Floods are one of the most common hazards in the US and account for approximately 30% of disasters worldwide. The frequency of flooding is increasing, due in part to removing trees, climate change, building communities and increasing habitation in flood-prone areas. Damage from floods can be major (drowning deaths, crop disruption, need for rescue missions) or minor (water damage to buildings, power outages, traffic delays).

Assuring access to safe water and primary health care services is critical, as are surveillance and early warning to detect epidemic-prone diseases known to occur in flooded areas. See Epidemics after Natural Disasters for more information. People need to protect themselves from animal and insect hazards after a flood. Discuss with families the importance of removing standing water from items in and around their home when it is safe to do so.

Begin the Conversation with Families

Pediatricians play a central role in encouraging disaster preparedness in conversations with families, children and their communities. Begin conversations with families about preparing for situations such as floods. Start by explaining the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning. A flood watch means that conditions are right for flooding to occur in your area. A flood warning means that flooding is either happening or will happen shortly. Flash floods are the number one cause of weather-related deaths in the US, so it's important to discuss what a flash flood is and how to avoid risks as well.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers the following safety tips to prepare for flooding, and this is good information for pediatricians to pass on to families:

  • Turn around, don't drown.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • If there is a chance of flash flooding, move immediately to higher ground.
  • If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is not moving, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Don't leave the car and enter moving water.
  • Avoid camping or parking along streams, rivers and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly with little warning.

It is important to remind parents to go over this information with children of all ages, particularly those with adolescents and young adults who might be learning to drive.

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American Academy of Pediatrics