With flooding throughout Michigan, families must know how to protect themselves and their property

Know what steps to take to prepare yourself before, during, and after a flood to protect your home and family.

Though floods are one of the more common hazards in the United States, according to FloodSmart.gov there is great variety in the cause, type, size, and duration of floods. And when floods occur it is important to know how to protect yourself and your family.

Some floods are weather-related, caused by fast-melting snow or heavy rainstorms that typically occur in the spring. At times, rainfall or snowmelt might exceed the capacity of a drainage system or the system itself may be outdated or clogged with debris. Flooding can also result when there is a sudden release of water due to failure of a dam or levee. Such a mechanical failure can cause a flash flood with fast-moving currents that often carry rocks, uprooted trees or limbs and other debris downstream creating additional hazards.

This spring, flooding has been an issue in many parts of the Midwest with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service reporting record water levels in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and southern Michigan. The current situation is largely being attributed to the lingering winter weather and snow cover compounded by rain storms. The Grand Rapids, Mich. area in particular has seen significant flooding of the Grand River, with record-setting water levels causing evacuations downtown as well as outside the city.

Even if you live in an area that is not particularly prone to flooding, you should know what steps to take to prepare yourself before, during, and after a flood. Flood risk is not just based on the history of flooding in your town. Flood hazard maps are available that show future flood risk for a community. These maps were created following a study conducted by FEMA that compiled statistical data on river flows, storm tides, hydrologic/hydraulic analyses, and rainfall/topographic surveys.

If you live in a flood-prone area, you may wish to obtain flood insurance as flood damage is not covered under standard homeowner insurance policies. In some locations you may be required to have flood insurance when buying or building a home.

Flood insurance is available through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This federally funded program makes flood insurance available to homeowners in communities that agree to adopt and enforce floodplain management ordinances to reduce future flood damage. Take time now to learn more about flood insurance. Even if your home is not in an identified flood-prone area, you can obtain flood insurance. Find out if your home is at risk for flooding and talk to your insurance provider to determine your need for coverage.

As in the case of other potential disaster situations, FEMA’s ready.gov website recommends you have an emergency kit and family communications plan in place. If you do choose to build in a flood plain, take extra precautions by elevating and reinforcing your home, sealing basement walls with waterproofing, installing check valves in your drains, and elevating your furnace, water heater and electrical panel.

If a flooding event is imminent, stay tuned to local radio or television for updates and be prepared to move to higher ground if the situation worsens. Flash flooding can occur suddenly and can bring with it a dangerous wall of water that can threaten lives. Emergency personnel may not be able to reach everyone stranded in an area.

If there is time before evacuation take steps to secure your home. Turn off utilities, move essential items to the upper floor and bring in outdoor furniture and other items that might be carried away by flood waters.

Even six inches of moving water can make it difficult for you to stand and walk. Vehicles can also be carried away if the water current is strong enough. Do not drive into flooded areas and if you find flood waters rising around your car, leave it and move to higher ground if safely possible.

Once the flood waters have receded, if you have evacuated, you will naturally want to check on your home. Do not enter a flood-damaged area until emergency officials have declared it safe. At first, residents may need to be escorted back to examine their homes as portions of the area may remain closed off because of debris, downed power lines, weakened roadways, and damaged buildings too dangerous to enter.

The clean-up process may be daunting but resources do exist. Check FEMA’s ready.gov flood web pages for tips about what to do after a flood has occurred. You can download a copy of the book, Repairing Your Flooded Home, also available by writing FEMA or contacting your local chapter of the American Red Cross if you do not have Internet access. Ready.gov also provides a list of publications as well as links to several other websites with additional information about preparing for floods and learning about available resources.

You may find it helpful to contact your local Michigan State University Extension office for guidelines concerning safety of flood-exposed food and recommendations for clean-up of items contaminated by flood water.

You can also visit the MSU Extension website to search for flood-related articles or contact a MSU Extension staff member with expertise in flood recovery.

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