Flood Safety

Posted by Melissa Hall in #YHSafetyTips, Jul 31, 2019

Did you know floods kill more people in the United States than tornadoes, hurricanes, and lightning? In fact, flooding results in more weather-related deaths in the United States than anything except for extreme heat!

A flood is an overflowing of water onto land that is normally dry and can occur during all seasons and in any location. Coastal areas are at greater risk for floods during hurricane season, while the Midwest and Northeast have greater risks in the spring and summer. Ice jams in the winter are also a cause of flooding.

Flooding can occur in several ways including:

  • Rivers and lakes overflow due to excessive rain or snowmelt
  • Excessive rain or snowmelt cannot be fully absorbed into the ground
  • Waterways are blocked with debris or ice may overflow
  • Water containment systems including levees, dams, water, or sewer systems may break
  • Winds from tropical storms or hurricanes may cause storm surges and push seawater onto land

Flooding may occur slowly if it rains for several days or floods may come on rapidly within hours, days, or even minutes. Flash floods occur very quickly and give little or no warning. Densely populated areas including urban areas are at high risk for flash floods that can fill underpasses, parking structures, low roads, and basements.

The National Weather Service has four levels of warning systems for flooding.

Flood Watches and Warnings

It is imperative to prepare for flooding in advance since once flooding starts there is not much you can do to stop the flood.

There are six steps to take when preparing for a potential flood.

  1. Plan an Evacuation Route
  2. An evacuation route should be communicated to all employees and posted near all exit doors. A meet up point should be indicated so that employees can gather if an evacuation is required.

  3. Create an Emergency Kit
  4. Gather supplies including food, water, medicine & first aid supplies, extra batteries, charging devices for electronics, and other critical equipment.

  5. Consider Flood Insurance
  6. If you’re in a flood zone or in an area that is prone to flooding, you should consider flood insurance. Plan ahead as it typically takes 30 days for a flood policy to go into effect.

  7. Protect Critical Information
  8. Store important documents in a waterproof container and create digital copies in case of an emergency.

  9. Prepare Your Building
  10. Move valuables and equipment to higher levels and check that all sump pumps are functioning properly.

  11. Create a Comprehensive Emergency Plan
  12. Develop an emergency action plan not only for floods but for any potential emergency. Emergency action plans are intended to facilitate and organize employer and worker actions during workplace emergencies. In addition to developing an emergency action plan, you should train workers on their responsibilities of the plan.

Driving During a Flood

Fifty percent of flood fatalities are vehicle related. If flooding is occurring, you should use caution when driving and should never try to cross flooded roadways. As little as six inches of standing water is enough to stall some cars, a foot of water can cause a vehicle to float, and two feet of moving water can sweep a car away.

Clean Up After a Flood

If a flood occurs, you need to take caution when cleaning up the area as floodwaters often contain infectious organisms and may be contaminated by agricultural or industrial chemicals or by hazardous agents. During clean up wear protective clothing including rubber gloves, boots, and a mask or respirator. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water before work breaks, meal breaks, and at the end of each shift. Always assume that the water in flooded and surrounding areas is not safe unless it has been cleared by local or state authorities. Use caution when working with potential chemical and electrical hazards.

OSHA Flood Preparedness

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