Utah flooding resource guide: What to do before, during and after a flood

It can flood anywhere. Here’s what Utahns should know.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Salt Lake Tribune compiled a guide of resources to help prepare for before, during and after a flood.

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Wherever it rains or snows, it can flood. In Utah, that could be anywhere.

“We can’t tell exactly where or when it will flood,” said Wade Mathews, public information officer for the Utah Division of Emergency Management. “We don’t know until it’s starting to happen. So people need to be prepared.”

The Salt Lake Tribune compiled this guide to help explain what you should do before, during and after a flood to protect yourself, your home or business, your family and pets, and your belongings.

Before a flood:

1. Check your flood risk • Salt Lake County publishes a map on its website that uses data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to show flood risk throughout the county.

Property owners should check the map, found here, to see if their home or business lies in one of the blue-shaded areas.

You can also check precise addresses with FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center by entering an address in the search field at the top of this page.

If you live below the mouth of a canyon that has a river or a stream flowing out of it, or if you live below a burn scar from a fire that burned within the past five years, your risk of flooding is higher, Mathews said.

2. Consider getting flood insurance • Experts say you can still experience flooding even if you are located outside of an area with high flood risk, and most homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood damage.

Most flooding policies also take 30 days to kick in, so take action now to be covered when it counts.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) partners with more than 50 insurance companies to offer the same affordable rates and coverage for your structures and belongings. Visit Floodsmart.gov to learn more about getting flood insurance through the NFIP.

3. Create a communication plan with loved ones • Designate a specific person to contact for updates, and establish a safe location to meet up with family members.

4. Assemble an emergency kit • The Department of Public Safety says it’s a good idea to have enough food, water and medicine on hand to last at least three days in case of an emergency.

You should also have batteries, blankets, flashlights, a first aid kit, rubber boots, rubber gloves and a battery-operated radio in your kit. If you have pets, remember to pack food, leashes, food and water dishes, and any medicine they may need. You can find useful lists here to reference while assembling disaster kits for individuals, infants and pets.

Mathews said one thing to remember when assembling a disaster kit is to personalize it. “If there’s something that you need to be happy, healthy and comfortable every day, make sure you have some of that in your kit,” he said, whether it’s a favorite chewing gum, or games for the kids.

5. Prepare your home • Take photos of your possessions and home in case they are damaged by floodwater. Use sandbags to divert water and debris away from your home or business. Salt Lake County residents can go to this webpage to find sandbag-making locations organized by each city in the county. Videos and information on how to use sandbags can be found here.

If flooding is imminent, move valuable items up a floor if you can, such as moving items in a basement up to a first or second floor.

[Read more: Q&A: How can I prepare my home for flooding from Utah’s spring runoff?]

6. Prepare for evacuation • Pack ahead of time for yourself, your family and your pets so you are ready to go at a moment’s notice. Have your disaster supply kit ready to go, and collect valuable and irreplaceable items beforehand so you can grab them in a hurry, Mathews said.

During a flood:

1. Stay informed • If possible, check the internet and social media for information and updates. Follow FEMA Region 8, the American Red Cross of Utah and your local National Weather Service office on Twitter. Get the NOAA Weather app on your phone.

2. Evacuate • If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Lock your home when you leave. If you have time, disconnect your appliances. Take your pets with you. Get to higher ground.

3. Stay away from floodwaters • Streams and rivers coming down from the mountains will be fast and cold, and people should never try to cross them on foot, Mathews said.

Remember, 6 inches of water can knock a person off their feet; 12 inches can float a car; and 18 inches can sweep away large vehicles.

Water may be hiding sharp objects, electrical wires, washed out road surfaces, etc. Don’t drive around barricades or into flooded roads — water could be deeper than it appears.

If you’re in an area that is prone to flash flooding, be aware of the weather, Mathews said. “Understand what the conditions are like before you go out into the outdoors.”

If you are trapped by floodwaters, get to the highest point you can and call 911.

After a flood:

1. Avoid disaster areas • You could hamper rescue and emergency operations. Floodwaters could be contaminated.

2. Contact your family and loved ones • Let your family know you’re safe by using the Red Cross “Emergency!” app or the Safe and Well website; information about both of these resources can be found here. Check on your neighbors as well.

3. Wait for the “all clear” • Don’t enter a building until authorities tell you it’s safe. If you enter a building that has been damaged by a flood, be very careful. Make sure the electrical system is turned off.

4. Stay informed • Stay tuned to your local news for updated road conditions and whether a boil order is in place. If you lose power, report the outage and receive restoration updates on the Rocky Mountain Power app.

5. Insurance • If your property is damaged by a flood, start your flood insurance claim.

For more information on flooding preparation and safety, visit BeReady.Utah.gov, a website of resources hosted by the Utah Department of Public Safety.