Have a plan ready in case of flooding

Severe Weather Awareness Week Flood Safety

CONYERS -- Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters, excluding fire. Many communities in Georgia including Rockdale County experienced severe flooding in 2009 caused by rains and heavy thunderstorms in the spring and fall. Hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed and 10 people lost their lives. Dam failures are potentially the worst flood events. When a dam fails, an enormous quantity of water suddenly rushes downstream, destroying anything in its path.

Floods can be slow or fast rising but generally develop over a period of days. Flash floods usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain within a brief period. They occur with little or no warning and can reach full peak in only a few minutes. Neighborhoods located in low-lying areas are especially at risk for flooding.

Rockdale Sheriff Jeff Wigington, director of the Conyers-Rockdale County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), offers the following information to help families develop a plan and be ready to act before the possibility of a flood or flash flood threatens:

Know What to Expect:

-- Know the area's flood risk -- if unsure, call the local emergency management agency office or planning and zoning department. - If it has rained hard for several hours or rained steadily for several days, prepare for the possibility of flooding.

-- Closely monitor a local radio station, TV station or NOAA Weather Radio for flood information.

Reduce Potential Flood Damage By:

-- Raising the furnace, water heater and electric panel if they are in areas of the home that may be flooded.

-- Consulting a professional for further information about damage reduction measures that can be implemented.

Floods Can Take Several Hours or Days to Develop:

-- A flood WATCH means a flood is possible in the area.

-- A flood WARNING means flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in the area.

Flash Floods Can Take Only a Few Minutes or a Few Hours to Develop:

-- A flash flood WATCH means flash flooding is possible in the area.

-- A flash flood WARNING means a flash flood is occurring or will occur very soon.

Prepare a Family Disaster Plan:

-- Check insurance policies for flood coverage. If not covered, get flood insurance immediately.

-- Keep insurance policies, documents and other valuables in a safe-deposit box.

Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit Containing:

-- First aid kit and essential medications.

-- Canned food and can opener.

-- At least three gallons of water per person.

-- Protective clothing, rainwear and bedding or sleeping bags.

-- Battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.

-- Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members.

-- Written instructions for how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise to do so. (Remember, a professional may be required to turn them back on.)

-- Identify where to go if told to evacuate. Choose several places -- a friend's home in another town, a motel or a shelter.When a Flood WATCH is Issued:

-- Move furniture and valuables to higher floors of the home.

-- Fill car's gas tank in case an evacuation notice is issued.

When a Flood WARNING is Issued:

-- Closely monitor NOAA Weather Radio, local radio or television for the latest weather forecasts.

-- If told to evacuate, do so immediately!

When a Flash Flood WATCH is Issued:

-- Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate on a moment's notice.

When a Flash Flood WARNING is Issued:

-- If flooding has begun, evacuate immediately. There may only be seconds to escape. Act quickly.

-- Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks and storm drains. Do not drive through or around barricades.

-- If a car stalls in rapidly rising waters, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.

For more information, visit these websites: www.gema.ga.gov, www.srh.noaa.gov/ffc/ or www.redcross.org.