people standing near flood waters

Nobody can stop a force as fearsome as a flood. Floods damage or destroy more homes than any other natural disaster – to the tune of about $34 billion in U.S. property damage just in the five-year span of 2011 through 2015.

But if you know how to prepare for a flood and what to do after a flood happens, you may be able to mitigate some of its damage. Here are some flood preparedness and safety tips:

What to do before a flood

To help reduce flood damage:

  • Install backflow valves or standpipes to prevent sewer lines from backing up.
  • Elevate your washer, dryer, water heater, oil tank, furnace and electrical wiring on concrete blocks. If you're unable to raise an item, anchor it and protect it with a floodwall or shield.
  • Install a sump pump system if you have below-grade floors.
  • Landscape with plants and vegetation that resist soil erosion.
  • Store any irreplaceable family items and important documents somewhere other than the basement.
  • Install a flood-detection device in your basement that sounds an alarm or calls your phone if it senses water.

What to do during a flood

A flood can be scary, but try to stay calm. The most important thing is to keep your family safe, but if you have time:

  • Turn off utilities at the main power switch.
  • Move valuables, important papers and clothing to upper floors. If you have only one floor, put items on upper shelves, tables or countertops.
  • Sanitize your bathtub and sinks – and fill them with fresh, clean water in case the water supply becomes contaminated.
  • If you feel threatened by rising water, leave your home or move to upper floors.
  • Never try to drive through a flood. Six inches of water can cause loss of control and possible stalling.
  • If you're in your car when the water begins to rise quickly, abandon it and move to higher ground.
  • Don't walk through flood areas. Just 6 inches of water is enough to sweep you away.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.

What to do after a flood

After emergency officials have given permission to re-enter your home:

  • Check for structural damage before going inside.
  • If it’s dark, use a flashlight – not matches, a candle or a lighter.
  • Listen for reports to know when drinking water is safe again.
  • Don’t turn your power on until an electrician has inspected your system.
  • Use your cell phone or other camera to photograph damage, which can help get your claim started sooner.
  • Take inventory of damaged or destroyed items – again, to expedite your claim.
  • Report your claim to your insurance agent or company as soon as possible.
  • Begin initial cleanup as soon as waters recede, separating damaged from undamaged items.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet.
  • When cleaning, wear a mask, gloves and coveralls to minimize exposure to possible hazardous materials.
  • Mold can be a hazardous result from a flood. Consider a professional service that specializes in post-flood cleanup.
  • Once you’ve gathered documentation about your damage and your insurance coverage, contact your insurance company or agent.

Look into flood insurance

Standard homeowners insurance generally doesn't cover damage caused by a flood. So it’s a good idea to consider protecting yourself with a flood insurance policy. Learn more about homeowner insurance coverage of water damage, then ask your insurance agent about flood insurance, and whether it is available in your area.


FEMA  |  IBHS  |  American Red Cross  | National Weather Service

[1] Source: National Weather Service,

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Nationwide offers this information to help you make decisions that may help you mitigate your risk. Of course, we can't address every possible risk or guarantee these tips will work for you. However, we hope that you will consider which of these may help you in your efforts to protect your family and yourself.