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How to Survive a Flood [Flash Flood Survival Kit]

You can survive a flood by making a flood survival plan: secure your home, prepare a flood survival kit, buy flood insurance, chart a flood evacuation route.

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Human beings have tamed a great part of nature to ensure their comfort and survival. But there are aspects of nature that have remained elusive to humans and will cause disaster and threaten life every now and then. Floods are one such elusive natural occurrence.

Even though meteorological experts can predict heavy rains and storms, they can’t hold the clouds when it starts pouring.

So, when heavy and continued downpour causes flooding, the expert on how to survive a flood has to be you. So then, are you ready for such an emergency?

You can survive a flood by making a flood-survival plan before it happens. That means securing your home against flooding, preparing a flood survival kit, buying a flood insurance policy, and charting a flood evacuation route among other flood survival decisions.

You’ll also need to make decisions and take actions that enhance your chances of survival during the flood.

That includes moving to higher ground, avoiding running water, and not swimming in flooding waters unless it the last resort.

Lastly, you have to make decisions and perform actions that keep you safe from the aftermath of floods.

These include staying out of your flooded home, disinfecting all that was soaked by floodwaters, and taking plenty of photos to accompany your insurance compensation claim.

Flooded stop sign on a street near a bridge

As can be guessed, surviving a flood means more than just staying alive. Instead, it is a procedure that involves three key phases/steps:

  1. Preparing for survival before the flood happens.
  2. Taking pro-survival decisions and actions during
  3. Taking survival decisions and actions after the flood.

This article is a comprehensive flood survival guide. It discusses the key phases of surviving a flood in minute details.

Before then, though, we give you a quick overview of the danger of floods: the causes and the need to be vigilant.

In a hurry? If you just want to get to our conclusions, here are our top picks and recommendations!

Last update on 2024-04-01 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Danger of Floods and Why You Should be Vigilant

You probably don’t need to be told what a flood is, because most of us have seen, in reality or on media, the sudden or gradual upsurge of water and its overflow onto land that is usually dry. This natural disaster usually results from 4 main causes:

  • Extreme sudden rainfall that quickly builds large volumes of water (flash floods).
  • Heavy or moderate continuous rainfall that gradually builds volumes of water to levels that cannot be absorbed into the soil or efficaciously drained by the existing drainage structures.
  • River and coastal overflows.
  • Dam and levee breaches (openings in the fortification).

Floods are a real threat and a common occurrence in a considerable number of regions all over the globe.

In the US, for example, floods are the most common natural disaster and among the deadliest according to the US Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Also, because of the impact of global warming, it is estimated that the rise in sea level and weather extremes will cause a 45% growth in US floodplains by the beginning of the 22nd century.

When flooding occurs, property and lives are lost. In 2017, for example, the US National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) paid $8.9 million for losses caused by Hurricane Harvey.

In 2019, the US National Weather Service preliminary flood fatality statistics indicated a total of 93 deaths, with driving being responsible for more than half of the deaths.

A flood survival checklist as part of your plan on how to survive a flood

All these facts suggest that you should be vigilant of the danger of floods and prepare for survival way before a flood should occur. Besides, if you should be caught unawares, your survival will depend on whether:

  • You are knowledgeable about basic flood survival skills
  • Have a ready-to-grab flood survival kit or flash flood survival kit
  • Know what to do to eliminate the possible dangers of a flood-aftermath.

To help you be prepared, we give you the key floods and flash flood survival tips that are a “must-know” and which you should practice before, during, and after a flood.


Before a Flood: Plan to Survive

Prepping for survival in times of danger is no longer optional in a world of uncertainties, it’s a necessity.

Especially if you live in a flood-prone region, these flash flood survival tips should help you prepare for eventual flooding emergencies.

Know the Risk of Flooding in Your Area

They say knowledge is power, or should we say knowledge is survival. If you know about the likelihood of flooding in your area, you have greater reasons to prepare for survival should a flood really happen.

