First day of Fall brings heavy rain, a good time to brush up on flood safety

Red Cross offers important tips to prepare for and stay safe in a flood

In case you couldn’t tell by the gray skies and falling temperatures, today is the first day of Fall! And, in typical Northeast Ohio fashion, Fall is kicking off with predictions of heavy rainfall and damaging winds over the next few days. While our area is often protected from some of the most severe natural disasters, such as hurricanes and wildfires, flooding is a disaster everyone should be aware of and prepare for. Many people don’t realize, floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters.

As with any emergency, being prepared before disaster strikes is the most important step.  Assemble an emergency preparedness kit, create a household evacuation plan that includes your pets, stay informed about your community’s risk and response plans and ensure your family members know how to get back in touch if you are separated during an emergency. We also recommend downloading the American Red Cross emergency app which lets you monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.

When it comes to flooding, it’s also important to make sure you have access to a NOAA radio broadcast. These are available online or through apps you can access in the Apple Store or Google Play. You can also purchase a battery-powered or hand-crank NOAA radio in the Red Cross Store. It’s also important to find out about the area you live in and how it can be affected by flooding, specifically related to flood insurance. If where you live is prone to flooding, there are also steps you can take to protect your physical home.

When flooding is predicted, it’s also important to understand the warnings that officials share. A flood/flash flood WATCH means a flood or flash flood is possible. A flood/flash flood WARNING means flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon and you should take immediate precautions. Once flooding has begun, the Red Cross recommends the following steps to ensure you and your family stay safe.

  • Even a small amount of water is enough to sweep you off your feet or your vehicle off the road. If you come across a flooded area, turn around and go another way.
  • Identify at least two safe ways out of your neighborhood, should you need to evacuate. When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Return home only when officials have declared the area safe. Do not use water that could be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

When a flood occurs, the Red Cross is there to help with shelter, food and comfort. If you would like to help those affected by floods and other disasters, consider becoming a volunteer or making a financial donation.

Severe weather can bloom during spring in Ohio

By: Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

If you live in Northern Ohio, you know that Mother Nature likes to remind us that we can get a snowstorm late in the season, have a possible tornado at any point or even have heavy rain going into spring (out West they call it mud season). The Rockies and High Plains just experienced several feet of snow, Chicago recently reported areas with 18 inches of snow and the Northeast continues to have a heavy cycle of snow.

The American Red Cross offers tips to prepare and keep you safe during severe weather events of any kind, during any season.

Tornado Safety

Know the difference. A tornado watch means a tornado is possible. A tornado warning means atornado is already occurring or will occur soon. Go to your safe place immediately. Watch for tornado danger signs: dark, often greenish clouds, a wall cloud, cloud of debris.

  • Know your community’s warning system. Many communities use sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
  • Identify a safe place in your home to gather – a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. A small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
  • If you have time, move or secure items outside that can be picked up by the wind.
  • If you live in a mobile home, find a safe place in a nearby sturdy building. No mobile home is safe in a tornado. If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, go to the shelter or building immediately, using your seat belt if driving.
  • If you are outside, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building.
  • If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter, immediately get into a vehicle and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. Remember to buckle your seat belt.
  • Stay away from bridge/highway overpasses.
  • If strong winds and flying debris occurs while driving, pull over and park, keeping your seat belt on and engine running. Put your head down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket
  • Bring your companion animals indoors and maintain direct control of them.

Flooding Safety

Turn around, don’t drown. Stay off the roads. If you must drive and encounter a flooded roadway, turn around and go another way.

  • If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • Head for higher ground and stay there.
  • If your neighborhood is prone to flooding, be prepared to evacuate quickly if necessary.
  • Follow evacuation orders and do not attempt to return until officials say it is safe to do so.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. Beware of snakes, insects and other animals that may be in or around floodwaters and your home.
  • Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwater.
  • If power lines are down, do not step in puddles or standing water.

Winter Storm Safety

Be prepared for storms, even in spring. Have your disaster kit ready. Details about what should be included are on the Red Cross website. When the storm begins, listen to the advice of local officials and stay in a safe place until weather conditions improve and roads can be cleared.

STAY SAFE by following these steps:

  • Make sure you have enough heating fuel on hand.
  • Stay indoors and wear warm clothes. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing will keep you warmer than a bulky sweater.
  • Check on relatives, neighbors and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone. Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full to keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Be extremely careful if you have to shovel snow. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
  • Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
  • Don’t forget your pets. Bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  • If possible, avoid driving in the storm. If you have to drive, have a window scraper, kitty litter or sand in case you get stuck, extra clothes and a Disaster Supplies Kit in your trunk. Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
  • Let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.

Avoid Home Fire Danger 

Storms can result in a high number of home fires. To avoid fire danger, remember the following:

  • Never use a stove or oven to heat your home. If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs
  • Place space heaters on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.
  • Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
  • If your power is out, avoid using candles to prevent a fire.

Download our apps. Download the free Red Cross Emergency App to receive emergency alerts and information about what to do in case of severe weather or flooding, as well as locations of shelters. You can find it in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or  going to redcross.org/apps.

Edited By: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Be Red Cross Ready presentations focus on tornado, home fire, flood, and storm safety

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

The clatter of my typing is accompanied by a low, bellowing wind. I look through the window at snow and ice, reflecting on the isolation and challenges of the past year. Realizing it is almost March and spring a few weeks away is a welcome thought. As pleasant as spring can be, however, it also brings thunderstorms, floods, and tornadoes. We must be prepared for them, just as we need to be ready for home fires and other disasters that can happen at any time.

