Preparing for a flood event before it occurs can save you valuable time when you may need it most. The most critical steps to take prior to a flood include
- Determining if you live in or near a floodplain,
- Getting flood insurance,
- Making a plan for what to do in the event of a flood, and
- Getting a National Weather Service radio that has battery backup power in case electrical service goes down.
By knowing your risk, planning for a possible evacuation, and organizing yourself in advance, you may be able to avert damages to life and property. In addition to taking the steps listed above, read the additional advice and details below to more comprehensively prepare prior to a flood.
Know Your Risk
Learning about the flood risks in your local area will help you prepare appropriately for possible flood events.
Am I in or near the floodplain*?
Flooding can happen anywhere, but areas near a floodplain tend to be more prone to risk. Find your location relative to the floodplain by entering your address into the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Map Service Center, the official public source for flood hazard information under the National Flood Insurance Program. The floodplains on the Agency’s flood insurance rate maps are divided into flood zones depending on level of risk. Flood insurance rate maps delineate flood risk into 'high risk areas (zone A or V)' and 'moderate to low risk areas (zone C, B, X or shaded-X)'.
Dark shaded gray areas on your flood insurance rate map are considered high-risk areas. This is the area that has a 1 percent annual chance of a flood equaling or exceeding the base flood elevation in any given year. It is commonly called the 100-year flood.
It is important to note that even with these risk maps, approximately 25 percent of all submitted flood claims come from areas categorized as moderate to low risk.
*Note: Flood Insurance Rate Maps are maintained exclusively by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Texas Water Development Board does not update these maps nor control the information that they contain. Due to updates in the climatic record and changes in the watershed and stream course, flood maps change with time.
Can flooding occur outside of mapped high-hazard areas?
Yes. Depending on increases in population, impervious cover, the frequency of severe weather, and the advanced age of some of the flood insurance rate maps, flooding can put many areas at risk that are not mapped in a high-hazard area. It is important to consult with local authorities, such as your local floodplain administrator, for information on historical flooding events in a community.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides some communities with flood risk products. These products go beyond the Flood Insurance Rate Maps and provide more in-depth information about a community's risk in a user-friendly format. Check the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Map Service Center to see if there are flood risk products for your community.
Additionally, the National Weather Service operates an Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service that provides inundation locations for some areas in Texas. This tool may also help you assess the risk for your local setting.
Who is my Floodplain Administrator*?
Your local Floodplain Administrator is a one-stop shop for all your questions about flood in your community. Find your community Floodplain Administrator by checking the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Community Contact List or by contacting your county government and asking who your local administrator is.
*Note: Listings of Floodplain Administrators are based on the latest information in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Community Information System.
Effects of Manmade Structures on Risk
When the physical landscape is altered by manmade structures, how water flows over the land is also changed. Structures located both upstream and downstream of your location may impact your susceptibility to flooding.
Levees are man-made structures used to control or divert the flow of water to provide protection from temporary flooding. For the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a levee must be accredited to provide protection up to the 1 percent annual chance flood risk reduction for the area protected by the levee to not be shown as a high-risk flood area when a community is in the process of being remapped.
Since accreditation can be a long process, the Federal Emergency Management Agency makes Levee Seclusion Mapping available to communities that qualify. It is a process that enables the publication of new mapping information for areas not directly affected by the levee to be published with the intent of the levee to become accredited at a later date.
To determine if your local area may be impacted by the presence of a levee, input your zip code into the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Levee Database and choose the distance from the area that you would like to see mapped. You can also view levees using the database's interactive mapping functions.
As a homeowner, you may want to know if your neighborhood is at risk for flooding due to nearby dams. You can locate dams in your area and accompanying information using the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's National Inventory of Dams. By selecting the Interactive Map tab from the header options and zooming into your area in Texas, you can choose Corps of Engineers Data, and check the box for All NID Dams. At this point, you can locate dams in your area.
For additional information on a specific dam's inundation area, contact the owner of the dam or the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality's Dam Safety Program at 512-239-0326. You can also find information on high-hazard potential dams located in Texas by visiting the DamSafety.org website.
Effects of Urbanization
Development in your community can increase the likelihood of flood due to increased storm water runoff. Unpaved surfaces allow a portion of rainwater to enter the soil and slowly seep into drainage pathways. Paved surfaces, however, cause rainwater to drain quickly into waterways, resulting in a spike in water flows. To learn more about the effects of impervious cover on flooding, visit the U.S. Geological Survey's Water Science School.
Development can also alter drainage pathways and cause flooding. Even modifications such as landscaping and fencing can impede flow during a storm event and cause flooding up-stream, which is why it is important to get a floodplain development permit for all development in the floodplain, even small projects. Obstructions can also cause flooding in areas that are not in the floodplain, so be aware of alterations around your property so that you can recognize threats and mitigate before flooding occurs.
Plan & Organize
Preparing for a possible flood event in advance ensures that when the time comes, you are ready to take the steps necessary to care for yourself and your family.
Did you know that standard homeowner's insurance does not cover damage caused by a flood? Should you consider purchasing flood insurance?
