What to Know About Flash Floods

Almost 90% of the damage from natural disasters in this country is due to flooding, including flash floods. Every year the damage exceeds $3 billion and over 100 lives are lost. It affects almost every community at some point.

It is important to educate yourself about flash floods so you can protect your workers from injury and your business  property from the devastating consequences.

What Are Flash Floods?

Flash floods are those that happen within a six-hour of certain natural disasters. This can be a levee failure, like the type that happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and was a major cause of the damage and loss of life.

It can happen if a dam fails or if there is a sudden, unexpected gush of water that had been held in check by ice or a debris jam. It can also happen after too much rain.

What Causes Flash Floods?

The problem increases with greater population growth because more land is transformed from its natural state of fields and woodlands to parking lots and roads. The land can no longer absorb rain.

The runoff on developed land is two to six times more than what would happen in a non-developed area. Infrastructure can’t handle that much rainfall at one time so there is nowhere for the rain to go. Flooding is the result.

The longer it rains and how intense the storm is determine if a flood will occur. Most flash floods are due to one of three weather conditions:

  • thunderstorms moving over the same area over and over
  • thunderstorms that move very slowly over an area
  • rain associated with hurricanes or other tropical storms.

How Can I Protect My Business?

Find out what the history and current conditions are in your area for flash floods. You can check with the national Weather Service, the American Red Cross or the municipal or county planning and zoning department. They can explain the risk for your business based on its location.

If at all possible, don’t set up your business on a flood plain. If you are in a spot that might be subject to flooding, check with a construction contractor who understands how to protect structures from flood damage. Make changes like elevating furnaces, water heaters and electrical devices. Have floodwalls, levees or berms built around your property.

Look for local hazards around your business property, like boulders and trees that can be swept into your area by the flood. Mitigate what potential threats that you can.

Develop a disaster plan for your business, including ways to get out of buildings and safe places at higher levels to gather for safety. Make sure you have copies of essential documents, including insurance policies, at an off-site location that is not subject to flood damage.

Be sure to have adequate flood insurance. Ask your business insurance agent about the National Flood Insurance Program. A policy that specifically mentions floods is essential. Most general coverage does not handle damage from floods.

Your local emergency management office is a good place to find resources for making a disaster plan and for ways to reduce the potential damage from floods.

If a flood occurs, immediately head for higher ground. Stay as far away from the waters as possible.