I spoke with John Gareis, the Red Cross’s Northern Ohio Regional Manager, Individual Community and Disaster Preparedness, who leads these presentations. He said people often neglect or disregard preparedness, as many have an impression that “It won’t happen to me.” However, the COVID-19 pandemic and other events in the past year have shown we must all be prepared.  In the Be Red Cross Ready presentations.  “How prepared are you?” John asks. “How prepared were you last year, when COVID-19 first hit the world, and we were told to shelter in place? Think of the hardships that you may have gone through. What could you have done to alleviate your discomfort and the isolated situation?” Continuing, John asks, “What would you have done differently, and what can you do to avoid similar situations now?”

John Gareis, Regional Manager, Individual Community and Disaster Preparedness for the Northern Ohio Region of the Red Cross (Photo taken prior to COVID-19)

To help prevent, prepare for, and respond to disasters, the American Red Cross offers a series of “Be Red Cross Ready” presentations. These free, one-hour, online presentations are available to everyone.

Be Red Cross Ready presentations are designed to help answer these questions and be better prepared, as disaster can happen to every one of us.   

March opens with the first of four sessions on General Preparedness & Tornado Safety. These presentations provide information and suggestions on being better prepared all types of emergencies. They also include tornado safety information with steps you can take to protect you and your family.

The first of four General Preparedness & Home Fire Safety presentations is on March 3rd. They will cover being prepared for all types of emergencies as well as fire safety preparedness, including how home fires happen and steps you can take to avoid them.

Are you ready to put your knowledge to the test? If so, the two Test Your Preparedness Knowledge sessions are for you. These fun, interactive presentations will test your knowledge on a variety of safety questions, such as: How Prepared are you? Would you know what to do if a fire broke out in your home? What kind of risk does carbon monoxide pose? If a tornado was sighted, where do you go? How well do you understand your smoke alarms? You will test your skills and learn a lot.

There are three sessions on Smoke Alarm Safety in March. They will discuss everything you need to know about smoke alarms, including proper installation and location, maintenance, and what to do if they sound off. The presentations include tips to avoid home fires and steps of an evacuation plan.

The March 23rd presentation is on General Preparedness & Flood Safety. Flooding, which occurs when water overflows onto normally dry land, is a threat to some parts of the U.S. and its territories nearly every day of the year and is always dangerous. The flood safety presentation will discuss the signs to know if a flood is eminent, and the safety actions you and your family can take to stay safe.

A General Preparedness & Thunderstorm Safety presentation is offered on March 25th. Every thunderstorm produces lightning and thunder. They are also associated with dangers such as hail, strong winds, and tornadoes. In addition, heavy rain can cause standing water and flash flooding. This presentation will discuss the signs that storms are eminent and actions that can keep you and your family safe.

To join any of these presentations, please register by clicking the date and time of the topic in which you are interested. The password is Prepare21. All times are Eastern.

Additional safety tips and resources are available at redcross.org and the free Red Cross mobile apps.

Basement Flooded? Follow these four safety steps.

Mailbox in Flood WatersStep #1: Stay SAFE!

Don’t risk serious injury if your basement floods. A flooded basement can be a serious health and safety risk. If your basement floods, follow these rules to make sure your family stays safe.

  •  Avoid venturing down into the basement if possible. In a severe basement flooding situation (water covering the basement floor to a depth of an inch or more), it’s best to stay out of the basement until the water is pumped out. Standing water in your basement can contain harmful bacteria.
  • Never touch electrical wiring or fixtures. If you must venture down into a flooded basement, wear waterproof rubber boots. Avoid touching or using electrical devices (except for a battery-powered flashlight) because this puts you at risk of electrical shock or electrocution.
  • Have standing water pumped out as soon as possible.

 

Step #2: Determine the cause of your flooded basement.

Sometimes the source of unwanted water is obvious –as with a burst water line or sewer backup. In other cases, water may be leaking into your basement for different reasons. If it is not obvious what caused your flooding, contact a licensed professional for an inspection.

Step #3. Remove water-damaged items and begin cleanup.

Are there wood-framed walls finished with drywall in your basement? If so, the lower section of these walls is likely to retain moisture and attract mold –even without a major basement flood. Take precautions for safety, but begin clean up as soon as possible. Eliminate the source of the flooding first, then clean up and toss out anything that is contaminated, using bleach and similar household cleaners. Bleach is the best cleaning product to kill mold, mildew and bacteria.

Step #4. Mitigate future flooding.

There are a number of ways you can mitigate future flooding loss by installing preventive equipment and valves, raising the height of critical utilities and appliances off the floor or out of your basement entirely, and simply keeping gutters clean. Make sure the ground around your home slopes away from your foundation. Raising the electrical outlets in your basement can also alleviate electrical shorts and injury due to shock. Acquire flood insurance.

For more information, download this helpful check list and information sheet: Basement Flooding – Safety and Clean-up Checklist

Is there still wicked weather raging over your house? Learn what to do before, during and after a flood. Download the Flood Safety Checklist, check out the Red Cross Flood App (available for iOS and Android) or visit the American Red Cross Flood Safety page.