With Wetter-Than-Usual Winter Ahead, Here Are Tips To Stay Safe If It Floods

Jeff Kirkwood

The National Weather Service predicts a wetter-than-usual winter for the South and Southeastern United States. Coming on top of a string of stormy, soggy months that inundated communities from Central Texas to the Carolina coast, that forecast indicates that we should stay prepared for the potential of more flooding in coming months.

We should not underestimate the power of rushing water. Most flood-related drownings occur when cars drive into floodwaters or people walk into them.

Whatever the weather brings, stay safe on your daily commute and working in the field. To help achieve that, here are reminders for dealing with threats created by overabundant rain.

On The Road

  • Remember the “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” warnings and don’t drive into floodwater on the road. Don’t ignore or drive around low-water crossing barricades.
  • Stay out of floodwater, which can contain dangerous debris, hazardous chemicals, wildlife or disease-causing contaminants. Downed power lines could cause electrocution.
  • Be ready for flash flooding, which can develop quickly, create transportation hazards, damage structures and property, and cause landslides.  

In the Field

  • Know the plan for evacuating your work site, when it’s triggered and how responsibilities are delegated. Supervisors should be prepared and monitor weather conditions. Leave while exit routes are clear, and don’t drive into floodwater on the road.
  • When evacuating a work site, if possible, turn off electrical power, gas and water, and tie down materials that could blow or float away.
  • If shelters are available on site, make sure they are properly equipped with emergency supplies stored in plastic bins or waterproof bags. Supplies should include water and nonperishable food; a battery-powered radio, flashlights and batteries; a first-aid kit; dust masks, duct tape and plastic sheeting; garbage bags; moist towelettes; tools such as wrenches or pliers; waterproof gloves; insect repellent; and blankets.
  • Be familiar with weather warning categories:
  • ​Flood Watch/Flash Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Monitor weather reports and be ready to act.
  • Flood Warning/Flash Flood Warning: Flooding is imminent. Move to higher ground or evacuate.
  • When you are involved in post-flooding cleanup, be aware of potential hazards, including: downed electrical lines, gas-line leaks, tree limbs and broken glass, mold, snakes, rodents and stinging insects, and dangerous chemicals. Supervisors should make sure workers are not endangered by hypothermia, floodwater exposure or exhaustion.

At Home

  • Have a home emergency plan and instruct family members on what to do in case of flooding. Make sure your plan accounts for pets. Remember to unplug appliances if you must leave your home. 
  • Keep an emergency kit in a waterproof container that includes water/nonperishable food, important documents protected in plastic bags, flashlights and new batteries, wet wipes, waterproof gloves, insect repellent, blankets and a first-aid kit. Have crucial prescription medications handy so you can get them quickly if you must evacuate.
  • Know the flood risks in your area. The Federal Emergency Management Agency keeps flood maps for reference.
  • Sign up for your community’s hazardous-weather warning system, and monitor conditions through weather.gov, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio or local weather reports.
  • If you are trapped in a building, go to its highest level, but do not climb into a closed attic. Go onto the roof in an emergency only to signal for help.

More Resources

Jeff Kirkwood is the Freese and Nichols Corporate Safety Director.