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Emergency Scenarios: Flash Flood

Emergency Scenarios: Flash Flood

Flash floods can occur rapidly and unexpectedly. They are extremely dangerous, and even more so for those inside vehicles. In fact, more than half of all people killed in floods are those in vehicles[1]. You probably know that if you’re not already on the road during one, you shouldn’t attempt to drive. But what if you get caught in one when you’re in the car? Just one foot of water can float most cars, trucks and SUVs[2]. We’ve compiled tips from experts such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help give you the know-how to survive in a flash flood.

Flash Flood Safety

Be Smart.

  • If you’re not already driving, do not attempt to drive during a flash flood.
  • Do not drive into standing water. Just six inches of water will stall most cars, while a foot of water will float most cars, trucks and SUVs and two feet of rushing water will wash them away.
  • If caught in a flood, abandon your vehicle. Move to higher ground if you can do so safely. Do not try to stay with your vehicle, especially if the flood waters are rising.
  • If you are on foot, be aware that just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down. Do not walk through flood waters.
  • Avoid contact with flood waters as they can be contaminated with raw sewage, oil and gasoline and may be electrically charged from downed power lines[3].
  • Be especially vigilant at night, when floods and standing water are harder to see.
  • If you’re camping and floods or heavy rains are expected, do not park your vehicle along streams. Carry a portable weather radio in case a watch or warning is issued. Since water flows downstream, you could experience a flash flood even if you haven’t received any rain[4].

During a Flash Flood:

  • Do not panic if your car becomes submerged by flood waters.
  • Release your seat belt, roll down your windows and get out of the car.
  • If your windows will not open, do not try to break them. The pressure from the water will cause them to explode inward, towards you.
  • Let the car fill with water. You will not be able to open the doors of the car until the pressure equalizes inside and outside of the car. Once the water has filled the car, open the doors and get out of the car. Swim to the surface immediately[5].
  • Do not stand on the roof of your car. If your car is swept away, you’ll be swept away with it; you also risk losing your balance and injuring yourself or falling into the rushing water.
  • Be prepared to be swept by the water. Lay on your back with your legs straight and your feet pointed downstream.
    • Keep your head up so you can see where you are going.
    • Use your legs to shove yourself away from obstructions
    • Watch for obstacles and debris. If a tree or other stationary object is blocking the channel, forcing water over it, try to flip over on your stomach and approach the obstacle head-on, crawling over top of it. Most victims in swift water die when they get pinned against obstacles, or get trapped and submerged in debris[6].
  • Do not attempt to return to your vehicle if you think the water level is going down, as water levels can rise without warning. Allow emergency personnel to tow your vehicle to a safe place.[7]

As always, the best courses of action during a flash flood are to get to higher ground and stay indoors. For more information on flash floods, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website.

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