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Planning an Important Flood-fighting Tool

Thinking ahead will help you know how to fight or escape from flooding.

Planning is a vital part of fighting a flood.

“Thinking ahead is very important if floodwater will be threatening your property this spring,” says Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer and flooding expert. “You need to plan how you will protect your property. You also need to have plans in place in case you lose electrical power or have to evacuate. Planning will help you and your family keep from panicking and having to make last-minute decisions.”

Here are some tips from the NDSU Extension Service to help you make those plans:

  • Listen to the radio, watch TV or visit your city or county’s Web site for the latest flood information.
  • Bring in outdoor furniture or other movable objects, and move belongings and hazardous material, such as agricultural chemicals, paint and cleaning supplies, to higher elevations.
  • Make sure your sump pump is operating properly.
  • Turn off electrical power to flood-threatened appliances, such as freezers, washers and dryers, and parts of your home or other buildings that could be flooded.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • Have a backup power source, such as a standby generator.
  • Build dikes correctly or they could fail. Visit NDSU Extension publication AE-626, “Sandbagging for Flood Protection,” for information on dike building. It’s available online at
  • Get a tetanus shot in case you are exposed to floodwater.
  • Protect your valuable papers, such as birth and marriage certificates, deeds and insurance policies. Store them in water- and fire-resistance containers or a safe deposit box and move them out of the reach of floodwater. Plan to take important documents with you if you must evacuate. Also consider making copies for family members or friends.
  • Make an inventory of household items and other property, including purchase price and date. Consider making a video or taking photos of your property.
  • Gather water, food that doesn’t need to be cooked or refrigerated, a nonelectric can opener, battery-powered radio and flashlights and extra batteries in case the power goes out. A kerosene-powered lamp, camp stove and fire extinguisher also are helpful.
  • If the electricity goes off, take perishable food to a friend’s home or commercial locker plant or try to keep it cold with ice or dry ice.
  • Assemble supplies for a possible evacuation. Those items include water; nonperishable food; paper or plastic plates, cups and utensils; extra clothing and shoes; blankets or sleeping bags; a first aid kit; prescription medication; special items for babies or the elderly; cash and credit cards; and important phone numbers.
  • Plan an escape route. Decide where you would go if you are forced to evacuate, such as a family member or friend’s home or a local shelter. Know how you would get there, especially if some streets or roads are flooded.
  • Designate a contact person whom family members should call in case they get separated while evacuating. Make sure everyone has the contact’s phone numbers.
  • Make a plan for pets. Shelters don’t allow pets because of health issues. Leaving pets behind can pose a health risk to them, and stressed pets can damage your home.
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can cause you to fall. If you must walk through water, walk where the water isn’t moving and use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive in flooded areas. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger vehicles, which can cause you to lose control or the vehicle to stall. A foot of water will float many vehicles. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, including sport utility vehicles and pickups.

For more information on preparing for a flood, visit the NDSU Extension Service’s flood information Web site at

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Ken Hellevang, (701) 231-7243,
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391,
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