There is always a risk of flash flooding no matter where you live. In the western part of Belize with the Chalillo dam, there is an even greater risk of flash-flooding and with it greater risk of way more fatalities that a natural flash flood.
In this article we will provide pointers to help you survive one of these disasters. It will be a long one so be ready to read…
What is a flash flood, how does it differ from a flood?
To better answer this question we will show you the definitions:
Flood: An overflow of water onto normally dry land. The inundation of a normally dry area caused by rising water in an existing waterway, such as a river, stream, or drainage ditch. Ponding of water at or near the point where the rain fell. Flooding is a longer term event than flash flooding: it may last days or weeks.
Flash flood: A flood caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, generally less than 6 hours. Flash floods are usually characterized by raging torrents after heavy rains that rip through river beds, urban streets, or mountain canyons sweeping everything before them. They can occur within minutes or a few hours of excessive rainfall. They can also occur even if no rain has fallen, for instance after a levee or dam has failed.
What to do.
Avoid driving into water more than 2 feet deep. Nearly half of the fatalities associated with flash floods involve vehicles. As little as 2 feet of moving water can easily carry away most cars and trucks. Abandon your car immediately if it stalls in water or starts to float.
Stay away from waterways completely, if possible. Certainly do not try to cross water more than ankle-deep, and keep your eyes and ears open for rushing water upstream. Many people are injured or die trying to cross shallow flood waters.
If you are at home, head for higher floors or the roof. If at all possible get out and head to higher ground ASAP. If you are in a flood prone area, listen to your radio, tv and emergency alarms for warnings and react to them as soon as you can.
Here are somethings you can do ahead of time to ensure you and your belongings are coved in case a disaster should happen.
First things first, ensure that you have proper insurance coverage on your belongings. Ensure that you go over your policies with your agent and if needed, spend the extra money to get flood coverage as most policies do not cover flood by default. Ensure that all your important documents are stored in a fire and water proof safe box and keep copies somewhere safe and off-site just in case something should happen to yours.
If you have the extra money and live in an area where the waters are not expected to raise much you can install sandbags or spend the extra money and build a flood proof walling around your property. If you are starting new construction in a flood zone, ensure that proper building codes are followed. Keep high cost belongings on upper floors if you have a multi level home.
Make an emergency evacuation plan with your family members and set a predestined place to meet, also have a chain of contact in place and keep cell phones handy.
Ask emergency personnel in your area in advance what else you might want to do!
Beyond all of this, have a supply kit on hand that can easily become mobile in case of flood that should at least have:
- A few days worth of non-perishable food and water
- A radio and batteries.
- Money, credit cards, identification, and bank information.
- Medicines or health related things you may require (don’t forget your glasses).
- A warm sleeping bag.
- Eating and sanitary supplies.
- A personal and local phone book.
- A map.
- Emergency materials (signal flares, a compass, a knife).
- A change of clothes.
- First Aid Kit.
To sum it up, this situation will come up at one time or another and it is important that you know what to do and how to survive such a situation. These experiences can cause physical, emotional and economical strains on family members, thus planning ahead can make a huge difference. Start planning now, don’t wait until it’s too late.