You can know how big or small the risk of flooding in your area is by doing one or more of these actions:

  • Check your community’s flood map to know the flood risk of your region. In the US, for example, the FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center will tell you the flood risk for your location by entering your address or location coordinates.
  • Review the history of flood occurrences in the area where you live or want to live in. Also include an assessment of the community flood-response preparation measures that the local government has put in place.
  • When buying a new home, inquire from the seller whether the home is prone to flooding. If the house is in a state where the seller is not obliged to disclose a property’s susceptibility to flooding damage, talk to your prospective neighbors and ask about flooding history in the location.
Illustration showing what to do to survive in case you're caught in a flood: stay informed, get out of your car, go to high ground.

Subscribe to flood and other weather alert services

Subscribing to a weather alert service will allow you to receive timely information about the weather condition in your area through SMS messages or emails. You can do an internet search to know the available weather alerts in your town or state.

Paying attention to radio and TV weather alerts is equally important. All these information sources will issue a flood watch or flood warning when the condition calls for it.

A flood watch alerts you of the possibility of a flood in your area while a flood warning notifies you of already occurring flooding or one that is imminent.

In both cases, it is always safer to act immediately, especially if you are in a flash-prone location.

Shield your home from extreme damage

Even though you will vacate your home to be safe from flooding, you would still want to come back to one that is still on its foundation, even though with reparable damages.

As such, part of surviving a flood is also shielding your home from extreme flood damage way before it happens.

There are several ways you can shield your home from flood and the resulting damages:

  • By sealing basements and any openings on walls, windows, and doors to barricade your home from floodwater.
  • Keeping the gutters and drainage ways clean so that water flows with ease and does not build-up and stagnate.
  • Building floodwalls and levees around your home to keep away flood water.
  • Installing a sump pump to automatically eliminate any accumulated water on the floor of your house. Consider our choice of sump pump from amazon.

Last update on 2024-04-01 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This sump pump will rid your house of accumulated water and keep furniture and other home appliances safe. It has a tough thermoplastic construction with a 10ft cord length for easy moving.

The ¼ inch utility pump will get rid of 1,800 gallons of water per hour, which gives your home a better chance to be saved from flooding.

The pump lifts the water to 25ft high. Also, it has a removable suction screen that blocks up to 1/8 inch debris.

See this 1-minute video on how a sump pump works.

Buy a flood insurance

Typical homeowner insurances do not usually cover your home against flooding. You, therefore, need to insure separately against flooding. This will save you a lot of trouble once you can get back to your home after flooding.

You can choose to work with a National Flood Insurance Program like the one managed by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency and is delivered to the clientele by around 60 insurance companies.

You can also talk to your insurance company to get details on insuring the building or the contents of your home or both from flood damage.

The average annual cost of flood insurance will vary from one country/state to another. In the US, it is estimated at $708 per year.

For a complete guide to prepping your home in case of any disaster, check out our article on bugging in as well as the companion guide on the best survival gear to prep for your home emergency kit.

Plan and practice a flood evacuation route for you and your family

To help the entire family know what to do when a flood occurs, sit and make a family emergency plan. This should have details on:

  • How you will communicate with each other
  • Where you will meet (designated family or public shelter)
  • What you will do

You can be guided by readymade family emergency planning cards/forms like the one by Ready or the one made collaboratively by Ready and FEMA.

Print and give a copy of the filled out card to each member so they will be guided by the details if a flood happens. Include one in each of your flash flood emergency kits as well.

Ensure your emergency plan card is updated every 6 months or when details such as phone number or location address change to avoid any confusion at the time of flooding.

Take time to practice the flood evacuation route and see if the plan safely gets all the family members to the set location and if the communication plan works.

If you are planning to shelter with agencies such as the Red Cross, search their website for details and use your zip code to ascertain possibilities for shelter. Make appropriate plans in advance for pets and persons with mobility issues.

Prepare a flash flood survival kit

An emergency flash flood survival kit is your bug out bag when escaping the wrath of sudden flooding. It should always be ready and up to date.

