What is a flood?
Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters, except fire. Most communities across the globe experience floods after spring rains, heavy thunderstorms, or winter snow thaws. Floods can be slow, or fast rising but generally develop over a period of days.
Dam failures are potentially the worst flood events. When a dam fails, a gigantic quantity of water is suddenly let loose downstream, destroying anything in its path.
Flood waters can be extremely dangerous. The force of six inches of swiftly moving water can knock people off their feet or 2 feet of moving water can sweep a car.
What is a flash flood?
Flash floods usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain within a brief period. Flash floods occur with little or no warning and can reach full peak in only a few minutes.
Flash flood waters move at very fast speeds and can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings, and obliterate bridges. Walls of water can reach heights of 10 to 20 feet and generally are accompanied by a deadly cargo of debris. The best response to any signs of flash flooding is to move immediately and quickly to higher ground.
Communities particularly at risk are those located in low-lying areas, near water, or downstream from a dam.
Did you know?
- Individuals and business owners of different countries can protect themselves from flood losses by purchasing flood insurance. Information is available through local insurance agents and emergency management offices.
- Between 1980-2008, there has been more than 2,800 incidents of Flood, killing more than 200,000 people worldwide(approx.)
- Flood alone causes loss of approx. USD 13,700,000 every year.
- Deadliest flood recorded in the history of mankind was in China in year 1931, reporting death toll of 2,500,000 – 3,700,000.
- In Australia, floods are the most expensive type of natural disaster with direct costs estimated over the period 1967-2005 averaging at $377 million per year (calculated in 2008 Australian dollars). http://www.chiefscientist.qld.gov.au/publications/understanding-floods/consequences.aspx
- Flood losses in the United States averaged $2.4 billion per year for the last decade. Floods are the number one natural disaster in the United States.http://www.floodsmart.gov/toolkits/spanish/downloads/english/facts-and-figures.pdf
Mitigation pays. It includes any activities that prevent an emergency, reduce the chance of an emergency happening, or lessen the damaging effects of unavoidable emergencies. Investing in mitigation steps now such as constructing barriers such as levees and purchasing flood insurance will help reduce the amount of structural damage to your home and financial loss from building and crop damage should a flood or flash flood occur.
- Find out if you live in a flood-prone area from your local emergency management office or Red Cross chapter.
- Ask whether your property is above or below the flood stage water level and learn about the history of flooding for your region.
- Learn flood warning signs and your community alert signals.
- Request information on preparing for floods and flash floods.
- If you live in a frequently flooded area, stockpile emergency building materials. These include plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber nails, hammer and saw, pry bar, shovels, and sandbags.
- Have check valves installed in building sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing up in sewer drains.
- Contact the local emergency management office for a copy of the community flood evacuation plan. This plan should include information on the safest routes to shelters. Individuals living in flash flood areas should have several alternative routes.
- Have disaster supplies on hand: flashlights and extra batteries, portable battery-operated radio and extra batteries, first aid kit and emergency manual, food and water, non-electric can opener, essential medicines, cash and credit cards, sturdy shoes
- In case family members are separated from one another during floods or flash floods (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.
- Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.
- Make sure that all family members know how to respond after a flood or flash flood. Make it mandatory for all family members to go through a training of disaster management.
During a Flood Watch:
- Listen to a batter-operated radio for the latest storm information.
- Fill bathtubs, sinks, and jugs with clean water in case water becomes contaminated.
- Bring outdoor belongings, such as patio furniture, indoors.
- Move valuable household possessions to the upper floors or to safe ground if time permits.
- If you are instructed to do so by local authorities, turn off all utilities at the main switch and close the main gas valve.
- Be prepared to evacuate.
During a Flood, Indoors:
- Turn on battery-operated radio or television to get the latest emergency information.
- Get your preassembled emergency supplies.
- If told to leave, do so immediately.
During a Flood, Outdoors:
- Climb to high ground and stay there.
- Avoid walking through any floodwaters. If it is moving swiftly (even water 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet).
During a Flood, In A Car:
- If you come to a flooded area, turn around and go another way. If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles.
During an Evacuation:
- If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Evacuation is much simpler and safer before flood waters become too deep for ordinary vehicles to drive through.
- Listen to a batter-operated radio for evacuation instructions.
- Follow recommended evacuation routes, shortcuts may be blocked. Leave early enough to avoid being marooned by flooded roads.
After a Flood:
- Flood dangers do not end when the water begins to recede. Listen to a radio or television and don’t return home until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.
- Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance: infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities.
- Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage.
- Stay out of buildings if flood waters remain around the building.
- When entering buildings, use extreme caution.
- Wear sturdy shoes and use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings.
- Examine walls, floors, doors, and windows to make sure that the building is not in danger of collapsing.
- Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes, that may have come into your home with the flood waters. Use a stick to poke through debris.
- Watch for loose plaster and ceilings that could fall.
- Take pictures of the damage: both to the house and its contents for insurance claims.
- Look for fire hazards.
