Photo: Ricksha driver in a flooded street in Kolkata, India

When the annual monsoon rains come and send the Hooghly River over its banks, rickshas are the best way to get around Kolkata (Calcutta), India. Here, a drenched ricksha puller pauses for a photo in ankle-deep water near a market.

Photograph by Ami Vitale

Here are some safety tips to prepare for rising water—and what to do once a flood has begun.

Safety Tips

Before a Flood

  • Avoid building in a floodplain.
  • Construct barriers (levees, beams, floodwalls) to stop floodwater from entering your home.
  • Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
  • If a flood is likely in your area, listen to the radio or television for information.
  • Know the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning. A watch means flooding is possible. A warning meansflooding is occurring or will occur soon.

When a Flood is Imminent

  • Be prepared! Pack a bag with important items in case you need to evacuate. Don't forget to include needed medications.
  • If advised to evacuate your home, do so immediately.
  • If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground.
  • If possible, bring in outdoor furniture and move essential items to an upper floor.
  • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances.

During a Flood

  • Do not walk through moving water. As little as 6 inches (15 centimeters) of moving water can make you fall.
  • If you have to walk in water, wherever possible, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

After a Flood

  • Listen for news reports to learn whether the community's water supply is safe to drink.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Avoid moving water.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
  • Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
  • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.

Source: U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency

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