Storm Information and Preparedness Center

INFORMATION AND UPDATES FROM THE COUNTY OF SANTA BARBARA

Before, During & After a Flood

 

Personal safety is the most important consideration during a flood. Since floodwaters can rise very rapidly, you should be prepared to take action before water reaches you or your property.

Before a Flood or other Disaster

  1. Create a Disaster Supplies Kit
  2. Create a Family Emergency Communications Plan
  3. Read the Homeowner's Guide for Flood Prevention and Response (Spanish Version)
Homeowners Insurance:

Standard homeowner's policies do not cover flood loss. You should evaluate the need for flood insurance in your situation, depending on where your property is located. Contact your property/casualty agent or broker about flood insurance, which is offered though the National Flood Insurance Program. Generally, there is a 30-day waiting period for this policy to become effective, so don't wait until the last minute to apply.

Until the late 1960s, flood insurance was practically unavailable to home and business owners. Since private insurance firms were unwilling to assume the financial risk alone, Congress voted in 1968 to create the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This federal program provided flood insurance at reasonable cost in exchange for management of flood prone areas by local communities. Today, you can insure almost any enclosed building and its contents against flood loss, as long as your community is participating in the NFIP.

All areas within the county participate in NFIP. To facilitate submitting claims after a flood, make an itemized list of personal property, including furnishings, clothing, and valuables. Photographs of your home - inside and out - are helpful. This will assist an adjuster in settling claims and will help prove uninsured losses, which are tax deductible. Remember to keep your insurance policies and a list of personal property in a safe place, such as a safety-deposit box. Know the name and location of the agent(s) who issued these policies

During a Flood

Personal safety is the most important consideration during a flood. Since floodwaters can rise very rapidly, you should be prepared to take action before water reaches you or your property.

  • Know several safe routes of escape should you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Keep a battery-powered radio tuned to a local station, and follow all emergency instructions.
  • If you're caught in the house by suddenly rising waters, move to the second floor and, if necessary, to the roof.
  • Take warm clothing, a flashlight, and portable radio with you. Then wait for help...don't try to swim to safety. Rescue teams will be looking for you in/at the house.
  • When outside the house, remember... FLOODS ARE DECEPTIVE. Try to avoid flooded areas, and don't attempt to walk through floodwaters that are more than knee deep.
  • Do not attempt to cross swiftly flowing water.
  • If, and only if, time permits, turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.
  • Do not touch any electrical equipment unless it is in a dry area and you are standing on a piece of dry wood while wearing rubber gloves and rubber-soled boots or shoes.
  • Move valuable papers, jewelry, clothing, and other important possessions to upper floors or higher elevations.
  • Fill bathtubs sinks and jugs with clean water in case regular supplies are contaminated. You can sanitize these storage containers by first rinsing with bleach.
  • Board up windows or protect them with storm shutters.
  • Bring outdoor possessions inside the house or tie them down securely. This includes lawn furniture, garbage cans, tools, signs, and other moveable objects that might be swept away or hurled about.
  • If it is safe to evacuate by car, you should consider the following:
    • Stock the car with nonperishable foods (like canned goods), a plastic container of water, blankets, first aid kit, flashlights, dry clothing and any special medication needed by your family.
    • Do not drive where water is over the roads. Parts of the road may already be washed out. If your car stalls in a flooded area, abandon it as soon as possible. Floodwaters can rise rapidly and sweep a car and its occupants away. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles.

After a Flood

  • After a Flood If your home, apartment or business has suffered flood damage, immediately call the agent or broker who handles your flood insurance policy. The agent will then submit a loss form to the National Flood Insurance Program. An adjuster will be assigned to inspect your property as soon as possible.
  • Prior to entering a building, check for structure damage. Make sure it is not in danger of collapsing. Turn off any outside gas lines at the meter or tank, and let the house air for several minutes to remove foul odors or escaping gases. Upon entering the building, do not use open flame as a source of light since gas may still be trapped inside; a battery-operated flashlight is ideal. Watch for electrical shorts or live wires before making certain that the main power switch is turned off. Do not turn on any lights or appliance until an electrician has checked the system for short circuits. Cover broken windows and holes in the roof or walls to prevent further weather damage. The expense of these temporary repairs is usually covered under your flood insurance policy (subject to the policy deductible). Therefore, it is important to save receipts.
  • Proceed with immediate clean up measures to prevent any health hazards. Perishable items which pose a health problem should be listed and photographed before discarding. Throw out fresh food and previously opened medicines that have come in contact with floodwaters. Water for drinking and food preparation should be boiled vigorously for ten minutes, until such time as the public water system has been declared safe. Another method of disinfection is to mix 1/2 teaspoon of liquid commercial laundry bleach with 21/2 gallons of water; let stand for five minutes before using. The flat taste can be removed by pouring the water from one container to another or adding a pinch of salt. In an emergency, water may be obtained by draining a hot water tank or melting ice cubes.
  • Refrigerators, sofas, and other hard goods should be hosed off and kept for the adjuster's inspection. A good deodorizer when cleaning major kitchen appliances is to add one teaspoon of baking soda to a quart of water. Any partially damaged items should be dried and aired; the adjuster will make recommendations as to their repair or disposal. Take pictures of the damage done to your building and contents. Take all wooden furniture outdoors, but keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent warping. A garage or carport is a good place for drying. Remove drawers and other moving parts as soon as possible, but do not pry open swollen drawers from the front. Instead, remove the backing and push the drawers out. Shovel out mud while it is still moist to give walls and floors a chance to dry. Once plastered walls have dried, brush off loose dirt. Wash with a mild soap solution and rinse with clean water; always start at the bottom and work up. Ceilings are done last. Special attention at this early stage should also be paid to cleaning out heating and plumbing systems. Mildew can be removed from dry wood with a solution of 4 to 6 tablespoons of trisodium phosphate (TSP), 1 cup liquid chlorine bleach, and 1 gallon water. Clean metal at once then wipe with a kerosene-soaked cloth. A light coat of oil will prevent iron from rusting. Scour all utensils, and, if necessary, use fine-steel wool on unpolished surfaces. Aluminum may be brightened by scrubbing with a solution of vinegar, cream of tartar, and hot water. Quickly separate all laundry items to avoid running colors. Clothing or household fabrics should be allowed to dry slowly, away from direct heat, before brushing off loose dirt. If you cannot get to a professional cleaner, rinse the items in lukewarm water to remove lodged soil. Then wash with mild detergent; rinse and dry in sunlight.
  • Flooded basements should be drained and cleaned as soon as possible. However, structural damage can occur by pumping out the water too quickly. After the floodwaters around your property have subsided, begin draining the basement in stages, about 1/3 of the water volume each day.