Protecting your home before the storms

The month of October is a time of seasonal transition, not just for leaves and weather, but also for the water cycle in California. As we go from the year’s hottest months into the milder temperatures of fall, this period allows us to adjust our water use and prepare for winter storms.

Oct. 1 is the beginning of the water year, when hydrologists officially start measuring rainfall. In Santa Clara County, rains can come as early as October, which means not only can we cut back on our watering and let nature do the trick, but also that it’s essential to make plans for winter storms and possible flood risks. This month, take the time to check up on what you need to protect your family and home for the upcoming winter season. Investing in flood protection and preparedness now is our community’s insurance policy for the future.

The first step to preparing for storms and possible floods is to be prepared for any emergency in general. There are a few helpful apps to get you started and assist in preparing your emergency kit and creating a family emergency plan. You can also get more information at

One of the first steps toward being flood ready is being aware of existing risks. According to FEMA, floods are the most common natural disaster and are among the costliest in terms of damage to lives and property. Many residents are unknowingly exposed to flood risks from storms, backed-up storm drains and run-off from overtopping creeks. Do you know where your neighborhood creeks are located? Do you live in a FEMA designated floodplain? If you don’t know the answer, be sure to find out by looking up your address on FEMA’s flood map service center. Parts of Santa Clara County are susceptible to flooding each year, and although you may not be in a FEMA designated floodplain, you may be at risk. Detailed historical flood reports for our region are available on the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s website.

If you do live in a FEMA designated flood zone, you are required to purchase flood insurance if you have a federally insured mortgage. Most homeowners’ insurance policies don’t cover damage from natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods. So get extra protection by purchasing flood insurance. The best time to do so is before the winter season, since most flood insurance policies have a 30-day waiting period to take effect.  So don’t wait until mid-winter — do it now before the storms come. You also don’t need to own a home to get flood insurance. Renter’s insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program. To find a local agent you can call 1-888-379-9531 or go online.

An additional measure you can use to protect your home during a storm is the use of sandbags. The Santa Clara Valley Water District provides free sandbags starting the third week of November. There are six district-owned sites that are stocked throughout winter with filled bags as well as loose sand and bags for self-filling. There are 18 additional sandbag stations managed by various cities within Santa Clara County. For a detailed list of locations and a guide on filling and using sandbags properly, visit

On Oct. 21-28, the State Department of Water Resources will celebrate Flood Preparedness Week to engage Californians in preparing for the rainy season. Last winter, several parts of Northern California, and including our very own Santa Clara County, experienced severe flooding. And in recent months, parts of our nation have experienced catastrophic flooding in areas that have not historically flooded, from hurricanes much larger than a 100-year storm. The time to be flood ready is now.

By following the recommendations above you can get more peace of mind in protecting your home and loved ones. For additional resources and tips, visit




  1. Once again, I went to the FEMA flood map for our property and, once again, could not tell whether it is in a flood zone or not. The text was helpful to an engineer, perhaps, but not to a layperson. It would be helpful if there were a way to enter our address and be told yes or no regarding flood danger. Failing that, a simple guide to the map, i.e., a legend that explains in ordinary language the meaning of the lines, etc., would be a great help. As of now, I have no idea whether or not I need to purchase flood insurance.


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