In light of the recent storms that have impacted the state of South Carolina, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security, or GEMA/HS, reminds all Georgians that disasters can strike at any time. South Carolina’s terrain is similar to Georgia’s, and areas of our state have the same risk of flooding. As we’ve seen, you don’t have to live near the water to feel the effects of a major storm.
According to a recent statewide survey, only 21 percent of Georgians feel “prepared” for a large-scale emergency.
Preparing your home and family can be done quickly and easily, and Georgians should be aware of resources needed to survive in a disaster for at least three days, or until help can arrive.
“Flooding can be extremely dangerous and costly, but just a few minutes of preparation can make you and your family much safer,” said GEMA/HS Director Jim Butterworth. “It’s important to know the at-risk areas for flooding around your home, to have an emergency kit full of supplies and to fill your gas tank in the event you need to evacuate. These are just a few of the things that will help you be prepared.”
Though floods can occur without much warning, there are steps that any person can take to prepare ahead of time in order to minimize property damage, injury or even death. Ready Georgia offers the information below to help you be prepared for a flood:
• Build a Ready kit that is portable in case you have to evacuate. Plan how you will leave and where you will go if you are advised to evacuate.
• Develop a family communications plan.
• Create an evacuation plan for your family.
• If you have a car, fill the gas tank in case you have to evacuate.
• Know your area’s flood risk. If unsure, call your local emergency management agency or planning and zoning department, or visit www.floodsmart.gov.
• Property insurance does not typically cover flood damage. Talk to your insurance provider about your policy and consider whether you need additional coverage. The National Flood Insurance Program is designed to provide reasonable flood insurance in exchange for the careful management of flood-prone areas by local communities. The program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is available in hundreds of participating Georgia communities.
• Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a flood. A flood watch means conditions are favorable for a specific hazardous weather event to occur. A flood watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding. It does not mean flooding will occur, but it is possible. A flood warning means the hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening. A flood warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.
• Keep insurance policies, documents and other valuables in a safe deposit box and keep copies in a waterproof container in your Ready kit.
• Reduce potential flood damage by raising your furnace, water heater and electric panel if they are in areas of your home that may be flooded.
• Move your furniture and valuables to higher floors of your home.
• Choose a meeting place outside of your neighborhood in case your family is apart and unable to return home because of flooded roads.
• Determine an out-of-town contact. It may be easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. Everyone should have emergency contact information in writing or programmed into their cellphones.
• Plan ahead for your pets. Many shelters cannot accept pets for health reasons, so it’s important to find a pet-friendly hotel or make arrangements with family or friends in advance.
• If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flood.
• Closely monitor a local radio station, TV station, NOAA Weather Radio or the Ready Georgia app for flood information.
• Follow the instructions of local officials. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
• Never drive through standing water. It only takes 1 foot to float a full-sized automobile, and 2 feet can sweep it away. More than half of flood victims are in vehicles swept away by moving water.
• Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks and storm drains.
• Stay out of floodwaters if possible. The water may be contaminated or electrically charged. However, if your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, get out immediately and seek higher ground.
• Stay away from downed power lines to avoid the risk of electric shock or electrocution.
• Do not return to your home until local authorities say it is safe. Even after floodwaters recede, roads and bridges may be weakened and could collapse. Buildings may be unstable, and drinking water may be contaminated. Use common sense and exercise caution.
Adhering to these simple steps can help you and your loved ones survive a disastrous flood. For more information about flooding and general emergency preparedness, visit ready.ga.gov or contact your local emergency management agency.
For preparedness on the go, download Ready Georgia’s free mobile app. For additional updates, follow GEMA/HS on Twitter and like Ready Georgia on Facebook.