This information was provided by Tim Yaeger, emergency services coordinator for Genesee County.
Flood Awareness Week is next week, March 15-19.
Spring’s arrival in New York State is always a welcome sight to those who have braved months of harsh winter conditions and its chilling winds, blowing snows and frosty ice. However, it is important to remember that this is also the time of year when flooding can occur quickly and without much warning.
Spring rains and winter snow and ice thaws can cause flooding and affect homes, property and, most importantly, your safety. New York's Safety and Emergency Management Office joins the National Weather Service offices serving New York State in observance of Flood Awareness Week.
Use the tips below and on SEMO’s website to learn what to do before flooding occurs, how to stay safe during such an event, and where to find help when you need it.
Terms to Know
Flood or Flash Flood Watch: Indicates that flooding or flash flooding will occur within a few hours of heavy rainfall, a dam or levee failure, or that water is being released from an ice jam.
Flood or Flash Flood Warning: Inundation of a normally dry area near a stream or other watercourse, or unusually severe ponding of water has been reported or is imminent. Be prepared! Learn the safest route from your home or business to high, safe ground should you have to leave in a hurry.
Develop an emergency plan and identify a meeting place if family members become separated. Know what to do and when to do it.
- Make an itemized list of all valuables including furnishings, clothing, and other personal property. Keep the list in a safe place.
- Plan what to do with your pets.
- Keep your automobile fueled. If electric power is cut off, gasoline stations may not be able to pump fuel for several days. Have a small kit of disaster supplies in the trunk of your car.
- Find out how many feet your property is above and below possible flood levels. When predicted flood levels are broadcast, you can determine if you may be flooded.
- Have emergency supplies on hand.
Before the flood
- Stay informed! Monitor the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Weather Radio or your local radio and TV station broadcasts of information. Subscribe to NY-ALERT <www.nyalert.gov> to receive the latest information for your location.
- If local officials advise evacuation, do so promptly.
- If directed to a specific location, go there.
- Know where the shelters are located.
- If there is time, move essential items and furniture to the upper floors of the house. Disconnect electrical appliances that cannot be moved. Do not touch them if you are wet or standing in water.
- If you are told to shut off water, gas, or electrical services before leaving your home, then do so.
- Secure your home: lock all doors and windows.
Travel with care
- Leave early to avoid being marooned on flooded roads. Follow recommended routes. Do not go sightseeing.
- As you travel, monitor local radio broadcasts for the latest information.
- Watch for washed-out roads, earthslides, broken water or sewer mains, loose or downed electrical wires, and falling or fallen objects.
- Watch for areas where rivers or streams may suddenly rise and flood, such as highway dips, bridges and low areas.
- Do not attempt to drive over a flooded road. Turn around and go another way.
- If you are in your car and water begins to rise rapidly around you, abandon the vehicle immediately.
The hidden danger -- crossing low water
- Nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are vehicle related! When driving your automobile during flood conditions, look out for flooding at highway dips, bridges and low areas.
- Even the largest and heaviest of vehicles will float.
- Water moving at two mph can sweep cars off a road or bridge.
- As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Do not drive through flowing water!
- A hidden danger awaits motorists where a road without a bridge dips across a creek bed.
- Motorists develop false confidence when they normally or frequently pass through a dry low-water crossing.
- Road beds may have been scoured or even washed away during flooding creating unsafe driving conditions.
- Those who repeatedly drive through flooded low-water crossings may not recognize the dangers of a small increase in the water level.
- Driving too fast through low water will cause the vehicle to hydroplane and lose contact with the road surface.
- Visibility is limited at night increasing the vulnerability of the driver to any hidden dangers.
- Heed all flood and flash flood watches and warnings.
- Remain aware of road conditions!
After the flood
- Stay informed! Listen to the radio or TV or bulletins from NY-ALERT for instructions from local officials. And heed them.
- Wait until an area has been declared safe before entering it. Be careful driving, since roads may be damaged and power lines may be down.
- Before entering a building, check for structural damage. Turn off any outside gas lines at the meter or tank. Let the building air out to remove foul odors or escaping gas.
- Upon entering the building, use a battery-powered flashlight. Do not use an open flame as a source of light. Gas may be trapped inside.
- When inspecting the building, wear rubber boots and gloves. Watch for electrical shorts and live wires before making certain the main power switch is off.
- Do not turn on electrical appliances until an electrician has checked the system and appliances.
- Throw out any medicine or food that has had contact with floodwaters. Test drinking water for potability. Wells should be pumped out and water tested for drinking.
- If the public water system is declared “unsafe” by health officials, water for drinking and cooking should be boiled vigorously for 10 minutes.
Emergency supplies to stock
Food and Water
Bottled water – one gallon per person per day
Ready-to-eat canned foods – vegetables, fruits, beans, meat, fish, poultry, pasta, soup, juice
Milk – powdered, canned or shelf-stable brick pack
High-energy foods – peanut butter, jelly, nuts, dried meat (for example, jerky), granola, trail mix
Staples – sugar, salt, pepper, instant coffee, tea bags, cocoa
Instant and small children’s needs – baby food, formula, disposable diapers
Specialty food – for elderly or people on special diets
Health & Hygiene
Prescription medication – at least one week’s supply
Pre-moistened hand wipes – towelettes or baby wipes
Disinfectant no-rinse hand soap
A list of family physicians, important medical information and the style and serial number of medical devices such as pacemakers
A change of clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes for each family member
Sleeping bags, bedding or blankets for each family member
An extra pair of glasses or contact lenses and solution (be sure to check the expiration dates)
Identification, credit cards / traveler’s checks / cash, and photocopies of important family documents including home insurance information
Household supplies and equipment
One gallon liquid chlorine bleach
Battery-powered radio or television
Extra, fresh batteries for radio, television and flashlights
Manual can opener
Plastic bags – zip sealing, garbage
Fire extinguisher (small canister A-B-C type)
Food thermometer – able to measure temperature from 0 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit
Hammer and nails
Rags (to clean with)
- Meet with your family members and discuss the dangers of possible emergency events including fire, flood, severe weather, hazardous spills and terrorism.
- Discuss how you and your family will respond to each possible emergency. Know how to contact all family members at all times. Think 24/7 and 365.
- Draw a floor plan of your home. If possible, mark two escape routes from each room.
- Select two places to meet: a spot outside your home for an emergency such as fire, and a place away from your neighborhood in case you cannot return home (a real possibility during the day when most adults are at work and children are at school).
- Identify an out-of-town friend or relative as your “emergency family check-in contact” for everyone to call if the family gets separated. Make sure all family members have the correct phone number. It is often easier to call out-of-town during an emergency than within the affected area.
- Post emergency contact numbers near all telephones, including: local police, fire and health departments, poison control, your children’s schools, doctors, child/senior care providers and insurance agents.
- Have your family learn basic safety and first-aid measures.
- Keep family records in a waterproof and fireproof safe.
- Have emergency supplies on hand.
- Teach adults how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at main switches. If, for any reason, you do turn off natural gas service to your home, call your natural gas utility to restore service. Do not attempt to restore gas service yourself.
- Make arrangements for your pets. Most shelters do not allow pets. Prior to an emergency, contact your county or local emergency management office and ask them where you could leave your pet. Have identification, leash and proof of vaccination for all pets. Have current photos of your pets in case they get lost.