What follows are 10 tips for survival in a flood situation. I am currently in a real flood situation in the Bangkok November 2011 floods at the time of writing this blog post and I have included tips that I am finding useful. The picture is from the road outside of where I am staying.
1) Plenty of Water
Before the flood arrives, stock up on plenty of water – I have stocked up on a 2 week supply of water. Sewage is coming through some people’s taps here as I speak, so you’ll need drinking water as well as water to wash in to remain comfortable. Store the water in a shaded place as it will keep longer. Boil up any water you are not sure of to be extra safe if you think that it may be out of date. Yes, cold countries may laugh at this, but in hot countries water goes out of date faster. After a flood warning it is better to overreact and get too many supplies in than being scared of overreacting and Â waiting until the last minute. The shops around this area ran out of water very quickly and shops are not re-stocking as they are afraid of looters or their delivery trucks being stuck in the flood.
2) Electricity – The Biggest Killer
In this particular flood, most people I hear about are being killed by electric current in the water. Two people that I know of close by have been electrocuted this week alone. If flooding comes into your home make sure the downstairs electrics are turned off. Get to know your fusebox. I have labelled up every fuse, so I can turn off the downstairs electrics quickly if needed.
3) Test The Water
If water has entered your house and you have switched off all of the electrics downstairs. It’s still not enough. You will need to test the water to be absolutely sure. If possible use equipment to test the water. A good idea is to buy a simple electrical current tester in advance, if a flood is heading toward your area. If you have no equipment you can test the water by very, very, lightly touching the water with the back of your hand – not the front of your hand. You will feel a tingling sensation if there is an electrical current in the water, or your hand will be thrown back. If you test the water with the front of your hand your hand will tense up and be under water. The best possible way is to first test it with equipment and then give the water the ‘back of the hand’ test to be absolutely sure. If you are unlucky enough to find yourself having to turn off the electrics at the fusebox with water already in your house – stand on something non-conductive or wear rubber wellies. Don’t use your hand to touch the fuse switches, use a piece of wood or rolled up newspaper etc. Anything non-conductive.
4) Keep All Empty Bottles
Keep all empty water bottles. You can use the bottles for storing washing water from tap water that might not be available during the flood if you have time to prepare. They can also act as floats if you have to make a raft out of your cupboard doors etc.
5) Electrical Tape, Rope, Torch & Batteries
If you can, get in a good supply of electrical tape and rope. The rope can help in many ways, such as making rafts etc. Down the road I spotted people living in a bungalow that has roped up their motorbike and T.V. set and hoisted it up off of ground level. Yes, it looks weird, but it works. With electrical tape you can seal bottles 100% as well as many other uses which your imagination comes up with in flood emergency situations. The torch and batteries are obvious must haves. If you can, by a boat or a rubber dingy in advance too. If you wait until the flood comes, unscrupulous individuals looking to profit from the flood will then sell you a boat for 2 times the usual amount, or more. Candles are also a good idea as well as battery powered hand fans for hot countries and many layers of clothes in cold countries in case the electricity goes out.
6) Plastic Bags
Plastic bags can be used with the electrical tape for filling up with tap water before the flood arrives for water for washing. This way you can save your drinking water. I am using bin bags and need 3 bin bags to ensure no leaks to store water in them. You can also use the bin bags for going to the toilet, if the toilet in your bathroom doesn’t work anymore.
7) Don’t Rely On The News Too Much
Don’t rely too much on the news as they usually report from the worst affected area for shock value to sell newspapers etc. Also, beware of rumours that are sometimes exaggerated. Just the other day the newspaper reported that my area would not flood, but now it’s flooded. Instead, ring friends up in different areas around you to get the real lowdown on whether it’s flooding or not.
8 ) Collect Emergency Numbers And Prepare An Evacuation Plan + Beware Of Thieves
Collect as many emergency help numbers as you can and top your mobile phone up and charge it up fully before any blackout. Prepare an evacuation plan in advance for if it gets really bad. You can either box up your valuables and take them with you or hide them (not always effective but better than nothing) from thieves that may take advantage of your situation and empty house. Be extra on guard for burglars and thieves as these people are either stone-cold hearted and want to take advantage or they are people that are desperate for money because they are flood victims themselves. In the current flood situation I am in there are many thefts and burglaries going on. One guy on a news interview said that his road had many thieves but the police cannot get there in time to help. It is usually against the law to carry a weapon to protect yourself and authorities usually give some weak advice like ‘don’t resist’, or if you’re in England ‘say if you know a martial art 3 times, then make a controlled citizens’ arrest with little to no force, upstairs in your home, but not downstairs’ . . . yeah right . . . lol. Well I’m certainly not going to just stand there and let someone break into my home and maybe do even worst things than just rob me, so I personally have opted to have a few surprises in store for anyone trying to mug me or steal from me.
9) Use Sandbags Wisely
In the flood situation I am in, sand bags were all the rage to start with. However, people quickly realised that sand bags just slow the flooding down instead of stopping it. If you cannot protect your house with the amount of sandbags you may be rationed to (30 per house in this situation) which is the case with me, you can use the sandbags to build ramps to elevate your car instead. Many people have built stone walls around their houses as it is the only real effective way to keep water out.
10) Be Ready For The Unexpected
Lastly, every flood situation has unique problems, so be ready for the inevitable problems and complications specifically related to your flood. For instance, there were reports of crocodiles swimming into Bangkok from the floods coming down from the north. I initially thought that this was a joke, until someone up the road from us took a picture of a crocodile swimming past her gate. In this particular flood the water doesn’t flow into an area, instead it comes up from the ground which can catch you off guard if you’re not careful as it creeps up. At present, 60 percent of taxis have gone in the non-flooded areas nearby, all high-rise car parks are full, including the hospital car parks and there are even reports of leprosy concerns because of the sewage water rising. I had a boat in advance but lent it out to friends in a worse affected area, so I no longer have a boat. However, I don’t regret this as the flood water in that area is much worse than here. Be ready for unexpected kindness too, from neighbours you might not have spoken to much before pulling together to help each other for instance.
Update: In all the floods lasted 2 weeks. I was fed up with noodles and tuna after the floods passed. The real threat was mainly from the increase in thieves arrising from the floods and electrocution. There were two people around the area that died through electrocution which was very sad. It is now, at the time of this update a year after the floods.
Article by Kevin Baker
An excellent site for preparing for disasters run by Arthur Bradley can be reached through this link.