An emergency survival kit for floods should have:

  • Basic food, water, clothing, and hygiene provisions for at least 72 hours or a three-day supply for each person in the family.
  • Health and safety supplies for each of the members.
  • Emergency and survival supplies for lighting, communication, and other survival needs.
  • Cash and important family documents.
Contents of an emergency disaster survival kit: water, first aid kit, backpack, fire starters, food

Here’s a comprehensive flood survival kit list covering the four categories. 

Basic Food, Water, Clothing, and Hygiene Supplies

  • Bottled water (enough for each person for 3 days)
  • Canned and freeze-dried foods ((enough for each person for 3 days)
  • Soap and hand sanitizers
  • Baby diapers, sanitary pads, and disinfecting wipes (if needed)
  • A 3-day change of clothing that can keep your warm and dry
  • Warm blankets and/or sleeping bags

Health and Safety Supplies (First Aid Kit)

  • Non-prescription medication (analgesics, antibacterial gels)
  • Prescription medication (antibiotics, chronic conditions’ meds)
  • Bandages (plastic, loose, and adhesive)
  • Safety pins
  • Sterile gauze pads and cotton balls
  • Scissors
  • Surgical spirit (for disinfecting cuts)
  • Prepared eyewash
  • Burn ointment/spray
  • Antifungal powder
  • Insect repellent
  • Thermometer

Lighting and Communication Survival Supplies

  • Cell phone, charger, and a backup battery
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio/ weather radio with tone alert
  • Extra batteries
  • Flashlight
  • Whistle
  • Signal flares
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Duct tape
  • Can opener
  • Local maps

Cash and Important Family Documents

  • Cash/traveler's checks
  • Will, homeownership deeds, contracts, and bonds and stocks documents
  • Insurance policy documents and an inventory of valuable household assets
  • Important telephone numbers
  • National identification cards, passports, immunization records, and social security cards
  • Bank account records and credit cards
  • Family records such as birth, marriage, and death certificates

If you don’t want to be caught unawares, you are better of having a flood survival kit always and in every location where a flood may catch you unawares; at home, at work, or in a car.

In addition, ensure that your emergency preparedness kit is packed in a waterproof bag/container.

To save yourself the trouble of preparing an emergency survival kit for floods and ensure the items on your flood survival kit list are all safe from the floodwaters, you can decide to purchase a waterproof flood survival kit for each of these places then add water and food supplies.

Here’s our pick from amazon:

Last update on 2024-04-01 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This emergency kit has all you will need for first aid and survival gear in case you have to evacuate your home due to flooding. Its greatest feature is its water-resistant 600D nylon material.

It also has ample space in 3 compartments that fit all the 250 pieces and leaves space for you to add food, water, and other survival items.

The emergency bag is 8″ x 6.5″ x 5″ and has sturdy straps to allow you to attach it to your belt or wrap it around your body in case you have to walk under the rain and through shallow floodwaters.

Among its precious flood survival contents is an emergency thermal blanket, a set of 6 glow sticks, a flashlight, disposable gloves, bandages and gauze, a survival knife, as well as a multiuse stainless steel can opener among other first aid and survival gear items.

With all these preparatory details in place, you can consider yourself prepared for an eventual flood. But you still need to consider the decisions and skills that you will need to survive during a flood.

During a Flood: Decide and Act to Survive the Flood

If for some reason you are unable to get to safe shelter on higher ground before flooding starts or you are caught unawares by a flash flood, the preparatory measures discussed above will come in handy.

Nonetheless, you’ll need to be proactive to survive the flood, whether you are in a building (at home or work), in a car driving, or walking.

We give you specific tips on decisions and actions you’ll need to take during a flood in each of these situations.

Surviving a flood at home

Presuming that you have taken the necessary preparatory measures like fortifying your home against flooding, insuring your home, or purchasing and installing a sump pump as discussed earlier, follow these tips if you are at home during a flood.

  1. Evacuate!

The first decision you should make to survive a flood if it finds you at home is to evacuate if that is still possible. Do not wait for the water to build up or sit and hope the situation will get better.

If it’s too late, use the communication emergency tools in your emergency kit to call for help and follow radio or phone communication about evacuation missions. Use your signal flares to alert the evacuators of your presence.

