Flood safety tips: How to keep your family safe in flash floods

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Read on to know some important food safety tips so you as well as your kids are well prepared for such a natural disaster.

In a shocking turn of events, heavy thunder showers in Singapore led to flash floods in eastern parts of the island. Earliest news reports suggested that although safety guidelines were followed, the floods that started on Monday morning (January 8) could not be contained.

In fact, excess water continued to inundate several prime locations.

These reportedly included the nine areas of "Tampines Avenue 12, Upper Changi Road/Bedok North Avenue 4, Bedok Road/Upper Changi Road East, Arumugam Road, Sims Avenue/Eunos Road 8, Sims Avenue/Tanjong Katong Road, Jalan Nipah, Bedok Road/New Upper Changi Road and Tampines Road."  

Singapore flash floods: Citizens left stranded!

Citizens across the city shared images and videos of the natural disaster. Some even told media agencies that it was their first time to witness a flood in Singapore. They expressed that they wished they had known some safety tips before the floods struck.

Mohammad Firdaus, 33, told The Strait Times, “This is the first time I’ve seen such bad flooding.”

Gary Haris, a senior business development manager, shared that he saw ankle-high levels of water flooding staircases. “I had to roll up my pants, take off my shoes and walk barefooted,” he shared. 

Thankfully, the water subsided by 10.30 am. In fact, by 11.30 am PUB, Singapore's National Water Agency shared that there was no need to panic. 

However, the apex agency did warn the residents to practice caution and avoid flooded areas altogether. 

“PUB activated its operations teams to the flooded locations to investigate and render assistance where possible. The public should exercise caution and avoid stepping into or driving into flooded areas,” their post read.

As the story develops, and residents continue to cope with one of the biggest natural disasters to hit the country, one thing has become clear. We were not ready to deal with such disasters. 

Even though the Meteorological Service Singapore reportedly issued a weather warning that Singapore will experience rainy weather in the first half of January, most people, especially parents were inadequately prepared. 

So the question remains: what are the safety tips you need to know if you are caught in a flash flood? 

Flood safety tips: What to do before, during and after a flood 

Floods have been wreaking havoc across the globe for centuries now. In fact, only last year 1,200 people reportedly died across South East Asia and countless more were devastated in the US by Hurricane Harvey. 

It wouldn't be wrong to say that floods are one of the deadliest killers in the world. So why aren't we better prepared to tackle them? 

The answer is simple. We just don't know how to prepare for a flood, what precautions to take during the flood and what to do after one.

Let's take a look at all these scenarios and show you exactly what you should do to prepare yourself and your kids. These flood safety tips will surely be valuable.

1. Before the flood

Oftentimes, you can get a warning from the weather department about heavy showers or rains. But you can never predict if weather conditions will culminate into a flash flood. They are sudden and can inundate a low-lying area without warning.

So the best way to avoid a situation is to be ready.  

  • Avoid buildings near flood plains. Any area adjacent to a stream or river is dangerous. So it's best to avoid constructing a home in such areas. Speak with your realtor and do some research about the area first. Check the history of natural calamities just to be sure.
  • Know the flood level. Try to find out the flood levels of your home. For this purpose, you can once again contact your realtor or your insurance agent. Make sure to keep a tab on the flood water levels in and around your area. 
  • Keep your ears on the radio. Obviously any news source that you follow will be invaluable, but radio can be useful in case of power outages and networks going down. Most local television and radio stations announce the dangers of incoming floods. Be aware of the latest information, and if possible, install a reliable weather app on your mobile, just to be sure.   
  • Talk to your kids. The best way to prepare your kids for a natural disaster is by telling them about the natural disaster. Keep them informed about floods, and tell them what to expect. Share your evacuation plans, and if possible, conduct a drill in your house, just to check if your child understood the instructions. 
  • Keep emergency exits and numbers handy. Usually if an apartment building is lawfully constructed, they will have exits and entrances for evacuation. But to be safe, learn the routes and make sure your kids also know them. 
  • Prepare an emergency kit. The Red Cross Organisation suggests that you prepare an emergency kit. This should include water, food, batteries, medications, hygiene items, emergency numbers, medical supplies (especially for the kids), baby supplies and car keys among others. Keep it handy at all times. 
  • Know the difference between flood warning and flood watch. A flood watch means that flooding is possible. A flood warning means that the flood is coming. Make sure you share this information with your kids as well. 

