Auto and Home Flood Preparedness Guide

Use our auto and home flood preparedness guide to protect yourself from injury or financial loss during a flood. There are different types of flooding, flash flood watches and warnings, and you can prepare yourself for a flood by following the emergency plans below and adding flood insurance to your existing policy. Learn more below about how to prepare your car and house for a flood.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Mar 31, 2021

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Few of us assume that we are going to be the victim of a natural disaster, especially a flood, but unfortunately, it does happen. The best thing you can do is to be prepared ahead of time and have a plan that you will follow, should a flood occur.

It is highly crucial to know if you live in an area that is considered to be a flood zone and to have flood insurance. Knowing about the types of flooding, flash flood watches and warnings, and how to protect yourself, your family, pets, and vehicles is important to survive one of these dangerous and damaging natural disasters.

Types of Flooding Impacting Cars and Homes

There are three main types of floods that can occur.

The first is known as coastal flooding, and as the name suggests, it happens when you live close to the ocean or another large body of water and extreme tidal conditions, made by severe weather, cause the body of water to flood.

The next type of flooding is fluvial flooding, which happens when an excessive amount of rainwater causes a river to exceed its capacity and overflow.

The last kind of flooding is known as pluvial flooding, which is caused by heavy rainfall causing a flood in an area independent of a body of water. All of these types of flooding are equally dangerous, should they occur.

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Identifying Your Risk

Even if the odds of you being a flood victim seem like a million to one, it can still happen even at higher elevations. If you want to know about the flood risk on your property, call your local emergency management office, building department, or floodplain management office and ask for a flood map of all areas in your community. They may also have information about the flood elevation for your neighborhood. This information will help you to determine just how much water may come in.

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Being Prepared for a Flood

One of the most important things you can do when it starts to rain, and your local weatherman is predicting flooding, is to get prepared. This means that if you live in a low elevation area that is expected to flood, you should evacuate before the situation gets dangerous. Take your family and your pets to higher ground where you will be safe.

If you decide to ride things out at your home, you will want to be sure you have things on hand, should you lose power and not be able to get out of your home. Batteries, food, bottled water, and a first aid kit are all vital and essential items to have stored away for a flood. You should also have a flood plan that you have gone over with your family to ensure that everyone will be accounted for and safe.

Flood/Flash Flood Watch VS. Warning

If you have ever paid attention to your television or phone when rain is coming, you have probably seen flood or flash flood watches and warnings displayed. What is the difference? Is there a difference?

A flash flood watch lets you know to be prepared and is issued when there are conditions considered to be favorable for flooding to occur. It does not mean a flood will occur, but it lets you know to be on the lookout. A flash flood warning means that you should take action immediately because a flood is imminent or already occurring. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you need to leave immediately and get your family to higher ground. A flash flood is sudden and can be violent, developing in a few minutes or hours.

Protecting Your Family

When conditions are expected to cause flooding, the first priority is to protect your family. If you live in an area of low elevation, do not wait until things start to look bad. Get your family packed up with everything you may need and get to higher ground where you will be safe. Many times, there are churches or other buildings that offer shelter during a flood evacuation, so if you have nowhere else to go in your area, head there.

Protecting Your Pets

Many people consider their pets to be a part of the family. Whether you have indoor or outdoor pets, try not to leave them to brave the flood alone. Many shelters for flood victims will be more than happy to welcome your pets as well. Remember that your pets depend on you to provide the necessary care for them, especially during a flood. If at all possible, ensure that all pets are accounted for before you leave your home.

Protecting Your Home and Belongings

No matter where you live or how high the elevation may be, you should always carry flood insurance just in case of an emergency. It is affordable and will protect your home and your valuable belongings should flooding occur. After all, you’ve worked hard to build your life, and you should defend it against disaster.

It is vital to carry flood insurance because flooding is not usually covered under a homeowner’s insurance policy or even under renter’s insurance. Even you never need to use your flood insurance, you have the peace of mind, knowing that you covered if you do need it and that your home will be repaired and items will be replaced.

Protecting Your Vehicle

Aside from your home, your vehicle is one of the most expensive purchases you will ever make, and if you are like most people, you love your car. It gets you where you need to go, and you have probably had some good memories with it. Be sure that you carry comprehensive coverage on your insurance policy, whether your car is owned or financed, because it is the only way your insurance company will cover flood damage. It is a little bit more money per month, but for the peace of mind that comes with knowing your car is protected, it’s well worth it.

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What to Do During a Flood

If it starts flooding, you need to be alert. This means to closely monitor your surroundings and pay attention to any local television or radio stations that will be updating you on weather conditions. If you have a cell phone, you may receive alerts and updates there.

If a warning has been issued, you need to immediately take your family and pets to higher ground, as flash floods develop quickly. If you are driving, be careful not to drive on any roads that are flooding.

You should always have your disaster supplies prepared ahead of time. Include clean water in bottles to drink, food that you do not have to cook or refrigerate, some cash, medications you may need, first aid supplies, extra clothing, toiletries, a flashlight, extra batteries, and documents you may need.

Always be prepared and know where you are going to go, should you need to evacuate. Know what roads are likely to flood and what routes may be safe. Have a plan for your pets and how you will keep them safe as well. Make sure your gas tank is filled and discuss these plans regularly with your family. Have a meeting place set if you should get separated and designate someone outside of the area who you will all call if you do get separated.

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What to Do After a Flood

Be sure to call your insurance company and let them know about the flooding so that they can come out and get a claim started for you. This is the first crucial step to getting back to a normal life.

Once it is safe to do so, it is important to check your home and see how bad the damage is. Know that a flooded building may contain health risks. Go in the daylight so that you do not need to use any electricity. Shut any electric off at the main breaker box. If you smell gas or think there is a leak, turn the gas off at the main valve and call your gas company. Throw away any unsafe food that may be laying around. You will need to dry out your home and clean it safely.

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Additional Tips

Here are some extra things to keep in mind during and after a flood:

  • Seek help at a hospital if you are injured.
  • Help your neighbors, especially if they have babies, are elderly, or are disabled.
  • Avoid disaster areas.
  • Report damaged utility lines to the proper authorities or companies.
  • Do not enter any buildings until officials give the okay.
  • Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes that may have entered with flood waters.

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