In the earlier days of UK Survival Guides we wrote a guide for preparing for a flood. Today we want to take a look at flash floods and more importantly, how to survive a flash flood.
The dangerous thing about flash floods over normal flooding is the speed at which the waters build. There can be little to no warning at all in some cases.
What is a Flash Flood?
A flash flood is a rapid flooding of a low-lying area. It can be caused by heavy rain associated with a severe thunderstorm, hurricane or even a tropical storm.
A flash flood is considered to be just that if it has a timescale of less than six hours. You will not always have a warning that they are coming.
Flash floods are not an easy disaster to prepare for but they are even harder to Escape from.
There are however steps that you can take that will minimize your chances of being caught in one, and will help you survive if you are.
Your best chance of survival is to avoid flash floods in the first place. This may sound obvious but unrealistic at the same time. It all comes down to gaining a little bit of knowledge.
Start off by checking with your local emergency management agencies to find out if you live in a high-risk area for flash flooding. The same goes for if you are planning a trip out, find out the risk beforehand.
Secondly, you need to have a plan. Find out ahead of time how you can protect your home and family members in case of flooding.
Keep up-to-date with the local weather conditions for the area in question and be sure that you pay close attention to any flood watches and warnings that are given out.
- Flood watch – A flood watch will be issued when conditions are favorable for flooding. It doesn’t necessarily mean that flooding will occur, but it is possible
- Flood warning – A flood warning is issued when flooding is imminent or already occurring
Be careful where you choose to park up or camp being sure not to do so in any danger zones. Stay on high ground, especially if there’s stormy weather incoming.
Whether it be in your own location or you have headed out, be sure that you fully understand and memorize any escape routes. You need to know the quickest but safest way to get up and out of danger as soon as you hear a rumble. You won’t have time to be stopping and thinking about this once the waters start building.
If heading out, before the weather takes a turn for the worst, have backup plans in place for nearby places that you can go that will be safe from the flooding.
Get away from the banks along recently-flooded streams. They could be unstable, and the water’s probably still vigorous enough to damage or kill you
I can’t stress this enough, never play in the flood waters!
If you have children, make sure that they fully understand the risks and what they should and shouldn’t do.
2. Keep Out of the Water!
If even after the above, you’ve managed to get caught in a flash flood zone while the water’s flowing. Don’t panic! Remain calm!
If You’re on Foot
It only takes six inches of flowing water to cause you to lose your balance and be swept off your feet. This is the last thing you want. Water is an incredibly powerful force.
Instead of trying to make your way through the water, turn around and try to get to higher ground right away. Don’t wait to see if it gets better or eases off, find your route and go!
Forget about trying to pack your expensive tent away first, abandon it and the rest of your possessions if needed. Your life is more precious than trying to save your belongings.
If evacuation orders have been given, follow them immediately and do exactly as the authorities tell you.
If You’re in a Vehicle
As we mentioned above, six inches of flowing water can knock you down. It takes just a foot or two of water to float your car and sweep it downstream.
It is impossible to tell how deep the water is just by looking at it. The road bed could have been washed out. There could be debris covered by the water. Seriously, it’s not worth it. Turn around and find a safer route if at all possible
If barriers have been put in place, be smart and don’t try to drive around them. Those barriers are there for a reason.
Head to high ground. If you can’t get to your destination without going through a risky area, find somewhere safe and stay put until the danger’s over.
3. You’re in the Water
Despite your best efforts, you have landed in the water anyway? Stay calm!
If You’re on Foot
Try to get your hands on a sturdy stick that you can use to test the ground in front of you for any potential hazards such as rocks, debris, and holes.
Look for slackwater (still water) if you need to cross a flooded area. You’re far more likely to survive if you can stay out of moving water.
If you can find a place to shelter above the waters, even if it’s small, hunker down and wait it out.
If you’re caught in moving water despite your best efforts:
Try to grab and hold on to something sturdy. Keep your feet pointing downstream. It is much better to break an ankle than your skull. This will also allow you to keep your head up a little bit to see what’s going on. It’s also a good way to feel for the ground if the water is getting shallow and if you can touch it, then that might be a point to get out.
You should try and avoid going under the flood waters and if faced with any obstacles, go over them, not under them.
Try to steer your way towards a building or some higher ground. Head for anything you can grab and cling to that will get you out of the water or keep you from going further downstream.
If you have managed to get yourself somewhere of relative safety, stay there and await rescue. Always remain calm and do exactly as told by the rescue team.
If You’re in a Vehicle
If the waters are not flowing, get out of the car and immediately head for higher ground. If the waters are moving, stay in your vehicle.
If your car gets submerged, stay calm. If you can get out through the window, climb up on top and look for a safe place to go. If you can’t get out, wait for the water to fill the car, then open your door and swim up to the surface.
Once you’re out of your car, follow the survival tips for surviving a flood on foot.