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In the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is always monitoring the conditions of the nation’s rivers. The National Weather Service River Forecast Center, a subsection of the NOAA, are ready to issue forecasts when they see that a river or river system is in danger of overflowing. A flood warning is given if the flood is slow to come, and a flash-flood watch is given if the danger is approaching quickly.
One of the dangerous that come from flooding is the spread of disease. Because flooding disrupts regular waste disposal, business, and access to fresh water supplies, food has to be provided by relief agencies. Survivors are often left without electricity, gas, and oil, meaning no cooked food or hot water. Repair crews are called in to help get equipment working again, a process that sometimes takes months.
Residents in flood areas (low areas along the coast, near rivers and streams, along flood plains, and wetlands) would do well to keep a few basic safety rules in mind:
- Learn CPR and first aid.
- Attend community meetings and discuss what to do in the event of a flood.
- Find out if you live on a flood plain.
- Try not to build on the flood plain.
- If you live in a flood-prone area, contact your insurance agent, get flood insurance, and document your possessions.
- Ask the National Flood Insurance Program if your home qualifies for insurance.
- Store water supplies in bathtubs, plastic bottles, and other containers.
- Store rubber boots and gloves.
- Have sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, and other lumber handy. Sandbags can be used to keep rivers from overflowing and divert flood water. The wood can be used to board up windows, doors, and keep water from flowing into homes.
- Put away toxic substances, including propane tanks, gasoline cans, propane camp stoves, spray paint, and motor oil.
- Keep supplies of extra food, especially food that does not require cooking.
- Keep a potable radio and flashlights with fresh batteries.
- Lay out an emergency evacuation plan, knowing the procedure and what items to take with you. Try designating more than one escape plan. Know the way to higher ground, and whether it will be high enough in the event of a flood.
- Place a map in both your car and an emergency supply kit.
- Keep your car gassed.
- If you have a boat, keep it ready and supplied with first-aid equipment and food.
- Listen for flood warnings and news updates.
- If you hear the words “flood forecast” on the news, know that heavy rains could cause overflowing river.
- If you hear the words “flood warning,” realize that flooding will happen now or very soon.
- If you hear “flash flood warning,” that means certain areas are expecting or experiencing sudden floods.
- Turn off all utilities.
- Be prepared to evacuate. If necessary, flee to higher ground.
- If you are driving, stay away from storm drains and irrigation ditches.
- Never go past a police blockade. Roped-off areas are usually off-limits and dangerous to citizens.
- Keep the radio on for further instructions.
- If your car won’t start and water is rising, leave the vehicle and find higher ground.
- Place sandbags around your house as instructed.
- If you see a flood coming, don’t hesitate to evacuate!
- Check for injuries and help the wounded if necessary.
- If you need additional help, call 911.
- Listen for news updates on what to do.
- Avoid flooded areas.
- Be cautious when handling animals.
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