9 things you need to know to be flood-ready

Since the water year started in October, we’ve had little rain to show for the 2017 winter season. But things seem to be picking up in the new year with a couple of storm systems headed our way in the next few days. The Santa Clara Valley Water District is dedicated to keeping residents and businesses safe through its flood protection programs. You too can make sure you’re safe during storms with nine key tips from the water district:

1. Make a family emergency plan
The first step toward being flood-ready is being prepared for any kind of emergency. Next time you’re all together at the dinner table, discuss how you will communicate during a disaster. Agree on a family meeting spot in case you are separated, and make sure everyone knows a safe route to higher ground in the event of flooding. Identify key emergency contacts both in and out of town, and a caretaker for individuals with special needs or pets. Write all of these details down and share copy with each family member. For tips on preparing your family emergency plan click here.

2. Put your emergency kit together
After designing your plan, start putting an emergency kit or “go-bag” together with essential items. Make the next family outing a trip to the store to gather tools and supplies, non-perishable food and water. FEMA recommends enough supplies to make it through three days on your own. When gathering water, remember you’ll need a gallon of water per person per day. Keep a copy of your family emergency plan in your kit or go-bag, complete with copies of important documents such as homeowner or rental policies, medication and doctor contact information. See more recommended supplies here.

3. Download disaster and emergency apps
Preparing for emergencies can be overwhelming. If you don’t know where to start, download Santa Clara County’s emergency preparedness app “ReadySCC” on your smartphone from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Begin your family emergency plan by answering five simple questions. The app allows you to set a safe meeting spot, list emergency contacts, assign a caretaker for your pet, view a list of local resources and help centers, and get alerts via push notifications.You can also access a detailed guide with step-by-step instructions for creating an emergency kit, including a shopping list.

Stay informed of potential flood threats with the Red Cross Flood App. This free app is available in English and Spanish and allows you to receive flood and flash flood watches and warning alerts for your location, issued by the National Weather Service. Complete with a map of areas at risk, the app lists recommendations for “what to do next,” and featured interactive quizzes to improve your emergency preparedness and flood safety knowledge. Text “GETFLOOD” TO 90999 or search “Red Cross Flood” in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

4. Know your flood risk
You don’t have to live next door to a creek to be flooded. Many residents are unknowingly exposed to flood risks from storms, backed-up storm drains and runoff from overtopping creeks. Learn the location of your neighborhood streams and the direction in which they drain.

Additionally, learn if your home is in a flood zone. Parts of Santa Clara County are susceptible to flooding each year, with any chance of heavy storms. To check whether your house is in a FEMA designated flood zone, enter your address on the FEMA Flood Map Service Center.  The water district’s Community Projects Review Unit can provide more information on interpreting the FEMA flood maps. For additional assistance contact them at 408-630-2650.

5. Insure your property from flood hazards
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. Get extra protection by purchasing flood insurance, but be aware there’s typically a 30-day waiting period for the policy to take effect. Renter’s insurance is also available through the National Flood Insurance Program. To find a local agent you can call 1-888-379-9531 or go online.

6. Protect your home from flood threats
The water district offers free filled sandbags for residents of Santa Clara County. For a list of locations and tips on proper usage, visit: http://valleywater.org/sandbags/.  Loose sand and empty bags for self-filling are also available at various locations; make sure to bring a shovel, just in case. It’s important to note you will need additional materials like plywood and plastic sheeting for optimal protection. Sandbags may provide protection against a foot of floodwater or less.

Prior to a storm, examine your house for cracks in the foundation, exterior walls and small openings around pipes, and seal them. Elevate important utility structures such as electrical panels, switches, sockets, wiring, appliances and heating systems.

7. Help keep creeks clean and flowing
Healthy, flowing creeks reduce flood risks by carrying stormwaters away from properties and roads. Avoid polluting, dumping or draining to your creek. Dumping anything into a creek is illegal and affects water quality, creek habitat, and can cause blockages, increasing flood risks. Learn more about being a good creek neighbor here.

Report spills, blockages or dumping in creeks to the water district’s watershed hotline at 408-630-2378 during business hours. You can also report these activities through the Access Valley Water customer service system.

8. Avoid floodwaters, no matter how shallow
Never walk through or drive through flooded areas. Six inches of moving water can cause an adult to fall. One foot of water is enough to float away a vehicle. Turn around, don’t drown.

Floodwaters can also be contaminated from oil, gasoline or raw sewage, and can hide downed power lines that may have electrically charged the water. Never allow children to play in floodwaters.

9. Build responsibly in floodplains
Construction within FEMA flood zones have special permit requirements from your city government so you don’t alter natural drainage channels. Before you build or begin upgrades to your home, contact your city’s building department for more information.

Property owners can also make physical alterations to buildings to reduce risks and flood insurance premiums, such as elevating a structure, for example. Check with your building department first to ensure compliance with special requirements. You may also contact your local floodplain manager for more information on protecting your structure.

For more resources on flood protection and keeping your family and home safe, visit www.valleywater.org/floodready.

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