Santa Clara County is currently in a drought emergency, but it’s important to remember that floods can happen anytime it rains. Extreme dry conditions can harden the ground and increase run-off to streams and creeks during the first few days of heavy rain, increasing the risk of flooding. Climate change has made extreme weather the new normal, and as the rainy season approaches, we ask that you take some time to ensure you are ready in case of a flood.
Follow these nine essential tips and GET FLOOD READY!
1) Develop an emergency plan.
The first step toward being flood-ready is being prepared for any emergency. Discuss how you will communicate during a disaster with members of your household. Agree on a meeting spot in case you are separated and ensure everyone knows a safe route to higher ground in the event of flooding. Note all these details and share an updated copy with each member.
For tips on creating and practicing your emergency plan, visit valleywater.org/floodready or ready.gov/plan.
2) Put your 3-day emergency kit together.
After designing your plan, start putting an emergency kit or “go-bag” together with essential items, such as non-perishable food and water, emergency tools and supplies.
3) Download disaster emergency apps.
Preparing for emergencies can be overwhelming. You can sign up for Santa Clara County’s official emergency alert and warning system, “AlertSCC,” online by visiting emergencymanagement.sccgov.org/AlertSCC.
Another helpful tool is the American Red Cross Emergency Alerts, an all-hazards app allowing you to receive and monitor flood alerts based on location. Download at redcross.org/apps.
4) Know your flood risk.
You don’t have to live next door to a creek to be impacted by flooding. Visit valleywater.org/floodready to check whether your house or business is in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and learn how to interpret FEMA flood maps.
5) Get flood insurance ahead of time.
If you live in a FEMA-designated Special Flood Hazard Area, you must purchase flood insurance if you have a federally insured mortgage. Renter’s insurance is also available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). To find a local agent, call 1-800-427-4661, visit floodsmart.gov, or valleywater.org/floodready.
Even if you already have a policy, most homeowners’ and renter’s insurance policies don’t cover damage from natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods. You need a separate policy, and there is usually a 30-day waiting period.
6) Protect your home from flood threats.
Valley Water offers free, filled sandbags for residents of Santa Clara County. For a list of locations and tips on proper usage, visit valleywater.org/sandbags. Loose sand and empty bags for self-filling are also available at various locations; just in case, make sure to bring a shovel.
For a list of locations and tips on proper sandbag usage, including property protection advice for your home, visit valleywater.org/floodready or call 408-630-2650.
7) Keep debris and trash out of our streams.
Healthy, flowing creeks reduce flood risks by carrying stormwaters away from properties and roads. Dumping anything into a stream is illegal, affects water quality and creek habitat, and can cause blockages, increasing flood risks.
Report spills, blockages, or dumping in creeks by calling our watershed hotline at 408-630-2378 or through the Access Valley Water customer service system at valleywater.org/access-valley-water. If you see a substance polluting a creek, pond, or reservoir, call 1-888-510-5151 at any time.
8) Understand shallow flooding risks – don’t drive through standing water.
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. Floodwaters can also be contaminated by 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 Special Flood Hazard Areas has 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.
Remember, we all need to prepare for floods. Be aware. Be prepared. Take action.