2. When floods are coming 

If you know what you should do before the floods come, it means you are prepared. But you shouldn't just prepare yourself for 'what to do before' an emergency strikes. You should also be ready for what happens when danger is close, when the danger is present, and after. 

So if you are prepared, very good. But it's not enough. Here's what you should do when you see floods approaching.

  • Be ready with your bags. Pack a few bags with your most important items in case you need to evacuate immediately. Make sure you only travel with what's most important. So for instance, your emergency kit, weather-appropriate clothing and a few winter clothes. If you get drenched, you need something to keep warm. And don't forget your medications.
  • Evacuate, if advised. If local police authorities announce that you should evacuate your homes, do so immediately. Do not wait for the floods to strike your home. It's the best precaution you can take, especially if you have little children. Such disasters can scare them and leave them scarred for life. So try to keep them away from the flood as much as possible. 
  • Move to higher floors. If you have been advised to move upstairs to a higher floor, do it immediately. Usually in case of less dangerous flooding, residents are advised to move their emergency items to a floor above them. So move to higher ground.
  • Turn off electrical items. Make sure to turn off electrical items and switches before you leave. Also, disconnect all electrical appliances so there is no possibility of a short circuit. You must also teach your kids the same, and practice it on a daily basis, so they know what to do when the time comes.  

3. During the flood

Now comes the most important part: what do you do when you are actually in the situation? Murky flood water can be deceptive because you can never really see the ground. It can be impossible to know the actual depth of the water. 

In such a case, here's what you must do. 

  • Avoid the waters. Do not walk through flood water at any cost. As little as six inches of flood water can make you trip. Plus, you don't really know how deep the waters are ahead of you. To be safe, it's best to avoid walking through the water altogether. This is the rule of thumb to follow from the flood safety tips list. 
  • Walk where water is stationary. If you must walk through the flood waters, avoid areas where you can see flowing water. It's best to walk through water that is stable and stationary. However, it doesn't mean that is safe. Keep a stick handy so you know the depth of the water as you walk through it. 
  • Do not drive in floods. People assume that if they run their car through the flooded waters, they can save themselves. It's absolutely untrue. Even with a foot of water, your car can start flooding, or worse, it can get short circuited. Abandon your car and move to higher ground by foot. 
  • Do not touch electric items. If you see any electrical item floating past, do not touch it. Especially avoid doing this if you are wet or stranded in the middle of flood water. 
  • Ask for help. You may be able to get through flood water, but if you have kids they will not be able to do easily. So do not hesitate to ask for help. You will need all the assistance you can get to protect your kids, so take it. Make sure to tell your kids about all the points we just mentioned as well. This will prepare them. 

4. After the flood

If you survived the floods – which if you are cautious and prepared, you will – the next step will be picking up from where you left off. Here's a list of flood safety tips.

  • Stay glued to the news. If you have left the house and are staying away from the flooded areas, make sure to keep a tab on the news.  
  • Avoid flood water. This is a given, because most of the flood water gets contaminated by substances including oil, gas and even raw sewage. Some areas might even have drowned electrical wires. 
  • Beware of roads. In many areas where flood waters have receded, the roads might become weak. So when you head out, make sure to check if the roads are still intact. Check with local authorities if they are safe to drive on. Also report any power lines lying on the roads. Save yourself and others from possible electrocution. 
  • Return when advised. Ideally, you should try to stay away from buildings that are surrounded by flood water. If possible, travel to higher ground. You can come back to your home once the water recedes.
  • Repair damaged systems. When you return home, the first thing to do would be to repair damaged sewage systems. A system that is faulty can cause many infections and diseases. It can make your home an absolutely unsafe place, especially for kids.
  • Clean and sanitise. One of the most important points of the flood safety tips list is that you make sure to clean, dry and sanitise all the items the flood waters reached. You might even have to throw out some damaged goods. Keep your children away from items that need immediate cleaning.   

It's hard to prevent natural disasters. But preparing for them can make the situation bearable for you and your kids. So do not wait for another harsh reminder to get going. Always keep these flood safety tips in mind.

Start preparing for it now!

Sources: National Geographic, RedCross

Also read:5 Things to keep in mind when teaching your child about emergencies

(All images courtesy: Youtube)