Flash floods: Safety do’s and don’ts

Published on: 21 October 2014

Flash floods are difficult to predict. They can occur within minutes or hours of a severe rainstorm or be caused by a blocked storm water drain or burst dam. Depending on how much time you have, here are steps you can take to help you stay safe:

How do I know that a flood might occur?

  • It normally happens during the rainy season
  • There are severe inland thunderstorms or storms over the sea
  • Previous rains have saturated the soil and another storm is threatening
  • There is excessive rainfall over a short period of time
  • Moderate rainfall occur from slow moving storms resulting in a lot of rain over the same area
  • The water levels in rivers and dams rise suddenly.

If a flood is imminent

  • If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Keep out of places that are likely to flood suddenly, such as ditches or dry stream beds and other areas
  • Do not walk into or near high water
  • Don’t walk on sea defences, riverbanks or cross bridges if possible – they may collapse in extreme situations or you may be swept off by large waves. Beware of stone and pebbles being thrown up by waves
  • Avoid already flooded areas and high velocity flow areas
  • Avoid contact with floodwater – it may be contaminated with sewage
  • Never attempt to cross a flooded river - whether on foot or by car  
  • Never try to swim through fast flowing water – you may get swept away or be struck by an object in the water
  • Avoid open and partially closed storm water drainage systems
  • Never attempt to run across flooding water when the water is above your ankles.

If you are driving

  • Never drive through flooded roadways! Turn away around and go the other direction. Nearly half of all flash flood deaths are auto-related, so never drive or let anyone drive through flood waters. You do not know how deep it is or if the road is washed away
  • Drive with caution when it is raining
  • Be cautious, especially at night when your visibility is impaired.

If a flash flood warning has been issued for your area, act immediately! You may only have seconds to react. If you have been affected by a flood, report the damages to your insurance company as soon as possible to register your claim