Skip to main content

Neighbors of Kane County

Flood Safety Guide

Aug 27, 2019 03:27PM ● By Hannah Ott

Illinois - Flood safety is something that everyone should prepare for since flooding, whether that be a massive flash flood affecting an entire city or a small one just affecting your basement, can happen to anyone. Below is a comprehensive flooding safety guide to help you navigate every stage of a flood as well as other important flood safety tips.

What To Do Before a Flood Occurs

This is probably the most important stage in the flood safety process. Putting in the time to prepare before a flood arrives at your doorstep can have a huge impact on your family’s safety

Safety Precautions for Floods To Do Before Flooding Occurs

Have a flood safety plan in place with your family.  Prepare an emergency kit that is easy to quickly grab. Know your flood evacuation routes. Elevate your electronics, water heater, and furnace. Take steps to waterproof your basement. Do not build your house on a floodplain. Buy flood insurance if you live in an area vulnerable to flooding. Make sure your more important and expensive items are on higher floors.

What To Do When a Flood is Coming

Food Safety Tips for When a Flood is Heading Towards Your Home:
  • Pack a bag and evacuate to higher ground.
  • Move any valuables to higher floors (if you have time).
  • Disconnect any electrical appliances and utilities.
  • You may want to disable gas and electricity in your home altogether. This will-help prevent fires and electric shock.

What to do During a Flood
In this stage, danger is upon you so it is important to act quickly and act smart. Here are safety measures during floods:
  • Avoid entering flooded water. It only takes six inches of moving water to trip you up and take you down. The water can also be contaminated with many hazardous things like gasoline or sewage.
  • Get far away from anywhere an electrical current may be present.
  • If you are already in water, get out as fast as you can.
  • Drive away from flooded areas. All it takes is two feet of water to lift and move your car. Abandon your car if necessary.
  • Avoid rushing water and head toward still spots.
  • Grab a long object to check the ground in front of you to make sure it is sturdy before you take a step.

What To Do After a Flood

Picking up the pieces after a bad flood can be a slow process. Floods are powerful entities and the damage they cause can be far reaching. Here are safety measures to consider after a flood:

  • Wait for the all clear from officials before returning home.
  • Check your house for damage such as downed power lines or cracks in the foundation.
  • The water supply could potentially be contaminated so wait until you know it is safe before using it. Walk around and see if you smell natural or propane gas. 
  • If you do, get everyone out right away and call your local fire department.
  • Take pictures of any water damage in your home for your insurance company.
  • Wear protective clothing during the cleanup process. 
  • The water could have contaminated many areas of your home. 
  • Throw away any food that was inundated with flood water. This includes canned goods.
  • Be wary of any areas outside of your home that experienced flooding as the water could have damaged some roadways.
  • Avoid any areas that still have flooding. There could be hazardous debris floating around in there or a power line could have been taken out and sending an electric charge throughout the water.
  • The longer a wood-framed home remains covered by stagnant flood water, the less likely it is to survive. Homes need to be dried out as quickly as possible after a flood.

What to Pack in An Emergency Flood Kit

The Essentials
  • Flashlight 
  • Toiletries and sanitary items 
  • Batteries
  • First aid supplies
  • Battery powered radio for any emergency updates
  • Blankets and pillows 

Entertainment for Babies and Adults

Puzzles, word games, sudoku, books, toys, etc.

Special Items for Elderly if Needed

Medications, cane and/or hearing aid

Special Items for Babies if Needed

Diapers, wipes, bottles, food, formula. etc.


Access to banks and ATMs may be limited or non-existent while the flood gets cleaned up. 


A significant stockpile of water is needed for each person in your family to last for several days. You need one gallon per person for each day.


Store several days worth of food that is easy to prepare.

Flood Watch vs. Flood Warning 

Flood Watch

Flood Watch means that conditions are present that could lead to flood so stay aware. If there is a flood watch in your area, turn on the TV to the local news to stay on top of the situation and start preparing your home for flooding just in case the situation escalates.

Flood Warning

Flood Warning means flood is imminent or happening. If this is the classification in your area, you need to get to higher ground immediately. That may mean evacuating your home if you live in a bad area for flooding like near a river or lake.

Cost of Flooding Damage

Flooding damage can be extremely costly as floods can have a far reaching effect and ruin many items and systems in your home all at once. It could be water in your basement or parts of your home could be demolished. For a 1,000 square foot home, a 6 inch flood can cost up to $20,000. The price tag can double if the flooding starts to reach several feet. The larger the home and the higher the flooding, prices will exponentially go up.

