April showers bring May flowers and, occasionally, floodwaters. As the seasons change, your home could be at risk for serious damage from flooding. Learning how to properly prepare for a flood could be the difference between a minor problem and a disaster. Whether it’s basic water damage or something more serious, it’s important to understand what to do if you find yourself in rising waters.

Stay Informed

The National Weather Service issues severe weather forecasts, watches, and warnings to help locals know when and where severe weather will strike. You can get alerts online, over the radio, and even on your phone.

When it comes to floods, it’s important to understand the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning. A flood watch means that conditions in your area are right for flooding. If your area is under a flood watch, you’ll likely have some time to prepare your home and loved ones. If you’re under a flood warning, it means flooding is imminent, and you should immediately retreat to higher ground.

Make sure you’re aware of when and how your local officials recommend you evacuate, if necessary. It only takes 6 inches of water to knock you down when on foot and 24 inches to sweep a car away. Since emergency evacuation routes can suddenly change, keep track of the best and fastest emergency evacuation routes in real time.

Stay Prepared

Once a flood watch is issued, there are steps you can take to minimize potential damage to your home and belongings.

man trying to pack a full car trunkStart by moving everything up and out. If you’re able, elevating appliances and other valuables could save you time, money, and grief after the waters recede. Put appliances like your hot water heater on cinder blocks to save them from ruin (make sure they’re anchored in case the waters are extreme). Also, unplug any appliances, especially if waters are projected to be over a few inches. Bring any outdoor furniture inside, and move valuable pieces to the highest point in your home. You should also be prepared to shut off power or gas valves if instructed to do so. These precautions should protect your home from electrical fires or explosions brought on by the weather.

If you need to evacuate, remember the 5 P’s. In an emergency, it can be hard to decide what stays and what goes. Try to remember the 5 P’s when you’re packing up: people, prescriptions, papers, personal needs, and priceless items. When evacuating, make sure you account for all family members, important documents, medical essentials, and anything that can’t be replaced by insurance. At the very least, make sure to have a small cache of first aid supplies, extra clothes, hygiene products, flashlights, batteries, food, and cash at the ready.

sandbags outside the front door of a flooding houseGive your home an extra line of defense. Last-minute touches may not be as sophisticated as long-term flood prevention techniques, but they can still help. Old-school protections like sandbags and plywood barriers can offer your home protection from some low-level water. If you have the time, you could even look into building your own levee.

If you live in an area prone to flooding, precautions like installing a water alarm, a sump pump with a backup battery, and check valves in the sewer lines in addition to performing some basic waterproofing functions can protect your home from repeated damage during flood season.

Stay in Contact

Make and practice a communication plan with your loved ones in case you are separated or injured. Somebody outside of the flood zone should also know your plans in case of an emergency.

It’s equally important to stay in contact with your insurance agent. Keep your policy, policy number, and your agent’s phone number with you at all times. Make sure to discuss what kind of damage, if any, will be protected by your policy, and work with your company to provide any necessary information for a potential claim.

Flooding can happen just about anywhere and to anyone. With preparation, you can learn how to act quickly and effectively to protect yourself, your family, and your home.