Most homeowners are familiar with the term 100-year flood. What this term means is that an area designated as high-risk has at least a 1 percent annual chance of flooding. A home that is located within a Federally-designated high-risk area has a 26 percent chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that up to 25 percent of all flood claims occur outside of mapped high-risk areas.
If a homeowner has a loan from a federally regulated or insured lender that is located within a high-risk area, the lender is required to ensure that flood insurance is in place for the life of the loan or until the home is no longer located in a high-risk area. Find your location relative to the floodplain by entering your address into the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Map Service Center.
The National Flood Insurance Program offers structure and content coverage in communities that participate in the program and is available whether you are in a low-to moderate-risk area or a high-risk area. To determine if your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, look for your community's name in the Community Status Book. Renters are also eligible for content coverage.
Items typically covered by insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program include, but may not be limited to:
- Insured building and its foundation
- Manufactured homes
- Electrical and plumbing
- Items that service the building, such as, furnaces, central air conditioning, water heaters
- Refrigerators, stoves, built-in appliances
- Clothing washers and dryers
- Certain valuable items such as original artwork and furs (up to $2,500)
How to Get Flood Insurance
Flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program can only be purchased through a licensed insurance agent. For help finding an agent in your area, go here or contact the National Flood Insurance Program at (888) 379-9531 to request a referral.
Insurance is based upon a number of factors, some of which include:
- Whether the structure is located in a high-risk area or a low-to-moderate risk area
- If the structure is in a high-risk area, the base flood elevation for that area
The elevation of the home
- Note: Structures that are located in a high-risk area should always have an elevation certificate performed by a surveyor, engineer, or architect licensed in the state of Texas for rating insurance.
- The amount of coverage needed
- The structure's type of foundation
To get an accurate quote for flood insurance, please consult with a licensed insurance agent.
How to Prepare for a Flood Event
In addition to having flood insurance, there are a number of actions you can take to minimize flood losses and ensure your family's safety.
- Make sure that your cell phone is capable of receiving wireless emergency alerts and that your carrier participates in the program by checking here. Wireless emergency alerts are brief messages alerting you to an emergency situation in the area in which you are located at that time. Alerts are not available in all areas at all times, so it is important to not rely exclusively on this service for information about extreme weather events in your area.
- During floods, it's critical to receive immediate warnings of a flood threat. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration broadcasts severe weather warnings and watches 24 hours a day via its Weather Radio All Hazards network. By purchasing a National Weather Service radio, you will receive warning and event information for all types of hazards. It's important to select a model with the option to shift to backup battery power in the event that electrical service is lost during the storm.
- Check with your area's emergency management coordinator or with county officials to determine if a Reverse 911 service is available in your area. If service is available, you may want to consider having a landline for your home to increase the likelihood that you receive notification of an extreme weather event. You may also be required to register your number to receive Reverse 911 calls. Cell phone traffic may overwhelm the capability of towers before weather damages landlines.
Get your records straight:
- Make sure copies of important documents are in a flood-safe place, such as a safety deposit box. Include your insurance policy and your agent's contact information.
- Have an inventory of your possessions for insurance purposes, including serial numbers, and take pictures if possible.
- Keep important documents in a plastic or waterproof container.
Get your house in order:
- Make sure that your National Weather Service radio is plugged in and turned on at all times and that it has fresh batteries. Flooding may occur at any time of day, and the alert siren from your radio may be your first and only warning of an extreme weather or flooding event.
- Make sure that all of your vehicles have a tool for breaking glass stored within easy reach, preferably in the center console, door pocket, or glove box. Flood waters can render a vehicle’s electrical system, which controls door locks and windows, inoperable. Having a tool designed to break automobile glass, which is specially developed to prevent easy breakage, can ensure that you have a way out if you end up trapped in your vehicle in rising flood waters. Glass breaking tools, which are typically combined with seatbelt cutters, are available online from a wide variety of retailers.
- Make sure your sump pump is in working order before the rainy season.
- Place all electrical appliances at least 1 foot above the projected 1 percent flood elevation.
- Anchor all fuel tanks.
Ready your action plan:
- Make an emergency plan, including flood evacuation routes and what to do with household pets. Know the location of your local storm shelter.
- Make sure all family members know how to call 9-1-1.
Have a 'Go Bag' prepared. A Go Bag should have everything you'll want should you have to evacuate your home. Tailor the contents of your Go Bag to the needs of your family. Items for consideration include, but are not limited to:
- National Weather Service Radio
- Extra batteries for both radio and flashlight
- Whistle to signal for help
- First aid kit
- Local maps
- Cell phone(s) and charger
- Wallet/purse, cash, credit cards
- Prescription medications
- Change of clothing
- One gallon per person per day for a minimum of three days
Non-perishable food items
- Adequate supply for three days
- Manual can opener
- Garbage bags with plastic ties
- Moist towelettes or hand sanitizer
- Sleep necessities
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Disclaimer: The intent of the TexasFlood.org is to provide basic flood information before, during, and after a flood event. The data on this website represents the best available information provided to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) by its data contributors. The information on this viewer may not be displayed in real-time and should not be considered an "exact" representation of conditions in your area. Neither the State of Texas nor the TWDB assumes any legal liability or responsibility or makes any guarantees or warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or suitability of the information for any particular purpose.