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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information National Temperature and Precipitation maps (https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/us-maps/), parts of the East, Ohio Valley, Upper Midwest and Southern Plains of the U.S. had record breaking rain in September through November of 2018.  The dangerous combination of the extra fall rain, melting snow and rising spring temperatures forebode severe spring river flooding from March through May throughout the U.S.  Flood gauges along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers are already measuring water levels above flood stage. 

Berkley Human Services Risk Control recommends knowing the flood risk in all your organization’s locations, and creating a plan of action. The plan of action should be communicated to local emergency responders, employees, and clients and their emergency contacts.  If the need to evacuate occurs, having a plan of action that everyone knows and follows reduces disorganization and uncertainty.  Follow the tips below to help establish a program and navigate through a flood emergency.

       Establishing a Flood Plan

  • Create an evacuation plan and practice it.
  • Plan on relocating impacted operations to locations safe from flood concerns.
  • If another location within your operations is not available, learn the area real estate leasing market and plan on leasing space until your location is up and running again.  Consider the layout, utility requirements and security needed to maintain a similar level of service capacity. 
  • In rural locations where leasable space is not common, talk to local businesses that can provide space in an emergency situation.  An example might be a school that provides classroom areas for a day program. 
  • If your organization provides residential care, the residents might need to be relocated temporarily to a facility outside of your organization and into a different community.  Consider creating a reciprocal agreement with another other organization that provide similar services as an option for disaster planning. 
  • Consider transportation and medical needs for disabled clients during and after an evacuation.
  • Consider staffing appropriately for an evacuation.  An emergency situation is stressful and creates a disturbance in daily routine which can upset your clients. Additional staff might be needed to assist with the evacuation, managing clients’ behavior, and provide extra oversight in a location where security is not optimal.
  • Adding sandbags around the perimeter of the building will help with minor flooding.  Never let sandbagging interfere with needed evacuation action.

Communication Planning

  • Create a list of employee phone numbers to communicate emergency action plans. 
  • If your organization is responsible for residents, have a list of their family emergency contacts available.  
  • Create a plan to communicate with employees, families, local emergency management, and media to relay information to those concerned.
  • Communicate the plan to return to work.  Discuss with employees and clients your plan to temporarily relocate, and how they will know the operations are up and running again.
  • Inform local emergency management of the special needs of your clients with disabilities.
  • The evacuation plan might require residents to be picked up by their emergency contacts in an operation with day services.  In a residential operation, emergency contacts need to be informed in advance of an impending emergency situation so they can decide if they prefer to pick up and care for your client until the flood emergency has passed and services are restored.

Stay informed

  • Know the areas prone to flooding in your community.
  • Have battery operated weather radio for information in the event cellular towers or power is off.
  • Monitor the conditions of roads and travel warnings.
  • Act on emergency warnings, and plan to evacuate before flood waters reach your building.
  • Know the safe routes to evacuate the area.

Plan to Evacuate

  •  Ensure all company vehicles are filled with gasoline, and contain an emergency kit and fire extinguisher.
  • Park vehicles near areas for easy access, and away from potential flooding.
  • Relocate any high value equipment which is not practical to evacuate or needed in temporary operations to a higher level.
  • Gather all medications, records, emergency supplies and equipment needed to continue service if temporary relocation is necessary.  Have these items ready to grab and go.

Evacuate

  • Communicate the evacuation plan, evacuation route, and relocation facility location with all employees, local emergency providers, and emergency contacts. 
  • Turn off main water, electrical and gas utilities within the building before leaving.
  • Secure any items that might be a floating debris hazard like propane tanks. 
  • Avoid any route over bridges and low lying areas that could be quickly overtaken with flooding.

Returning to the building

  • Do not return to the building until emergency management says it is safe to return to the area.
  • Do not enter the building if structural damage is severe and emergency management deems it unsafe.
  • Do not enter the building alone and your location is known to an emergency contact
  • Do not enter a building with flood damage without ensuring the power is off.  Excess water and connection with live electric creates an electrocution risk.
  • If water is still present, wear appropriate clothing such as boots and rubber gloves.
  • Be aware of walking areas, nail protrusion and potential snakes or animals
  • Follow the advice of professionals involved with building restoration.
  • Follow water boil orders from local official and any other post flood risks orders.

The items above are not an inclusive list of all actions that might be necessary for your organization.  Planning, communicating and acting through an emergency are the basic building blocks of a successful program.  Always follow the advice of your local emergency management officials.  For more information check out the websites for NOAA (www.noaa.gov), FEMA (www.fema.gov), and CDC (www.cdc.gov/disasters/index.html) for more tips, posters and kits to assist with flood preparation.  If you need more assistant contact Berkley Human Services Risk Control at 1-855-845-0558 or visit our website at www.berkleyhumanservices.com.

Products and services are provided by one or more insurance company subsidiaries of W. R. Berkley Corporation.  Not all products and services are available in every jurisdiction, and the precise coverage afforded by any insurer is subject to the actual terms and conditions of the policies as issued.This information is provided for general educational purposes only. This information is not intended to provide you with legal advice or legal counsel, and is not intended to assure compliance with or complete analysis of any law, rule or regulation. In addition, this information should not be interpreted to imply that all exposures, hazards or loss potentials on any subject or issue were identified or considered. No warranty, or guaranty of accuracy, fitness or suitability, express or implied, is granted with respect to any of the information contained herein.