Ten ways to stay safe during a flood

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Anywhere it rains, it can flood. Flash flooding is one of the disasters that can happen in Colorado Springs. It’s important to be prepared so that everyone in your family knows what to do and where to go.

#1 Make sure you get emergency alerts

You can receive Wireless Emergency Alerts on your mobile device. You don't need to sign up for these alerts, but you do need to make sure you turn them on. The National Weather Service uses these alerts to notify people about tornados, flash flooding, extreme wind and other dangerous weather. They don't include severe thunderstorm warnings.

El Paso Teller 911: These local alerts inform you about dangerous situations in your area. This includes man-made disasters, hazardous materials incidents, missing persons, crime, or evacuations. You have to sign up for these alerts. You can choose to receive them by phone call, text, or email.

#2 Know the difference between advisories, watches, and warnings

Being weather aware is an important part of keeping your family safe. Knowing flash flood terms will help you know what to do.

Urban and Small Stream Advisory means that isolated flooding is happening in streams, streets, and low-lying areas like railroad underpasses and storm drains.

Flash Flood Watch means floods are possible. You should be aware because the conditions are right for floods in your area.

A Flood Warning means flooding is happening right now or is about to happen. You should move to someplace high.

#3 Know when to stay where you are and when to move

It's important to know when to stay where you are. We call this "sheltering in place." Trying out outrun flood waters is dangerous. If you are inside move to the second floor or the roof. Always make sure you have a way out. Don't get trapped in an attic or other place where you can't escape. If you are in a building that is in the path of the flood you might need to move someplace outside the main floodway. It's a good idea to plan ahead of time when it's best to stay where you are and when to move to higher ground.

When it's not safe to stay where you are you need to move to higher ground right away. Whatever you do, DO NOT seek shelter in culverts, rainages or under bridges. Plan ahead so you know where to go. Remember, washouts and landslides can happen along your escape route. Always have an alternate path out.

#4 Don’t drive through flooded roads

Flash flooding can happen when you are on the road. Half of people who die in flash floods are in vehicles. If you can't see the lines on the road, do not drive through flood water. Turn around, don't drown! Six inches of water can stall your car. a foot of water can float it, putting you at severe risk.

#5 Know your flood risk

Anywhere it rains, it can flood.  Flood risk is based on the distance to the water's pathway and elevation.   You can learn your risk level by entering you address into this website  http://fema.maps.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html 

#6 Protect your home

Elevate utilities and install sewer backflow valves. This reduces the potential for property damage. You can also install a water alarm in your basement. The alarm will tell you when your basement or home starts to flood.

It's a good idea to take pictures of your property and do an inventory. Take photos of important documents and store them in a waterproof container.

#7 Make sure you have flood insurance

Flood insurance is the best way to protect your family from financial loss due to flooding. Standard insurance policies do not cover flooding. Flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters, and businesses. It takes 30 days for flood insurance to go into effect. Don't wait until it's too late.

#8 Build an emergency kit

Make sure you have all the supplies you need for 72 hours in cause you need to leave quickly or you become trapped at home. Remember the six P’s: papers, pills (medicine), phone, pets, purse (money) and photos. 

It's also a good idea to have supplies in the places you spend a lot of time, like home, work and school.  Make sure you have things like a flood, water, flashlight and radio. For a full list visit https://coloradosprings.gov/buildakit 

#9 Have a family plan

Your family may not be together when flash flooding happens, or you may get separated. Make sure you have a plan so everyone knows what to do, where to go, and who to call.

Make sure you have more than one meeting place in case one or two of them are not accessible. Plan to communicate by text message. Text messages may go through when phone calls won't.

For more information about how to make a plan, visit https://coloradosprings.gov/makeaplan

#10 Be careful when returning home

Avoid standing water. It could be electrically charged or contaminated by oil, gasoline and raw sewage.

Dangerous debris can be left behind after flood waters recede. Roads and sidewalks may be damaged.

Only return home when authorities say it is safe.  Be careful when entering buildings. There could damage you can't see, especially in foundations.

Only drink bottled water until Colorado Springs Utilities says your home's water is safe. 

Fix septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems right away. Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud leftover from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.

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FEMA Flash Flood preparedness video from City of Colorado Springs on Vimeo.