What to do: Before, during and after a flood

As we welcome the first storms of the season, it’s important to remember that flooding can happen anytime it rains.

The extreme drought conditions that Santa Clara County has endured over the last year have hardened the ground. This hardening can increase run-off to streams and creeks during the first few days of heavy rain, escalating the risk of flooding.

Please keep this guide handy for information on actions you can take to prepare your home and or business in the event of a flood.

You received this flood preparedness guide because your home or business is in or near a high-risk flood area, also known as a Special Flood Hazard Area, designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Please read this guide to learn more about emergency preparedness.


Learn how to download disaster emergency apps, monitor stream levels and find sandbag locations at valleywater.org/floodready.

Before a flood

  • Purchase flood insurance, visit floodsmart.gov. There is a 30-day waiting period for the policies to take place.
  • Designate a household meeting spot and develop an emergency plan. Put your 3-day emergency kit together with supplies for your home and vehicle. Visit ready.gov/plan and ready.gov/kit
  • Seal cracks in your home’s foundation, exterior home walls and small openings around pipes.
  • Prepare your home. Stop floodwater from entering your home with materials like plywood, plastic sheeting and get sandbags.
  • Keep rain gutters and drainage channels free of debris. Tarp or seed unvegetated slopes on your property.
  • Keep creeks clean and flowing. Do not pollute, dump or drain anything in creeks.  Know your neighborhood streams and drainage channel locations.
  • Check with your community’s floodplain manager before you build.
  • Learn how to turn off house utilities at ready.gov/safety-skills
  • Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full or fully charged.
  • AlertSCC is the County of Santa Clara’s official emergency alert and warning system. Sign up for alerts at sccgov.org/AlertSCC.

During a flood:

  • Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If a flood is imminent, avoid low-lying areas and seek shelter in the highest
    spot possible.
  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • Evacuation is safer and easier before floodwaters become too deep. For more information, see ready.gov/evacuation.
  • Moving water is dangerous. Six inches of moving water can cause a person to stumble or fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where it is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you and aid in balance.
  • Understand shallow flooding risks – don’t drive through standing water. If floodwaters rise around your vehicle, abandon the vehicle and move to higher ground. A foot of water will cause many vehicles to float. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, including sports utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

After a flood:

  • Listen for news reports on whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
  • Never walk, swim, drive, or play in floodwater. Oil, gasoline or raw sewage may have contaminated the water. Underground or downed power lines may also have electrically charged the water.
  • Please stay away from downed power lines and report them to your power company. Do not attempt to turn on a gas meter if the service is disconnected. Contact your utility and or your local police department.
  • If you were evacuated, return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.
  • Clean and disinfect everything wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.
  • Any repairs or improvements greater than 50 percent of a structure’s value need to meet National Flood Insurance Program requirements


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