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How to Prepare for a Flood in Houston

Houston has been deeply affected by two "100-year-floods" in the last year that have caused millions of dollars of damage and displaced thousands. Folks who have recently moved to Houston might wonder if this is the norm. It's even confusing for people who have lived here for years and seen nothing like it.

Houstonians need to know how to prepare for a flood. Having an emergency preparedness plan when flooding hits is important for feeling a little more confident when the unexpected occurs again in the future. Use these tips for keeping you and your family safe when the excepted happens.

Flood Safety Tips

Learn from ReadyHouston

This localized version of FEMA's national website offers emergency preparedness messages tailored to the unique hazards in the greater Houston area. Families can prepare together online at readyhoustontx.gov or download the free Ready App to help Make a Plan, Build a Kit, Stay Informed, and Know Your Neighbors. The Ready App is available in the Apple Store or Google Play for download. ReadyHouston also offers a free 15-minute DVD to help your family learn how to respond to and recover from any disaster.

Download Disaster Apps from the American Red Cross

The Red Cross created Disaster Apps to help folks before and during disasters. Topics range from Earthquake, Wildfire, Hurricane, Emergency, Tornado to First Aid. In Houston, one of the important ones to download on your phone is the Flood App. This app helps folks learn and prepare for flooding, evacuation, and a safe return home. It shares flood watch and warning alerts based on your location, flood safety tips, a map of Red Cross shelters, enables you to let others know you're safe, and more. Most importantly, it doesn't require mobile connectivity if cell towers are down.

Register for Emergency Alerts or Other Assistance

Sign up for the City of Houston's alert system, AlertHouston, to receive an email during large-scale emergencies that affect the whole city. Register online here.

Those outside the City of Houston can find emergency management contacts online.

Folks who don't have transportation to evacuate during an emergency should register online for the Transportation Assistance Registry. This helps the City of Houston identify those who need additional assistance during an emergency. Register online here.

Follow the Harris County Flood Warning System

Knowing where to get flood information is important. Houstonians can follow the Harris County Flood Warning System online during potentially threatening weather. Harris County Flood Control District placed 133 gage stations throughout the area to monitor water levels and measure rainfall amounts. This information is reported in real-time online for use by the public as well as the Flood Control District and Harris County's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The site also includes monthly rainfall reports back through 2011 as well as links to other emergency weather related sources.

Have a Flood Survival Kit Ready

Flooding can happen quickly, and flash floods can take you by surprise. If you and your family have to evacuate in a moment's notice, you don't want to put yourselves in jeopardy because you're trying to grab necessities. Have a flood survival kit ready which comprises of the things you need most when disaster strikes. Include non-perishable food items such as granola bars, canned foods (don't forget a can opener), and enough water to last for a bit. Other things to consider include portal phone chargers, flash lights and batteries, and any personal documentation which you'd want to have handy. It's also important to prepare in advance which may include taking anything important out of storage before the weather conditions make it unsafe to.

Create a Pet Care Plan

Patricia Mercer, president of the Houston SPCA, says her organization is equipped and on standby to deploy animal rescue operations when a disaster strikes in Houston, but she recommends some advance planning that might help alleviate this need. It's just a given for this region that is prone to serious flooding. Here are a few pet-specific flood safety tips:

  • Identification: Make sure your pet wears a collar and/or has a microchip to make it easier if your pet is separated during an emergency.
  • Vaccinations and medications: Just like for adults, it's important to keep a one-month supply of your pet's regular medications sealed in a plastic bag as well as copies of vaccination records and other vet documents.
  • Pet food and water: Secure a two-week supply of pet food and bottled water, food and water bowls as well as a manual can opener.
  • Pet First Aid kit: Create a first-aid kit of pet-related items you might need during an emergency or disaster: self-cling bandages, gauze pads, strips of cloth to prevent biting, hydrogen peroxide, antiseptic, ice pack, non-latex disposable gloves, pet first aid book, thermometer, blanket or towel and more.
  • Crates: Every pet should have a crate or kennel. Take time to familiarize your pet with the crate so they realize it's a "safe place." Place a blanket in the crate so they can get a "home" scent and help reduce anxiety.
  • Evacuation: Find a place where you can evacuate your pet during an emergency such as a vet's office, boarding facility, or a friend or relative who can house the pet temporarily. Houston SPCA works with American Red Cross and designated evacuation locations to shelter dogs, cats, and other small animals.

Flood preparation is key for making sure everyone stays safe if and when a flood strikes. Use these tips to help you make your own emergency preparedness plan. You'll keep your family safe and thank yourself later.

About the author

Vicki Powers

Vicki Powers, formerly of Houston on the Cheap, is a native Texan and freelance journalist. She loves helping Houstonians learn how to live in a big city without spending big bucks.

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