Flood checklist: How to prepare for a flood & how to survive a flood

Sub Editor · 22 March 2021
After a wet summer, La Niña’s influence is anticipated to continue into April, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Are you flood ready and prepared for heavy rainfall?

This article covers emergency flood assistance resources and flood preparedness before, during and after a flood, and has been developed from government and emergency services content nationally.

At any time, you can view the latest weather warnings for your area on the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) website.

Get emergency flood assistance now

Call 132 500 for emergency help in a flood, storm or tsunami. For a life-threatening emergency, call Triple Zero (000).

Government services

For more information on flood preparedness, visit the government advice for your state or territory:

Detailed information about flood readiness is available from these websites. For example, the NSW State Emergency Service (NSW SES) has information including FloodSafe brochures in six community languages for people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. Flood safety resources are also available to support people who are deaf or hard of hearing, have limited mobility, have an intellectual disability, or have a visual disability.

People with a disability can use the National Relay Service to contact state emergency services. In NSW, for example, the NSW SES has an explanatory video available for how to seek support.

Flood preparedness: before a flood

How do you prepare for a flood? Here are 8 tips for flood preparedness to help you protect yourself and your family, as well as your home and property.

1. Find out if you’re in a flood area

You can check the Australian Government’s Flood Risk Information Portal to estimate the risk of flood for your home. This portal has been developed by the state and territory governments, in tandem with the insurance industry. It includes flood maps and flood studies, as well as details for surface water observations analysed with satellite imagery.

2. Check your insurance coverage

Having sufficient insurance to meet your personal needs – including home insurance, contents insurance and car insurance – can help you to have peace of mind in preparing for wild weather such as floods, damaging winds and storms. You can compare car insurance and home and contents insurance policies with Canstar.

If you already have insurance, but are unsure if it includes cover for flood damage, you may like to review your policy documents or contact your insurer to confirm what the policy includes. You may also be interested in our related articles, including:

3. Clean up outside and inside

Secure all loose items like outdoor furniture, garden tools, and children’s toys. If you can, lock them away inside or move them to a higher, more secure position. As for inside:

  • Move as many items as you can to a higher position in your home, especially chemicals, oils, and anything that could float and cause damage.
  • Roll up rugs.
  • Secure anything that could be knocked over and create a hazard in a storm surge, such as heavy bookshelves. Put smaller electrical appliances up on tables and benchtops.

4. Charge your mobile phone

Charge your phone, tablet or iPad, laptop, and any other electronic equipment fully before the flood. That way, even if the power goes down, you can still make calls and check for updates on the storm.

5. Disconnect utilities

Once your phone is charged, unplug all your electrical appliances, as recommended by Ergon Energy, and turn off your home’s power at the switchboard. Also turn off the gas and water.

6. Prepare an emergency kit

Important things to include in an emergency and/or evacuation kit are:

  • Torches
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Clean drinking water
  • Rubber gloves
  • First aid kit
  • Medications you take (in a waterproof bag)
  • Identification documents (passports, etc.), insurance documents, and photo albums or other mementos in a waterproof bag
  • Warm clothing and bedding/pillows – plan to stay overnight if you evacuate
  • Food that won’t perish quickly (and a can opener if it is tinned food)
  • A camp stove (gas bottle with cooking attachment) for boiling water and cooking food
  • Waterproof bags

7. Listen for announcements

Keep your radio on and tuned to your local station so that you can hear all important information. On the BoM website, you can find current flood warnings, and rainfall and river conditions.

8. Be a good neighbour

Now that you are prepared, check that your neighbours are, too, especially if they are elderly, are disabled, do not speak English well, or have young children.

Flood preparedness: during a flood

1. Be ready to evacuate

It might be too dangerous for you to stay in your home during a flood. Make sure all family members know what to do if a flood warning is issued, and what the family’s evacuation plan is. Follow all instructions local authorities give and be ready to leave if the order is given.

Don’t leave any evacuation until the last minute – you might find yourself trapped by heavy traffic, rising floodwaters, or even a storm surge. Keep your pets with you in case you need to evacuate. If it is not possible to take them with you, move them to a safer place with plenty of food and water.

2. Stay inside and move to the most elevated position in your home

Ride out the worst of the storm and flooding in the part of your home that’s most likely to stay safe and dry.

3. Do not drive

If it’s flooded, forget it. Even 4WD vehicles are not designed to withstand flooding or moving waters, and a car can quickly become swept away and buried in floodwaters, stormwaters, or debris.

4. Empty the fridge

Empty out your fridge and freezer, and leave the doors open so that they fill with water. It sounds weird but if your refrigerator is left closed, it could float on the water and cause damage.

5. Sandbag the plumbing

Whether you decide to leave or to stay, put sandbags in the toilet bowl and over all drain holes in the laundry, bathroom, etc. This can help prevent sewage backflow.

Flood preparedness: after a flood

1. Do not touch floodwater

Floodwater can also be full of bacteria, so wear shoes at all times. Do not allow children to play in or near floodwaters. If you must enter floodwaters at any time, wear long pants in a tough material, gumboots or other solid shoes, and check the depth and current strength with a stick. Avoid going near drains or other places where the water is moving much faster. Do not drive into floodwaters of any depth.

2. Avoid electrical currents

Electrical systems may have been damaged by the floodwater and can be dangerous to operate. A qualified electrician is best placed to ensure you and your family’s safety. Avoid fallen powerlines. Powerlines can be downed in storms and have potential to be deadly. Call Triple Zero (000) and report fallen power lines.

3. Phone your insurer

If you have insurance, contact your insurer as soon as possible after a flood to ensure you receive as much support as possible based on your policy with:

  • the costs of temporary accommodation if you need it
  • approving any home and contents or car insurance claims as soon as possible (it may even be possible to receive an advance on the claim amount so you can get started on emergency repairs)

Take as many photos of all damage to provide proof when you officially have to file your claim.

4. Lock up

If evacuating, lock your home to prevent looters gaining access after the flood. Insurers usually see it as the occupier’s responsibility to secure their home during and after a flood. A contents insurance claim for theft may be denied if the door isn’t locked, for example.

5. Watch what you eat and drink

Do not eat or drink any food, drink, or medications that have been touched by floodwaters. Boil all drinking water until authorities have declared the mains system water safe to drink.

6. Keep lines of communication open

Check on how your neighbours have fared after a flood. Let your family know you’re okay too.

7. Rebuild with flood planning in mind

If you want to and feel it’s necessary, you may like to consider replacing carpets with hard-wearing and easily removable or cleanable materials, such as tiles or floorboards.

Cover image source: Silken Photography/Shutterstock.com. Additional reporting by TJ Ryan and Tim Smith.

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