Flood Safety Preparedness Week: Be ready - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Flood Safety Preparedness Week: Be ready

As the days become warmer and Georgia transitions from a cold winter into a milder spring, it's important to prepare for a new set of severe weather threats. Warmer weather provides ideal conditions for rain and heavy thunderstorms, which could ultimately lead to extremely dangerous conditions due to flooding. 

During National Flood Safety Preparedness Week, March 16-20, Georgians are encouraged to prepare for the possibility of a flood, practice emergency response procedures and learn more about local threats. 

“Floods are the No. 2 weather-related killer in Georgia,” said Jim Butterworth, director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA/HS). “Many communities across the state experience some kind of flooding after spring rains or intense storms which produce large amounts of rain within a short period. Taking a few minutes to prepare can make you and your family much safer.”

Floods are unpredictable and can be slow or fast rising, but generally develop over a period of days. Flash floods usually result from heavy storms dropping large amounts of rain within a short period. They occur with little or no warning and can reach full peak in just minutes. Neighborhoods located in low-lying areas are particularly vulnerable to flooding. However, those near bodies of water or downstream from a dam also are at risk.

Nearly half of all flood-related deaths occur when people drive into floodwaters and their vehicle is swept away. Few people realize that only 6 inches of water can knock over an adult and a mere 2 feet of fast-moving water can sweep away most vehicles. Though floods can occur without much warning, there are steps that any household can take to prepare ahead of time to minimize property damage, injury or even death. The Ready Georgia campaign offers the following simple, yet crucial, tips to help Georgians prepare, plan and stay informed about floods:

Before Flooding

•    Know your area's flood risk – if unsure, contact your local emergency management agency or planning and zoning department, or visit www.floodsmart.gov .

•    Talk to your insurance provider about your policy as it pertains to flood damage and consider if you need additional coverage. The National Flood Insurance Program is designed to provide reasonable flood insurance in exchange for the careful management of flood-prone areas by local communities. The program, administered by FEMA, is available in hundreds of participating Georgia communities. 

•    Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a flood. 

o    A flood watch means widespread flooding is possible in your area. Be prepared to evacuate. A watch is issued for flooding that is expected to occur six to 12 hours after the heavy rains have ended. 

o    A flood warning means a flood is expected in your area within six to 12 hours. If local authorities advise you to evacuate, do so immediately.

•    Build a disaster supplies kit and prepare a portable Ready kit in case you have to evacuate. 

•    Plan how you will leave and where you will go if you are advised to evacuate. 

•    Create a communications plan and decide on a meeting place outside of your neighborhood in case your family is apart and unable to return home due to flooded roads.

•    Determine an out-of-town contact. It may be easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. 

•    Plan ahead for your pets. Shelters cannot accept pets due to health reasons, so it's important to find a pet-friendly hotel or make arrangements with family or friends in advance.  

•    Prepare your home by: 

o    Protecting important documents. Keep insurance policies and copies of other important documents in a waterproof container in your Ready kit. You should also make electronic copies by taking photos of them with your phone or scanning them.

o    Moving your furniture and valuables to higher floors of your home.

o    Raising your furnace, water heater and electric panel if they are in areas of that may be flooded.

During Flooding

•    If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flood.

•    Closely monitor a local radio station, TV station, NOAA Weather Radio or the Ready Georgia mobile app for flood information.

•    Follow the instructions of local officials. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

•    Do not drive around barricades. They are there for your safety.

•    Never drive through standing water. It only takes 1 foot to float a full-sized automobile and two feet of fast-moving water can sweep it away. 

o    More than half of flood victims are in vehicles swept away by moving water.

•    Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks and storm drains.

•    Stay out of floodwaters if possible. The water may be contaminated or electrically charged. However, if your car stalls in rapidly rising water, get out immediately and seek higher ground.

•    Stay away from downed power lines to avoid the risk of electric shock or electrocution.

After Flooding

•    Do not return to your home until local authorities say it is safe. Even after floodwaters recede, roads and bridges may be weakened and could collapse. Buildings may be unstable, and drinking water may be contaminated. Use common sense and exercise caution.

To help Georgians prepare for severe weather, Ready Georgia offers resources and information residents can use to create an emergency supply kit, develop a communications plan and stay informed about potential threats. An interactive website provides detailed information on Georgia-specific emergency preparedness and allows users to create a personal profile and receive a customized checklist and family communications plan. Employers can use the Ready Your Business guide to create custom contingency plans, and children can visit the ReadyKids page for age-appropriate information, videos and games. For preparedness and severe weather alerts on the go, families can also download Ready Georgia's free mobile app.

For more information on how to prepare for severe weather, visit www.ready.ga.gov or contact your local EMA. 

National Flood Safety Awareness Week is March 16-20, and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens wants to remind Georgians that a flood policy can be a valuable addition to standard homeowners' coverage.

“Purchasing flood insurance is an important consideration for Georgia consumers, even if you think a flood is unlikely in your area,” Hudgens said. “Between 20 and 25 percent of flood claims occur in areas considered medium or low-risk for floods.”

Hudgens said flood coverage is federally backed by the National Flood Insurance Program. Flood insurance is available for up to $250,000 for damage to your home and $500,000 for your business. A standard flood policy will cover the basic structure as well as the furnace, water heater; air conditioner, floor surfaces (carpeting and tile) and debris clean up. 

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the average flood insurance policy costs a little more than $650 a year for coverage. The actual cost to you will depend upon where you live and the amount of coverage you choose. 

You can buy NFIP flood insurance directly from your property and casualty insurance agent or insurance company if your community participates in the NFIP. Your insurance agent or insurance company can confirm whether flood insurance is available to you and what it would cost. You can buy flood insurance for your home or business regardless of whether the property is in or out of a floodplain, as long as the property is located in a participating community. 

It is very important to plan ahead; a flood insurance policy will not go into effect until 30 days after you buy the policy. You can obtain more information about flood insurance at www.floodsmart.gov.

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