  1. Move valuables

If you have not done so before the signs of flooding are imminent, move valuables and supplies from the floor and store them on higher ground or floors/attic. Also, move in any outdoor furniture.

  1. Turn off utilities

Switch off power from the mains before you or your home get wet. If you’re already wet, do not touch electricity sources as you are a good conductor and risk electrocution. Also, block water and gas lines by switching them off from the mains. Sinks and bathroom drainages should be blocked as well.

  1. Unplug appliances

Unplug all appliances and electronics including TVs and computers. As with the main power source, skip this step if your home is already flooded to avoid electrocution.

  1. Stay away from floodwaters

Even though you are in your home or office, floodwater that is coming in is dirty and contaminated and should be avoided. Besides, moving floodwater can easily sweep you away together with building walls.

Stay safe by moving to the highest part of the home/office and avoid moving in floodwaters.

Surviving a flood in a car     

If flooding should find you in driving a car, you should take yours as a more difficult survival situation.

As indicated earlier, poor decisions when driving during floods is responsible for more than half of fatalities during flooding.

To save yourself, follow these tips.

  1. Get out of the car ASAP!

Most people underestimate the power of water and will keep driving even when the water is building up in the hope of getting to safety. However, if flooding finds you in a car, the best thing to do is to abandon it and find your way to safety.

If where you are coming from is not flooded yet, turn around and find safer and higher ground. Avoid driving into moving water at all costs! 6 inches of water is enough to stall your car and 2ft of water depth is enough risk to sweep away your car.

  1. Follow weather alerts on the radio or phone

You are in a better position to get to safety if you know where the flooding is mild. If you need to, leave your car and walk to higher ground. Follow the safety tips explained later on how to get to safety when on foot during a flood.

  1. If your car is submerged, find an escape window

Once your car is submerged, your survival gets even more difficult. Unbuckle and lower your car’s window to exit, then float your body and go with the water flow until you can climb to higher ground and wait for help. If your car’s widow does not lower automatically, break it.

If you can get onto the roof of a submerged car to assess your possibilities, do so, but don’t take that as your safe haven. Your car may soon sink completely into the floodwater, and that complicates your escape and survival.

  1. If your car sinks and is full of water, swim out!

If you’ve not managed to get out of your car and your vehicle is now fully covered with water, take the last resort action by allowing the car to fill up with water. The doors of your car will open.

Once the water pressure in the car and outside is equalized, get out and push the car with your feet to get a strong swimming impetus to dry ground.

If you can’t get to dry ground once outside, point your feet downstream and float with your head above water until you can find some dry ground to swim to. If you find floating bodies like logs, hold on to them, and await rescue.

As a rule of thumb, never go into flood water if you can keep from doing so.

Check out this video from the Weather Channel explaining the dangers of flash flooding.

Surviving a flood on foot

If you are walking to safety during a flood or are caught unawares by a flash flood while walking, follow these flash flood survival tips.

  1. Walk quickly to higher ground

Being on higher ground is your surest bet to surviving a flood. So, once you notice the signs of an impending flood or hear weather alerts on a flood watch or flood warning, walk quickly to higher ground to avoid getting caught in a dire situation.

  1. Stay away from dangerous floodwaters

If you are walking during a flood or an impending one, you most certainly are wet or navigating through floodwaters. As much as possible, follow these tips to the letter to avoid dangers that come with floodwaters:

  • Don’t walk or stand in moving waters. Remember that around 6″ of water is enough to knock you over, with the risk of being swept away.
  • Avoid walking into quiet waters whose depth you can’t tell. Quiet waters are the deepest and you could easily drown.
  • Similarly, don’t walk into standing floodwaters. If you must, test its depth first with an umbrella or long stick. Doing so can also detect any dangerous objects inside the water.
  • Avoid floodwaters into which power lines have fallen. These may be charged and can be deadly.
  1. Always go by the flood survival slogan “turn around, don’t drown!”

If you spot floodwaters ahead of your while walking to safety, turn around immediately and escape them. Listening to weather updates on the radio or phone will help you decide which direction is the safest to take.

