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Flood-Proof Your Family, Home and Business

I lived in one of the top flood prone regions of the United States. Tulsa, Oklahoma was inundated by floods both by the Arkansas River and Mingo Creek. Both became federal disaster areas. What I learned by working in community organizing at that time is that the best protection from flooding (that can be caused by storms, broken dams, broken levees, winter thaws, etc.) is a two-prong safety strategy.

  • Families are responsible for flood-proofing their property.
  • Communities are responsible for flood-proofing their region.

    And those are not simple tasks...nor complete solutions. Nature is a powerful force and when combined with decades of massive building projects by humans, the outcome puts the risk on you and your family.

    Smaller Homes, Greater Safety

    It seems to me that we need to adopt a new philosophy: "smaller homes, greater safety." The cost can stay the same...the priorities need to shift. No longer can be depend on 100-year flood planning to be sufficient. We need to go to 150-year levels in many areas. Why? Because weather patterns are changing. Because continued development increases flood levels. Because we know now what we did not know 10 years ago.

    Flood Resources and Organizations

    Here is a list of agencies and organizations that focus on disaster preparedness and prevention ... as well as recovery. You might want to educate yourself about what is smart prevention strategy ... and what is available after the fact.

    Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States. Flood effects can be local, impacting a neighborhood or community, or very large, affecting entire river basins and multiple states.

    However, all floods are not alike. Some floods develop slowly, sometimes over a period of days. But flash floods can develop quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes and without any visible signs of rain. Flash floods often have a dangerous wall of roaring water that carries rocks, mud, and other debris and can sweep away most things in its path. Overland flooding occurs outside a defined river or stream, such as when a levee is breached, but still can be destructive. Flooding can also occur when a dam breaks, producing effects similar to flash floods.

    Be aware of flood hazards no matter where you live, but especially if you live in a low-lying area, near water or downstream from a dam. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds, or low-lying ground that appear harmless in dry weather can flood. Every state is at risk from this hazard.

    Before a Flood

    To prepare for a flood, you should:
    • Avoid building in a floodplain unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
    • 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.
    • Construct barriers (levees, beams, floodwalls) to stop floodwater from entering the building.
    • Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
    • The smartest thing you can do to prepare for floods is purchase flood insurance.
    Disaster resistant communities are able to bounce back from natural disasters with far less damage to property and consequently much less cost for repairs. Moreover, the time lost from productive activity is minimized for both businesses and their employees. Indeed, FEMA estimates that for every dollar spent in damage prevention, two dollars are saved in repairs.


  • National Emergency Managers Association (NEMA)
  • National Association of Flood & Stormwater Management Agencies
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers
  • River Management Society
  • National Flood Determination Association (NFDA)
  • American Heritage Rivers

  • Community Associations Institute
  • Dartmouth College Flood Remote
  • Institute of Business & Home Safety
  • National Association of Realtors
  • National Hazards Center

  • National Association of Insurance Commissioners
  • Flood Insurance Servicing Companies Assn of America, Inc.
  • Independent Insurance Agents of America
  • Insurance News Network
  • National Association of Independent Insurers
  • National Association of Professional Insurance Agents
  • National Conference of Insurance Legislators
  • National Lenders Insurance Council
  • Texas Department of Insurance
  • Ultimate Insurance Links

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • National Weather Service
  • American Meteorological Society
  • The Weather Channel

  • US Army Corps of Engineers
  • US Department of the Interior
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • US Geological Survey