As the most common natural disaster in the United States, floods occur all year round. Some areas of the country experience more flooding during the spring because the warmer weather and rains melt winter snow rapidly. States affected by hurricanes and tropical storms are vulnerable to floods during the summer.
Heavy rainfall at any time of the year can over-saturate the ground and cause flooding, regardless of an area’s elevation or average rainfall levels. In short, any area that receives precipitation has the potential to flood and experience flood damage to documents. When flooding is a possibility, the U.S. National Weather issues a flood warning or flood watch. Knowing the difference allows you to determine appropriate flood damage preparation steps and the possible need for document recovery services.
The National Weather Service issues flood watches and warnings for specific bodies of water, points along with bodies of water, or on a county-by-county basis. When the agency issues a flood watch, flooding is a possibility within the next 24 to 48 hours because conditions are favorable for the respective weather event. A flood watch advisory indicates the possibility of a flood but does not guarantee flooding will occur. During a watch, it is a good idea to mind weather alerts or stays tuned to a radio or TV so you know when it’s time to move to higher ground.
When the National Weather Service issues a flood warning, flooding is likely to happen or is currently happening. In its alert, the National Weather Service may include details regarding the forecast, the warning’s duration, areas where roads are blocked, evacuation procedures, the location of emergency shelters, and tips for staying safe.
Additional Flood-Related Alerts
If a weather event might become problematic, the National Weather Service may issue a flood advisory. The advisory indicates the possibility of flooding that is not expected to be severe enough to issue a warning.
When rapid flooding from heavy rains or a dam failure is expected, the National Weather Service issues flash flood watches and warnings. As with a flood warning, it’s best to move to higher ground immediately after you learn of a flash flood warning. Flash floods can develop in minutes and are even possible in areas not immediately receiving rain.
Flood Damage Preparation Tips
The best time to prepare for a flood is well before it occurs. Actions to take include:
- Know your risk: While every region in the U.S. has the potential to experience flooding, some areas are more likely than others because they are in a floodplain.
- Purchase flood insurance: If you’re in an area where flooding is a risk, even a low risk, purchasing flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program will help reduce costs related to water damage and document recovery.
- Make a plan: All businesses and citizens should make a flood disaster plan and update it annually. A comprehensive plan includes details such as:
- Communication plan to get in touch with family, friends, insurance agents, document recovery specialists, and business stakeholders.
- Evacuation plans with maps.
- Steps to prepare a property when there is a flood watch. Steps could include securing fuel tanks, clearing gutters and downspouts, placing sandbags around a property, and preventing flood damage to documents and other valuable items by moving them to the upper level of a building.
- Steps to protect property before the issuing of a flood statement. Proactive home- and business owners have emergency kits, ensure landscaping directs water away from a property, keep valuables on upper levels, elevate appliances on lower levels, seal the basement and underground levels, and have a plan to recover after a disaster.
Documents, including books and photos, are valuable assets that can degrade or fall victim to mold if affected by floodwaters. The best way to recover water-damaged documents and restore your property is to contact Polygon immediately after a flood. To learn more about preparing your documents for a disaster, participate in our free Code Blue program and receive priority services that help ensure business continuity.