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9 Crucial Tips for How to Prepare Your Home for a Flood

By Jarrod Heil

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Year after year, flooding remains the most common natural disaster in the United States. But most people have no idea how to prepare for a flood.

Flooding isn’t covered by the common home insurance policies, so homeowners, renters and landlords must purchase a separate flood insurance policy to make sure their home and belongings are covered.

Since the climate is changing, many areas within the U.S. are actually within some sort of 100-year floodplain, meaning they are expected to be hit by at least one flood every 100 years. Floods are also among the most costly natural disasters out there, with just 1 inch of floodwater resulting in an average of $30,000 worth of damages to a home.

So before a flood strikes your area, make sure your home is prepared for the worst by implementing these nine crucial tips for how to keep flood water out of your house.

1. Buy Flood Insurance

The first — and best — thing you can possibly do to prepare your home for a flood is to invest in flood insurance. I use the term invest because that’s exactly what flood insurance is: an investment to protect your home if the unexpected occurs.

Many people don’t realize that flooding isn’t covered by home insurance policies in many instances. Flood insurance covers instances like flooded rivers or other bodies of water making way into your home, heavy rains that creep into your home’s structure, or extensive moisture coming through your home.

Flood insurance can be the difference between you having to pay out of pocket for tens of thousands of dollars for repairs or having to pay a small deductible for the damages.

2. Pay Attention to Flood Alerts

Just like alerts during a hurricane or tornado, flood alerts are to be taken extremely seriously. Paying attention to and understanding flood alerts can be the difference between properly protecting your home and your family or falling victim to floodwaters that could’ve been prevented.

Flood alerts are usually done on a city-by-city or county-by-county basis, so make sure you understand your home’s location to large bodies of water and potential areas that could be hit.

Flood vs. a Flash Flood

A flood and flash flood each have watches and warnings. They each have the same flood preparation, but it’s crucial that you know the difference of the definition.

Flash floods usually happen very quickly and don’t last long, usually caused by an extensive amount of rain in a particular area. Flash floods usually last from six hours to a single day.

Floods are usually caused directly by greater factors like large bodies of water overflowing and are more extensive, longer-lasting natural disasters.

Watch

A flood watch means that flooding is possible in your area and that you should be prepared to move to higher ground in a moment’s notice.

Warning

Flood warnings are issued when flooding in your area is inevitable. This means flooding is about to occur, or currently occurring, in your area and that you should seek higher ground immediately.

3. Install a Battery-Powered Sump Pump

Sump pumps are crucial to counteracting flood damage from homes because they work to remove water accumulating in a sump basin, which usually makes its way into the home. Sump pumps are typically powered by electricity. That isn’t good because flooding usually knocks out the power.

By installing a battery-powered sump pump, you’ll ensure your sump pump will continue working to push water away from your home long after the power has gone out.

4. Install Backflow Valves

Floods have catastrophic results on the structures directly affected, but few people think about which underground structures are affected — which are usually the first ones to be hit.

Sewer and storm drains overflow with floodwaters, backing them up and forcing them to try to send the water elsewhere. They usually try to send them to the least pressurized areas, which are home sewage pipes leading to bathtubs, toilets, sinks and even your washing machine.

Installing backflows on every pipe in your home helps to prevent those nasty, sewage-laced floodwaters from making it into your home and damaging your floors and appliances. Installing backflows should be done way before floods hit, so call your plumber as soon as possible!

5. Clean Gutters and Storm Drains

Cleaning your gutters and storm drains is crucial for keeping excessive rainwater properly flowing away from your home. Make sure your gutter spouts at the base of your home are pointed away from your home and not directly sloped toward your property.

If either is clogged, the rainwater could buildup and begin leaking into the structure of your home, causing extensive damage that may not be covered by home insurance or flood insurance.

6. Buy and Place Sandbags

Properly placed sandbags are one of the best tips for how to flood proof your home because they help keep floodwaters away by absorbing and stopping the water dead in its tracks. But improperly placed sandbags may reduce the flow of water but won’t prevent the floodwaters from breaking through to your home.

Before buying sandbags, which should be done far in advance of flood season, learn how to properly place them around your home, using plastic liners to fill in the gaps for how to keep floodwater out of your house.

7. Disconnect Your Home’s Major Appliances

When a watch has turned into a warning, that means flooding is almost inevitable, and it’s when you should begin disconnecting your home’s major appliances from the wall. This cuts off electricity to them, so they aren’t overloaded or surged when floodwaters cut out the nearby power.

Make sure you disconnect, or turn off, your home’s major gas valve as well. Any electrical breaker boxes should be turned off to prevent further damage, which may include a potential spark and house fire.

8. Elevate Critical Items in Your Home

Elevating critical items in your home (such as a hot water heater, washer/dryer combo, TV, electronics and any other important or expensive items) can make a huge difference in the cost of flood claim you submit.

Just 1 inch of floodwaters can cause up to $30,000 in damage, and you can tack on a couple more thousand dollars if you don’t elevate critical items.

9. Evacuate Your Home

When a floor watch is issued for your area, and the flood is expected to be bad, it may time to evacuate your home and head for an area where flooding isn’t expected. Map out a plan with your family, determining where you’ll go and what to bring, including items like prescriptions, important documents, vital personal items and priceless artifacts.

If a flood causes extensive damage to your area, you could be stuck in your home without electricity while floodwaters are rising. Remember, you can replace your home and your belongings, but you can’t replace you or your family’s lives.

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