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How to prepare for floods

August 22, 2007

Flood clean-up kits available
Residents whose homes were recently damaged by heavy rain can contact their local American Red Cross chapters for a cleanup kit. The kits include gloves, a bucket, sponges, bottles of liquid cleanser, a broom, squeegee and mop.

Anyone interested can contact the Brushy Creek Chapter at (515) 576-1911 or go to 33 N. 16th St., Fort Dodge; or contact the North Central Iowa Chapter at (641) 424-2454, or go to 525 First St. N.E., Mason City.

More information about flooding preparation and tips can be located on the Red Cross web site at: http://www.redcross.org/services/prepare/0,1082,0_240_,00.html

When a Flash Flood WARNING is issued . . .
• Or if you think it has already started, evacuate immediately. You may have only seconds to escape. Act quickly!
• Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks, and storm drains. Do not drive around barricades . . . they are there for your safety.
• If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.
• For the latest updates on road conditions in Iowa, call 511 or (800) 288-1047, or go to www.511ia.org.

Tips to prepare for flash flooding

AVOID FLOOD AREAS: Avoid flood-prone areas near rivers, streams, field runoff and low-lying streets where water commonly pools. Never attempt to walk or drive through a water-covered road, and beware of rising, swift-moving water. These areas are especially dangerous because:
• As little as 6 inches of moving water can knock you off your feet, and 2 feet of floodwater can float a car. Water moving at 2 mph is capable of sweeping a car off a road or bridge.
• The road may be washed out below the water surface.
• A vehicle may stall or get stuck in the water and then get pushed off the road. Once off the road, vehicles often start to roll, making escape difficult or impossible.
• Many flood-related deaths are the result of an attempt to move a stalled vehicle.
• If you are driving and come upon rapidly rising waters, turn around and find another route. If the route is blocked by barricades, find another route. Barricades are put up by state or local officials to protect travelers from unsafe roads. Driving around them can be dangerous.

BE PREPARED: Make sure you have enough fuel in your vehicle for an emergency evacuation. Learn the safest route from your home or place of business to safe, high ground should you have to evacuate in a hurry. Have a "Go Bag" packed in the event of an evacuation. Contents should include:

• Copies of your important documents in a waterproof and portable container (insurance cards, photo IDs, proof of address, etc.).
• Extra set of car and house keys.
• Credit and ATM cards and cash.
• Bottled water and nonperishable food, such as energy or granola bars.
• Flashlight and battery-operated AM/FM radio with extra batteries.
• Medications and first-aid kit.
• Child care supplies or other special care items.

Tips from Allstate Insurance Agency on flooding

Flooding may be localized or catastrophic. It may be part of a hurricane, brutal thunderstorm, sudden thaw or other widespread disaster. Many floods arrive with advance warning so you can prepare. Weather forecasts will indicate that storms are on the way or that nearby rivers are rising because of a heavy run-off upstream. Depending on how much time you have, there are steps you can take to minimize damage.

Preparation Tips
• Use water-resistant building materials in areas below the base flood elevation.
• Leave rooms unfinished that are below base flood elevation.
• Install back-flow valves or standpipes on sewer lines to prevent back-up.
• Raise, anchor or shield all equipment that is in an area below base flood elevation.
• Install and maintain a sump pump system.
• Use native plants and vegetation in your landscape to combat erosion.
• Become familiar with the emergency flood plan for your area.
• Prepare an emergency supplies kit including: three day water supply, three day supply of non-perishable food with manual can-opener, disposable plates, cups and utensils, first aid kit including prescription medications, battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries, personal hygiene items and any essential items for individual family members.

Safety Tips
• Using a battery-powered radio listen for emergency instructions.
• Turn off the electricity and natural gas at the main valves.
• Relocate papers, valuables and irreplaceable items to upper floors or higher elevations.
• Sanitize bathtubs, sinks and plastic bottles with bleach and fill with clean water.
• Tie down or relocate all outdoor equipment indoors.
• Respond immediately when instructed to evacuate.
• If the water starts to rise inside your home before you can leave, retreat to upper floors and if necessary to the roof - take dry clothing, flashlight and battery-powered radio. DON'T try to swim to safety, wait for help to arrive.
• Don't drive or walk through floodwaters, find an alternate route if you come upon a flooded road. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else during a flood.
• When walking, remember that as little as six inches of moving water can knock you down.
• Watch for downed power lines, since electrocution is a major cause of death during a flood.
• Be aware that snakes, rodents and other wild animals may seek shelter in your house during a flood.

Recovery Tips
• Turn off the electricity and gas if it can be done safely and without walking through water.
• Watch for snakes, nails and dangerous debris. Do not walk through flowing water, and be aware that steps and floors may be slippery.
• Cover holes in the roof, walls, or windows with boards, tarp, or plastic sheeting to prevent additional damage.
• Walk around the outside of a flooded building and check for gas leaks, loose power lines and structural damage before entering. Open the door slowly, sticking indicates that the ceiling may be ready to fall. Stand clear and force the door open, wait for a few minutes to determine if it's safe to enter.
• To release water from the ceiling, use a nail on the end of a stick to poke a small hole at the edge of the sag to release the water. Don't poke at the center of the sag since the ceiling could collapse. Repeat this process working toward the center of the sag until all of the water drains.
• Test for water trapped in walls by removing the baseboard and poking small holes in the wallboard about two inches above the floor. If water drains, cut or drill holes large enough for it to flow freely.
• With the power turned off, unplug appliances and lamps. Remove light bulbs, wet switches and outlet plates.
• Drain the basement slowly, using a pump or by hand bailing. If there is still floodwater outside the building, the pressure from the water inside may be preventing the walls from collapsing. Remove two to three feet of water at a time and mark the new water level. If the water does not rise above the mark by the next day, it should be safe to repeat this process until all the water is drained.
• Take photos for your records.
• Remove as much debris and mud as possible.
• Open (do not force) windows, doors, cabinets and drawers to help with the drying process.
• Do not use gas lanterns or open flames, and do not smoke, since there may be explosive gas in the air.
• Wash and disinfect the entire flooded area including air ducts, outlets, wall switches, light sockets, furniture and other contents.
• Make an inventory list of all damaged contents. Keep in mind that not all contents are destroyed by water but may be able to be cleaned and disinfected.
• Remove floor coverings from flooded areas. Keep samples of any carpet/upholstery for your claim adjuster.
• Do not drink the water until it is declared safe. Boil water for drinking and food preparation vigorously for five minutes.

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