If you live in an area where wildfires are common, you may be at higher risk than you think for flooding and mudslides. Especially when El Nino comes calling.
Climate experts at the National Weather Service believe there is a 95% chance that El Nino weather conditions will last through the winter months of 20161. The fluctuations in ocean temperatures that characterized El Nino can wreak havoc on environmental conditions. Some areas will receive more rainfall than usual, while others will have prolonged dry spells.
If you live in an area where wildfires have destroyed vegetation – and especially if you live downhill from one – then your home may be at higher risk of suffering flooding and mudslide damage if heavy rains do occur. When a flash flood or mudslide happens, there is little time to think or plan. But taking a few simples steps now, before an emergency occurs, will not only potentially save the lives of you and your family, but will also help make recovery much easier when the mud and water are gone.
Create an evacuation plan with escape routes
Hopefully you are already in the habit of talking with family members about what to do in the event of a fire. The same kind of thinking applies here. Impress upon family members the very real threat of flooding and mudslides and determine beforehand what steps the family will need to take if the home must be evacuated.
Be sure to specify a meeting place (potentially on high ground, where flood waters historically do not reach) for family members to meet subsequent to an evacuation. Having a predesignated rendezvous point is vitally important since cell phone connectivity may be lost in a storm. Once a meeting place has been selected, determine safe routes to reach it from both home and work.
If you must travel, never cross a stream of water more than knee-deep, as the power of the water may cause you to lose balance and be swept away. And if your car stalls, abandon it immediately and seek higher ground.
Put together an emergency kit
Also known as a “go bag,” an emergency kit should be put together long before it’s ever needed and kept in an easy-to-reach location that all family members are familiar with. The kit should contain non-perishable foods for family members and pets, water, flashlight with working batteries, a manual can opener, cell phone with battery-powered charger, and a first aid kit, medications, blankets and any other items that might be useful. You should determine with your family who has primary and secondary responsibility for retrieving the kit or go bag in the event of an emergency.
Make copies of important documents
In the digital age we live in, we are used to having digital backups of most paper documents that we use. Nevertheless, even today, some documents are still difficult to replace.
For example, there may be only one valid legal copy of a will, powers of attorney and similar documents. While replacements of such documents can usually be made, the process may be time consuming and typically requires a replication of having the documents once again witnessed, notarized, signed and initialed by all relevant parties. Hence it is wise to store the originals outside of the home in a location that is essentially impervious to water and fire damage, such as a safe deposit box.
“Waterproof” your home
While you cannot of course prevent water from entering your home, you can take steps in advance to help limit how much damage heavy rains and flooding will do. For example, you should have your roof inspected periodically by a professional to identify missing, damaged or aging components, as well as areas with algae or heavy leaf accumulation, which can cause a roof to leak.
To prevent leaf buildup, clean your rain gutters regularly and install gutter guards to block debris from entering them in the first place. (Flat roofs are especially prone to water leaks from clogged drains, which can cause water to pool on the roof.)
Not all water that finds its way into homes comes through the roof. If you live in an area where creeks and rivers rise due to heavy rains, you should consider purchasing flood barriers. When properly used, flood barriers can divert moving water around your home rather than through it. These days, sandbag alternatives are preferred over regular sandbags, in part because the former are lighter and provide more coverage.
Make sure you have flood insurance
Finally, check your home insurance policy carefully to see if you are covered for damage from flooding and mudslides. Most standard policies do not include protection against flooding. If you are in doubt, talk with an independent insurance advisor.
Floods and mudslides can cause near biblical devastation. But careful planning and preparation before they occur can help make surviving them, and getting back on your feet afterwards, far easier. If you haven’t already done so, today’s a great time to start.*
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The content contained herein is intended for general informational purposes only. Companies and individuals should not solely rely on the information or suggestions provided in this article for the prevention or mitigation of the risks discussed herein.