- Broken or leaking gas lines
- Flooded electrical circuits
- Submerged furnaces or electrical appliances
- Flammable or explosive materials coming from upstream
- Throw away food, including canned goods, that has come in contact with flood waters.
- Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid structural damage.
- Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are health hazards.
How the Public Can Help After a Disaster:
- When disaster strikes, people everywhere want to help those in needs. To ensure that this compassion and generosity are put to good use, the media can highlight the facts.
- Financial aid is an immediate need of disaster victims. Financial contributions should be made through a recognized voluntary organization to help ensure that contributions are put to their intended use.
- Before donating food or clothing, wait for instructions from local officials. Immediately after a disaster, relief workers usually don’t have time or facilities to setup distribution channels, and too often these items go to waste.
- Volunteers should go through a recognized voluntary agency. They know what is needed and are prepared to deal with the need. Local emergency services officials also coordinate volunteer efforts for helping in disasters.
- Organizations and community groups wishing to donate items should first contact local officials, NGOs or government organizations to find out what is needed and where to send it. Be prepared to deliver the items to one place, tell officials when you’ll be there, and provide for transportation, driver, and unloading.
First Aid for Flood
Floods may result in some of the epidemic along with some of the minor as well as major medical emergencies like Fainting, Bleeding, wounds, Fractures, poisoning, impaled objects, snake bite and sometimes heart attack and cardiac arrest.
Here is a quick guide to how to respond to such medical emergencies when you are in the middle of a flood affected area:
- Ensure scene safety. Follow universal precautions.
- In case of inhaled poisoning, immediately move the person from the area to fresh air.
- Calm, comfort and reassure the person.
- Take the container of the poison (medicine or product bottle) with you to hand over it to medical personnel.
- Let the person sit in a comfortable position
- Check level of responsiveness and breathing.
- If at any point becomes unconscious but is breathing, give recovery position.
- If unresponsive and not breathing, start CPR. Make sure to use barrier devices while giving rescue breaths with one way valve not allowing air to return through the valve to ensure your own safety.
- Reassure the person.
- Give the person plenty of clear fluids to sip slowly. Electrolyte rich drinks are ideal if available. For a homemade electrolyte solution – Add salt -1 teaspoon full per liter and sugar 4-5 teaspoonful per liter to water or to diluted orange /lemon juice.
- If person regains appetite and vomiting subsides, try giving only easily digested and non-spicy foods for first 24 hours.
- In case of severe vomiting and diarrhea, activate emergency medical response and seek medical advice. The primary concern is to replenish the water lost from the body through vomiting and diarrhea. If person is not able to retain fluids due to vomiting, take the person to hospital.
- Help the casualty to lie down if bleeding is severe.
- Wear gloves (if you have) or else use improvised items like polythene bags.
- Remove or cut clothing to expose the wound.
- To control bleeding, apply firm pressure to the wound, with the flats of fingers for atleast 10 minutes. If possible, first ask the casualty to apply direct pressure with his hand Otherwise, use your gloved hand.
- Bandage pad in place. Make sure that you can pass one finger through the bandage to ensure it is not too tight to hamper circulation. Otherwise remove and tie it again. If bleeding continues and the pad is soaked, leave initial pad in place and apply a second pad over the first.
- Ensure your own safety. Follow universal precautions. Wear gloves. Be careful as the impaled object eg. Knife, rod etc. can even cause injury to you.
- Call emergency medical response.
- Stabilize the object in place to prevent movement & prevent further injury. The movement of the impaled object causes tissue damage and more bleeding. Tape or rolled gauze can be used to secure the impaled object in place.
Fracture and Dislocation:
- In case of major trauma or injury, call emergency medical response.
- Examine the injured area for swelling and deformities.
- If you are not sure whether a bone is fractured, assume there is a fracture.
- Stop any bleeding. Apply pressure to the wound without causing further trauma.
- Apply ice packs to control swelling and relieve pain. Treat for shock if necessary.
- Check for pulse and sensation below the fracture area.
- Immobilize the fractured part by applying splints. Dress wounds before applying a splint or sling.
- If you suspect a snake bite:
- Ask the person to sit still and activate emergency medical response.
- Reassure, as the victim of a snake bite is very anxious.
- Immobilize to stop the spread of venom. Keep the affected part below heart level. Remove any jewelry from the affected part to prevent it from getting stuck due to swelling.
- Apply a compression bandage across the entire affected limb starting just above the bite site and wrap towards the body.
- Wrap the bandage one finger loose. Remember we need to slow the venom spread but not restrict complete circulation of the affected area.
- Check responsiveness and breathing.
- If person becomes unresponsive but is breathing, put the person in recovery position.
- Recognize Cardiac Arrest – When a person becomes unconscious or you find a person unconscious.
- Check response and breathing. If person is unresponsive and not breathing, he is in cardiac arrest – START CPR.
For more Details on how to perform CPR, give mouth-to-mouth air or use an AED, visit our First and Aid Safety Tips blog.
Apart from performing the basic first aid, it is always recommended to call ambulance of expert medical assistance as soon as possible.