What to do Before and After the Flood

Introduction to Floods

LexingtonFloodOct2010Floods occur when runoff from rain or snowmelt exceeds the capacity of rivers, stream channels, or lakes and overflows onto adjacent land. Throughout history, floods have claimed uncounted human lives and devastated property, even destroying cities. Yet people continue to settle and build in floodplains, increasing the risk of property damage and loss of life.  

Prepare: Know What To Do Quickly in an Emergency

During floods and other natural disasters, having a plan and supplies ready can make the difference between safety and life-threatening situations. You can also feel safer and more confident knowing what to do during an emergency. Many websites have great guides for preparedness plan and survival kit checklists: www.ready.gov and www.floodsmart.gov are two good sites.

Sign up for NY-ALERT

FloodTruckBy signing up for NY-Alert, you can receive warnings and emergency information via the web, your cell phone, email and other technologies. NY-ALERT is a tool to provide you with critical information when you may need it most.

Signing up for NY Alert is free. Your information is protected and never shared with any one else. You can modify what type of information you receive or unsubscribe at any time.

Information sent by NY-ALERT includes severe weather warnings, significant highway closures, hazardous materials spills, and many other emergency conditions. Additionally you will find information regarding response actions being taken by local and state agencies and protective actions that you should take to protect you, your family and your property.

To sign up, go to www.nyalert.gov.

If a flood is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or television for information
  • Check NY ALERT (see above)
  • Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood (e.g. a flash flood warning for your location), move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
  • Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.

Evacuation Checklist

FloodEvacuationIf there is time, move important papers, television sets, computers, stereo equipment and easily moveable appliances such as a microwave oven to the upper floors of your home.

If your basement floods before you have a chance to shut off electric or you suspect a natural gas buildup, do not enter the basement. There is the possibility of electric shock if any electrical wires are touching the water. Contact your electric company as soon as possible.

  • Turn off all electrical appliances.  Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • Turn off the electricity at the main fuse or circuit breaker
  • Turn off water at the main valve.
  • Turn off propane gas service. Propane tanks often become dislodged in emergency situations.
  • Leave natural gas on. Unless local officials advise otherwise, leave natural gas on because you will need it for heating and cooking when you return home. If you turn the gas off, a licensed professional is required to turn it back on and it may take weeks for a professional to respond.
  • Drain your plumbing if it is likely that the temperature in your house will go below freezing. Shut off the water service valve. Then turn on the highest and lowest hot and cold water taps in the house to drain your system. Also, flush toilets and remove water from lower bowl to prevent freezing damage. Leave all taps open until you return.

Returning Home After a Flood

LexingtonFloodOct2010_2Before You Enter Your Home
Check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.

Do not enter if:

  • You smell gas.
  • Floodwaters remain around the building.
  • Your home was damaged by fire and authorities have not declared it safe.

Going Inside Your Home:

  • Natural Gas: If you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing sound, open a window and leave immediately and call the gas company from a neighbor’s residence.
  • Electricity: Do not touch electrical components if you are wet or standing in water.  Turn off electricity and unplug appliances until wires are dry.  Have appliances inspected before use.
  • Water: Flood waters may be contaminated with fecal matter and bacteria. Be aware of hygiene - wash hands and keep cuts and sores clean and use antibiotic ointment. Do not let children play in flood water. Check media for boil water advisories.
  • Prevent Mold Growth: Mold can cause disease and allergies. Remove standing water, all wet materials, and ventilate with fans and use dehumidifiers. If mold has already grown in the house, consult a professional.  Be careful of mixing household cleaners as some combinations can produce very toxic fumes.

How to Avoid Flood Damage to Your Property

  • FloodDamage-floodplainAvoid building in a floodplain unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
  • Do not mow to the stream.  Maintain a wide buffer of trees and shrubs to slow water and prevent erosion.
  • Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if susceptible to flooding.
  • Install "check valves" in sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
  • Secure propane tanks and other objects that could be carried away in flood waters.
  • Install stormwater management systems around buildings. Keep ground sloped away from your house.

Have you Sustained Flood Damage to Your Property?

Please fill out this form if you live in Greene County and experienced property damage as a result of a recent flood event, and fax or mail it to the Greene County Department of Emergency Services, or email it to John P. Farrell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  These forms will be used to determine if Greene County is eligible for emergency state and federal funding.

Additional Resources

Floodplain Management Information

Greene County Department of Emergency Services

National Flood Insurance Program


Ready America


Flood Preparedness Guide

Post-Flood Emergency Stream Intervention Manual (4 Mb pdf)


Factsheets from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene County

FEMA Publications

After a Flood: The First Steps (141 Kb) FEMA Document L-198.
Information for homeowners on preparedness, safety, and recovery from a flood

Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect Your House from Flooding (1 Mb) FEMA Document L-235.
A brochure about obtaining information about how to protect your home from flooding.

Above the Flood: Elevating Your Floodprone House (4.9 Mb) FEMA Document 347.
This publication is intended for builders, code officials and homeowners.