Potential Damage that Flooding Can Do Around Your Home

  • Electrical repairs
  • Plumbing repairs
  • Base trim repair or replacement
  • Fixing doors and windows
  • Replacing finished wood floors
  • Replacing carpets
  • Replacing drywall
  • Wall insulation replacement
  • Fixing or replacing any low cabinets
  • Fixing or replacing broken appliances
  • Cleaning Fees
  • HVAC repairs
  • Repair or replacement of furniture located in the kitchen, dining room, bedroom, living room, and/or basement.
  • Loss of food in pantry and refrigerator
  • Damage to electronics: TV, Computer, Stereo, DVD player, DVR
  • Washing machine and dryer repair
  • Personal items like clothing and photo albums
  • Car repairs 
  • Mold removal fees

10 U.S. States With the Highest Flooding Risk

Over the next century, it has been predicted that sea level could rise 1 meter or more. In a research report released by the team at Climate Central, it noted which ten US states will be the most vulnerable to flooding due to these environmental changes. The report also estimated that more than 22.9 million people live within 6 meters of high risk tide levels.

The following states report having the highest flood threat levels:
  • Florida
  • Louisiana
  • California
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Virginia
  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Massachusetts
  • Georgia 

This map by Basement Guides shows the percentage of change that areas around the United States will experience in terms of flood risk due to global warming. It shows that some areas that are already vulnerable to flooding will maintain their level of vulnerability, while others that previously did not have significant worries in the past will see a huge jump in risk.

eImage source: Basement Guides


Types of Flooding 

There are many types of flooding that can occur. Certain areas are more vulnerable to different types based on the surrounding topography.

Determine Which Type of Flood You Are Most At Risk For

Overbank-Flooding: This type of flooding occurs near a river. The water in the river will become too high and eventually overflow into the land around it. This type of flooding is a slow process and allows nearby residents some time to prepare and evacuate. It can take many days to return to normal if the land around it is flat. Steeper terrain helps any water clear out faster.

Flash Flooding: Flash floods grow and spread much quicker than overbank floods. If one is ever heading in your direction, you will need to act fast. These types of floods consist of fast-moving water that can be extremely dangerous. The water is strong enough to move heavy structures at a fast speed, creating even more damage and danger.

Ice Jam Flooding: In cold climates, water can freeze and create large blocks of ice in rivers and streams. These blocks of ice can collide and form a dam in the water, causing significant backup and flooding. It gets worse when those blocks of ice do eventually break. Fast-moving water can rush out mimicking characteristics of a flash flood.

Coastal Flooding: This type of flooding occurs along the ocean coasts and is typically caused by other natural disasters like a hurricane or a tsunami. These strong storms bring huge water masses and powerful winds that move the water great distances at a rapid speed.

Dam Breaks: Flooding can also occur due to human error. Poorly engineered dams that break can create a flash flood and anything in its path is in serious trouble.

How Dangerous Flood Waters Really Can Be

Here are some quick facts about why it is so important to avoid even the smallest amount of flood water…

  • Flood water that moves at 10 mph applies the same amount of pressure as winds that are blowing at 270 mph.
  • Flood-Water-Contamined Flood water can contaminate drinking water and spread disease.
  • 2 feet of water can lift your car and move it completely out of your control.
  • 6 inches of flood water can knock you off of your feet.
  • 6 inches of flood water can also do tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage in your home.
  • Flood water that is moving at a speed of 9 feet per second can move rocks and debris weighing up to one hundred pounds. This is a common speed for flash flood waters.

What to Do

If Your Car is Caught in a Flood

First and foremost, never attempt to cross flooded roads or streams. If you do end up in the very unfortunate and dangerous situation of being in your car when flood waters rise around you, here are some car safety tips during a flood:

  • Stay calm.
  • Turn on your hazard lights and headlights.
  • Remove any extra clothing layers like jackets, because these could just get caught on things and weigh you down.
  • You will need to exit the vehicle as soon as possible. If you cannot do this by opening the car door because of the pressure from the surrounding water, then roll down the window and exit that way.
  • If your window will not roll down due to electrical problems, you will need to break the window. There are window breaking tools that you can buy and keep in your glove compartment for this very issue (look for tools that also include a seatbelt cutter). Be careful and protect yourself as glass could fly at you if you are forced to go this route.
  • If your doors will not open and you cannot roll down or break any windows, your next option is to crack open a car door as far as you can to let water in. Once the water has filled the car high enough to reach equal pressure on the inside and outside of the car, you will be able to open the car door.
  • Letting water rise inside of your car sounds like the opposite of what you should be doing, but it is the only way to open the doors if they are submerged and could actually save your life.
  • When you are out of the vehicle, swim feet first to higher ground. It is better to head into objects with your feet so that you can push off of them rather than hitting them with your body or head where more serious damage can be done.
  • When floating outside of your vehicle, be sure to go over any debris and never under.
  • If no higher ground is in sight, look for trees or buildings to position yourself on and wait for rescue workers.
  • DO NOT attempt to retrieve your car yourself. Allow emergency officials to retrieve your car when it is safe.
Floods can come about very quickly and powerfully, leaving a lot of damage and destruction in their wake. Take the necessary steps listed in our flood safety guide to prepare for this type of disaster so your family and your home have the best chance of survival.

Basement Guides - Sources:

Source: Lisa Gonzalez