Thursday, February 10, 2011

Flood Safety Day: Prepare for the Number One Weather-Related Killer

GEMA’s Ready Georgia campaign urges families to prepare for flood emergencies on Feb. 11, the final day of Severe Weather Awareness Week

Georgians know the toll that flooding can take on a community after record floods in September 2009 caused 10 deaths and $500 million of damage to homes and businesses. In the United States, floods are the most common severe weather emergency and the number two weather-related killer. Governor Nathan Deal and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA)/Homeland Security urge residents to learn the tools and resources necessary to manage floods during Flood Safety Day, Friday, Feb. 11, the final day of Severe Weather Awareness Week.

“Seven people lost their lives in our county during the 2009 floods,” said Jason Milhollin, Emergency Management Director for Douglas County. “Most of them were swept off the roads while driving through heavy rain, but had they been better informed about the weather and at-risk areas near their homes, most could have avoided danger.”

More than half of flood victims are in vehicles swept away by moving water, and just six inches of fast-moving water can knock a person down. In Georgia, many communities experience some kind of flooding after spring rains or heavy thunderstorms, but dam failures can also cause some of the worst flooding events. Floods can be slow or fast rising, but generally develop over a period of days.

Flash floods, however, usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain within a brief period. They occur with little or no warning and can reach full peak in only a few minutes. Communities particularly at risk are those located in low-lying areas, near water or downstream from a dam.

Though floods can occur without much warning, there are steps that any household can take to prepare and minimize property damage, injury or even the threat of death. GEMA’s Ready Georgia campaign offers this information to help you prepare, plan and stay informed about floods:

Prepare for Flooding

  • Know your area's flood risk – if unsure, call your local emergency management agency.
  • Create an emergency supplies kit and prepare a portable Ready kit in case you have to evacuate.
  • Reduce potential flood damage by raising your furnace, water heater and electric panel if they are in areas of your home that may be flooded.
  • Property insurance does not typically cover flood damage. Talk to your insurance provider about your policy and consider if you need additional coverage. The National Flood Insurance Program is designed to provide reasonable flood insurance in exchange for the careful management of flood-prone areas by local communities. The program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is available in hundreds of participating Georgia communities. Visit for more information.

Plan to Evacuate

  • Plan how you will leave and where you will go if you are advised to evacuate.
  • If you have a car, fill the gas tank. If you do not have a car, plan alternate means of evacuating.
  • Move your furniture and valuables to higher floors of your home.

Stay Informed about Flooding

  • If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flood.
  • Closely monitor a local radio station, TV station or NOAA Weather Radio for flood information.
  • Follow the instructions of local officials. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Do not drive around barricades. They are there for your safety.
  • Never drive through standing water. It only takes two feet of water to float a full-sized automobile.
  • Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks and storm drains.
  • Stay out of floodwaters if possible. The water may be contaminated or electrically charged. However, if your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, get out immediately and seek higher ground.
  • Stay away from downed power lines to avoid the risk of electric shock or electrocution.
  • Do not return to your home until local authorities say it is safe. Even after floodwaters recede, roads and bridges may be weakened and could collapse. Buildings may be unstable, and drinking water may be contaminated. Use common sense and exercise caution.

The state’s emergency preparedness campaign, Ready Georgia, offers families a free, interactive online tool that takes the guesswork out of getting prepared. By visiting, families can take less than an hour to enter pertinent information and get a customized family communications plan and emergency supply checklist.

During Severe Weather Awareness Week, Ready Georgia is giving residents the chance to win a NOAA Weather Radio and Ready kit, a $100 value, courtesy of The Home Depot. From Feb. 7-11, visit Ready Georgia’s Facebook page and click on the “Contests” tab. Then, enter the contest by simply submitting a severe weather photo and a step you have taken to prepare.

For more information on preparing for severe weather, contact your local EMA or visit or

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