  1. Avoid muddy and slick surfaces

As long as the ground is wet, muddy and slippery surfaces can make you topple over. Avoid them much as you can to prevent falling into floodwaters.

  1. Carry children always

Children cannot make a judgment over all the survival tips discussed here. So, if you are walking with children, ensure they are always carried by an adult and kept off the floodwaters.

Whichever place you’ve sought safety in before and during a flood, you’ll definitely want to be home soon once flooding is over and experts advise that you can return home.

Still, there are things you’ll need to do to ensure your after-flood survival.

If you live in a hot and dry area and floods aren't a potential danger to you and your family, check out our guide on how to survive a wildfire along with our companion guide on the best wildfire survival gear.

After the Flood: Decide and Act to Survive the Aftermath of a Flood

You’ve survived flooding till now and weather experts have given you a green light that you can return home. To ensure complete safety, follow these after-flood survival tips.

1. Move only when advised to do so

Once flooding has subsided, there are still dangers that you should look out for. As such, only move when weather experts advise that the flooding is over and it is safe to go back home.

2. Avoid after-flood waters

Standing or moving waters after floods are still dangerous. It is most likely contaminated by sewage, oil, or other toxins and as such a health hazard to be avoided.

3. Watch out for damaged road, bridges, and pathways

Raging floodwaters cause a lot of damage as they move along. As you return home, watch out for broken bridges and loose road and path patches that may easily sink in when you step on them.

Seek advice on the safest routes to your location especially if you are driving, which should be avoided as much as possible.

4. Stay out of a flooded home

Once back home, do not rush to get into your house if it is flooded. Contaminated floodwaters, electro-charged waters, or even snakes and other animals may be in the house courtesy of the floodwaters.

Seek the help of experts to rid your home of dirty floodwater and ensure everything is disinfected. Also, keep utilities turned off until you are completely sure they can be safely switched back on.

5. Take plenty of pictures of your flooded home

To claim compensation through your insurance policy, you’ll need credible evidence that your home was flooded and destruction made on the house and maybe some of its contents.

Take plenty of pictures before draining and cleaning your home for use with your flood compensation claim.

How to Survive a Flood FAQs

We complete your ‘knowledge bag’ on how to survive a flood with 3 FAQs.

How do you know a flood is imminent?

Your national weather service usually collects rainfall data and interprets it using statistical models that predict the likelihood of a flood based on the amount of rain and its behavior once on the ground and in water bodies.

On this prediction, they will issue a ‘flood watch’ or a ‘flood warning’. Nonetheless, you can also lookout for signs of a flash flood by assessing these 3 aspects:

  • How heavy the rain is falling
  • How saturated the soil is
  • How quickly the water is building up

If your answers to these questions are ‘very heavy’, ‘extremely saturated’, and ‘very fast’ then a flood is imminent and you should move quickly to safety.

Should you try to swim to survive a flood?

Bad idea! The raging floodwaters can easily overpower you and wash you away, risking your survival.

Besides, floodwaters are usually contaminated with raw sewage and other toxins and could harbor micro-organisms that cause diseases such as cholera, Hepatitis A, E Coli, Giardia, Cryptosporidium.

As much as possible, stay away from floodwaters!

What does a 100-year flood level mean?

The expression “100-year flood level” does not mean that a high level of flooding reached at one point in time has a chance of happening once in 100 years as many tend to interpret.

For weather experts, instead, it simply means that such a high level of flooding has a 1% probability of happening in any given year.

However strong or mild a flood situation may appear to you, stay safe by taking all these precautions to survive a flood.

Survive a Flood: ACT NOW!

All the facts and survival tips discussed suggest that flooding is a real threat and comes without notice. Besides, the risks and dangers that come with it can be immense, which means you should act now.

Here’s our flood survival checklist that gives you the quick reminders of how to survive a flood:

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Hi, I'm Russ!

I've been prepping for a long time, but 2020 convinced me that I need to take it to the next level.

This website started as a way to keep me going forward on the path to being better prepared.

Now, I’m turning it into a complete blueprint for anyone else looking to do the same!
Russell M. Morgan
Telson Survival

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