Nairobi has been experiencing extremely high levels of rainfall in the past weeks which has led to flash flooding in several parts of the city. Dozens have died and others been reported missing, while property worth tens of millions of shillings has been destroyed by floodwaters. Not to mention the unending hours stuck in traffic jam.
The rains are expected to continue for the next month according to the meteorological department, therefore it is important that we be adequately prepared to face inland flooding and flash floods. Inland flooding usually occurs after a heavy slow moving rainstorm. Flash floods are those that develop within 6 hours of a rainstorm and flash floods can catch people unprepared. You will not always have a warning before the floods hit so it is best to plan ahead to protect your family and property.
According to The Disaster Center website, as land is converted from fields or woodlands to roads and parking lots, it loses its ability to absorb rainfall. Urbanization increases runoff two to six times over what would occur on natural terrain. During periods of urban flooding, streets can become swift moving rivers, while basements and viaducts can become death traps as they fill with water.
People do not realize the incredible strength of water. Six inches of fast moving water can knock over an adult. It takes only two feet of rushing water to carry a vehicle, and that includes pickups and SUV’s. Nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are vehicle related. Majority of victims are male.
Here are a few tips to help you before, during and after a flash flood.
Evaluate your insurance coverage once a year to ensure that your home is fully covered. As new construction grows in certain areas, more flood plains are created so it is important to constantly keep tabs.
Knowing the elevation of your property in relation to nearby rivers and dams will let you know if flood levels will affect your home.
If you already live in an area known to experience flooding, keep the following materials on hand:- sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, trash bags, shovels, gumboots and work gloves.
Put together a disaster survival kit.
Plan two evacuation routes in advance. Be aware of streams, drainage channels and low areas in your region that are prone to flooding, so that your evacuation routes are not cut off.
Have a functioning Family Disaster Plan. It is important to make sure that the entire family is prepared and informed in the event of a disaster or emergency. Discuss what to do, where to meet if separated, who to contact in case of separation and so on. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing floods ahead of time helps reduce fear and anxiety and lets everyone know how to respond.
Be ready to protect appliances from minor flooding. Put a half-block of cement under each corner of refrigerators, freezers, washing machines and dryers. Use bricks or boards if you don’t have cement blocks.
Flood proof your buildings. Seal cracks in walls and floors with hydraulic cement. Place heavy screens over lower windows to prevent breakage from floating objects.
DURING A FLOOD
Do not drive unless you have to. If you must, travel with care.
When driving, always be aware that the roadbed underneath may be severely damaged. Never drive through flooded roads. You can lose control of your vehicle in only a few inches of water! Your car may float or be swept away. Do not drive around barricades, they are there for a reason. Turn around and go another way.
If your vehicle stalls, abandon it. If water rises around your car, leave the vehicle immediately. Climb to higher ground as quickly as possible if you can do so safely.
If you are on foot, do not attempt to walk or swim through flowing water. If the flowing water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Most people are swept away as they tried to wade through fast moving waters. If you have to walk in water, wherever possible, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you. Be extra cautious at night, when it is harder to see possible flood dangers.
Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. Report downed power lines to Kenya Power Company. Electrocution is a major killer during and after floods.
If someone falls into or is trapped in flood waters DO NOT go after the victim. Call for assistance. Toss them a floatation device, e.g. a spare tire or a large ball that will help them float until professional services arrive.
If you think you are at risk or are advised to evacuate a building/area, do so immediately. Save YOURSELF, not your belongings. Families should use only one vehicle while others should carpool where possible. Shut off water, gas and electricity supply before leaving. Secure all the doors and windows.
Do not visit disaster areas. Your presence may hamper urgent emergency response and rescue operations. If you must help, help your neighbours who may need special assistance – those with elderly relatives, infants or people with disabilities. Elderly people and those with disabilities may also require your help. Be cautious in areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
Do not return to flooded areas unless authorities have declared it safe. You might put yourself at risk of getting caught in the aftermath of floods. Check for structural damage before re-entering buildings to avoid being trapped in a building collapse. If a building is still surrounded by it may not be safe to enter. Flood waters undermine foundations and cause sinking and cracks, which can cause the building to collapse.
Be extremely cautious while entering buildings. Watch your step, since after a flood the ground is covered with debris e.g broken glass, rusted nails, etc. Floors and stairs can also be very slippery. Ensure you have sturdy shoes. If you must go through an area where there is still water, use a pole/stick to ensure that the ground is solid.
Check for fire hazards such as flooded electrical circuits and leaking/damaged gas cylinders, as well as for electrical system damage such as sparks, broken or frayed wires, or the smell of burning insulation. Turn off the electricity at the main circuit breaker if you can reach it without stepping in water.
Watch for animals, especially snakes. Small animals that have been flooded out of their homes may try to seek refuge in yours. Use a pole or a stick to poke at and turn items over, and to scare away small animals.
Take photos of any floodwater in your home and save any damaged personal property. Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their purchase date and value with receipts. Some damaged items may require disposal, so keep photographs of these items.
If your appliances got soaked, turn off your electricity until they can dry out. Some appliances such as television sets can shock you even after they have been unplugged. Do not use electronics that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned and dried.
Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Floodwaters pick up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, factories and garbage sites. Let the building air out to remove any foul odors. Soaked carpeting and padding should be pulled up and discarded.
Spoiled food, soaked cosmetics and medicines are health hazards. Canned goods can be salvaged, but if the cans are dented or damaged, throw them away. Such foods can cause severe illnesses. The water supply often gets contaminated in the case of floods so boil all water before using it.
Seek medical advice where necessary. Do not ignore any minor wounds or illnesses.
Are there any other tips you would recommend to our users? Leave your suggestions in the comment section below.
Stay safe out there!
(images courtesy of hekaheka.com)