothing, and use appropriate face coverings or masks if cleaning mold or other debris. Children should not help with disaster cleanup work
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet: If it is safe to do so, turn off electricity at the main breaker or fuse box to prevent electric shock. NEVER turn power on or off yourself or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water
  • If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows, and leave your house immediately
  • Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or stormwater
  • If flood or storm water has entered your home, dry it out as soon as possible to prevent mold: Steps to safely dry out your home can be found on the CDC's website
  • Do not wade in flood water: Flood water can contain dangerous pathogens that cause illnesses. This water also can contain debris, chemicals, waste, and wildlife. Underground or downed power lines can electrically charge the water
  • Save phone calls for emergencies: Phone systems often are down or busy after a disaster. Use text messages or social media to communicate with family and friends
  • Document any property damage with photographs: Contact your insurance company for assistance

Sources and Additional Resources

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
National Weather Service (NWS)
Center for Disease Control (CDC)