Flooded homes in the Chicago area on a cloudy day.


Do you live in an area susceptible to flooding of any kind, particularly the dreaded flash flood and are you worried about not knowing how to keep yourself safe in the event of the unthinkable? Well then have no fear and consider this your comprehensive guide of what to do in a flash flood.

Floods are the second deadliest natural hazard to scourge the United States and flash floods are easily the most fatal type.

They can often occur without any suitable warning such as heavy rains and intimidating clouds which can leave a lot of people stranded and without any knowledge of what to do at hand.

And with global warming, flash flooding is likely to be a more common problem to deal with, so it’s essential you know what to do when disaster hits.


The best protection is prevention

The best help you can provide yourself and your loved ones with is preparation before a flood even strikes.

If you live in a high-risk flooding area, make sure you know the danger spots around town (be particularly aware of flow locations such as drainage channels, streams, or flat areas without any drainage points).

Plan ahead with your loved ones and make sure everyone is aware of what to do if they’re caught at the wrong place at the wrong time.

If you’re worried about your home being damaged, purchase some flood insurance so you’re completely covered.

Tread carefully when on foot


backpacker going up the mountain, vector illustration

The best thing you can do if you’re on foot when a flash flood strikes is to “turn around and don’t drown” according to the NOAA, which, while seemingly obvious, should be remembered all the same.


Head for higher ground and don’t try and be a hero.

Just because you could swim well in high school doesn’t mean you want to be traversing these waters which boast far stronger currents than indoor swimming pools you may be used to, and which hide hidden debris that can cut you, trip you or even electrify you.

If you absolutely must walk through water, stay where it is shallow. I

If you can, use a strong stick to check for depth and sturdiness of the ground before you step to avoid your tripping over or accidentally stepping into deep water.

Carry your children on your back and get to the highest ground possible.

If you manage to trip or get yourself swept away by the floodwaters then try your best to grab or climb onto something.

But if all else fails, then float on your back so you can push away debris coming towards you as you are carried downstream.

Always go over obstacles rather than under for fear of getting stuck underwater and don’t take any unnecessary risks that could backfire.

Once you can grab onto something sturdy to stop you in your tracks, wave and yell as much as you can – make yourself noticeable and don’t give up until you are rescued.

Keep your eyes on the road and your feet out of the water


Driving through a flash flood

When in doubt, stay away from your car when a flood is occurring.


But if you do get caught behind the wheel, then try to remember that even as little as a quarter of an inch of water can affect your car’s ability to drive safely on the road with the risk of hydroplaning.

Don’t forget either that it takes only two feet of rushing water to carry away vehicles as heavy as SUVs and pickup trucks.

Always drive slowly and carefully and keep your eyes on the road – spotting deep water and sinkholes will be far more difficult than you’ll initially realize.

If you get stuck in your tracks and water starts rushing your car, get out as soon as possible.

But if you can’t escape then unbuckle your seatbelt and roll down your windows.

This will let the water into the car to relieve the 2000 pounds of pressure that will be forming against the doors, which will stop you from being able to open them to escape.

If the doors still won’t open from pressure even after you’ve rolled down your windows, then at least you can climb out of the gap onto the roof of your car to scream for help or to strategize an escape route away from the water.

Sometimes there are places safer than home



Emergency escape plan

Even once the rain has eased, and the rushing water has been mostly drained, don’t be fooled into thinking that everything is as safe as usual.

Follow the advice of authorities and don’t assume the route home is safe, for there may be debris on the roads that could obstruct your way, and roads and bridges may be severely weakened from the water too.

Steer clear of any leftover pools of floodwater too and continue to avoid any moving water – it could be contaminated with anything from gasoline to sewage and could even be electrified from severed power lines.

And if you’re surrounded by water or are sopping wet yourself, electricity is the last thing you want to be close to.

Once you make your way home, be careful not to feel immediately safe.

Don’t go near the taps until you’re told explicitly by someone of authority that the water supply is safe to drink and hasn’t been contaminated – the last thing you want is to get seriously ill from a seemingly harmless glass of water.

Make sure your building is safe to enter before you step over the threshold and clean and disinfect every surface that the flood water has touched – anything could be lurking in the depths of that water, and you want to make sure you don’t suffer any bacterial consequences.


Stay Safe And Remember The Basics

Ultimately, it’s important to remember to be prepared for a flood before it even hits – know your safety and danger spots and make sure your kids are as well-versed in the dos and don’ts as you are.

Stay out of the water as much as possible and keep to the shallows if you’re forced to get your feet wet.

Get to the highest ground possible and make yourself as noticeable as you can – the people who scream and wave the most are the ones who get heard and rescued.

Follow all these directions and rely on your instincts and common sense and you’re sure to be back safely on dry land before you know it.

If you ever need a hand or have a question, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.

All the best,








  1. Great article Bob. As a child, we lived in an area (Kwazulu Natal South-Africa) that had a big flood. 400mm in 3 days. The water was so high that in some areas the floods covered the trees. A lot of people died. When the water receded, dead goats and dogs hang in the trees. Scariest time of my life.

    Thank you again for all this advice.

    All the best

  2. Great to know! This is valuable information. I’ve never been in a flash flood, but we do get them around here. It’s definitely in our best interest to know how to react in these circumstances. Thanks for posting!

  3. Hi Bob, this is a great article and covers everything. I’m lucky enough to live in an area that doesn’t have flash flooding but I’ve had a few friends that have had to deal with them. I’ve heard them say a few of the things that you have mentioned but not all. Even though I don’t currently live in an area that this is possible, I will definitely keep this information in mind.

    Thanks again for the advice.

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