Disaster Resources - University of Illinois Extension

Severe Weather Preparedness Series: Flooding

Before a Flood

Know the terms used to describe flood threats:

  • Flood Watch -- Flooding is possible. Stay tuned to NOAA radio or commercial radio or television for additional information.
  • Flash Flood Watch -- Flash flooding is possible. Move to higher ground. A flash flood could occur without any warning. Listen to NOAA radio or commercial television for additional information.
  • Flood Warning -- Flooding is occurring or will occur soon. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Flash Flood Warning -- A flash flood is occurring. Seek higher ground immediately.
  • Urban and Small Steam Advisory -- Flooding of small streams, streets and low-lying areas is occurring.

Refer to the preparedness steps as outlined under THUNDERSTORMS plus the following:

  • Learn flood warning signs and, if used in your area, any community alert signals.
  • Know how to shut off electricity, gas and water at main switches and valves. Know where gas pilots are located and how the heating system works.
  • Have check valves installed in building sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing up in sewer drains. As a last resort, use large corks or stoppers to plug showers, tubs, or basins.
  • Consider measures for flood proofing your home. Call your local building department or emergency services and disaster agency (ESDA) for information.
  • Consider purchasing flood insurance. Flood losses are not covered under homeowners' insurance policies. Flood insurance is available in most communities through the National Flood Insurance Program. There is usually a period before it takes effect, so don't delay. Flood insurance is available whether the building is in or out of the identified flood-prone area.
  • Insure your property and possessions. Make an inventory of your possessions using paper lists, photographs, and/or videotapes of your belongings. Leave a copy with your insurance agency. Update your inventory and review your coverage with your insurance agency periodically.
  • Keep all of your important records and documents in a safe deposit box or another safe place away from the premise.

During a Flood

  • Monitor the radio or television for the latest weather information.
  • Move valuable household possessions to the upper floor or relocate to another location if flooding is imminent and there is time.
  • If instructed to do so by local authorities, turn off utilities at their source.
  • If advised to evacuate, do so quickly.
  • Evacuation is much simpler and safer before flood waters become too deep for ordinary vehicles to drive through.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio for evacuation instructions.
  • Follow recommended evacuation routes -- short cuts may be blocked.
  • Attempt to leave early enough to avoid being isolated 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.
  • When you are allowed to return, remember to help you neighbors who may require special assistance.
  • Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage.
  • When entering buildings, use extreme caution.
  • Look for fire hazards.
  • If your home was damaged, check the utilities.
  • Stay out of buildings that remain in the flood waters.
  • Consider your family's health and safety needs. Wash your hands frequently with soap and clean water if you come in contact with flood waters. Listen for news reports to learn whether the community's water supply is safe to drink.
  • 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 sewer systems pose a health hazard.
  • Avoid coming in contact with flood waters. The water may be contaminated with oil, gasoline or raw sewage.
  • Stay alert for areas where flood waters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a vehicle.
  • Stay away from downed power lines. Report them to the utility company immediately.
  • If unaffected by the flood, stay out of the area until allowed by officials, your presence may hamper emergency operations.
  • Monitor the radio for special information about where to go to get assistance for housing, clothing and food. Programs are also often available to help you cope with the stress of the situation.
  • Take photos or videotape the damage to your home and your belongings.

Scroll to TopScroll to Top