Flash flood safety tips

Like much of the Chicagoland area at the time, Fermilab experienced flooding in April 2013. We could experience something similar this summer. Be prepared by following these tips. Photo: Reidar Hahn

The rain has subsided and flooding concerns in the area have diminished, but weather conditions in the area are still favorable for flash flooding.

In April 2013, Fermilab was bombarded with storms producing torrential downpours, heavy winds and lightning. We could experience similar weather conditions again soon. Always exercise caution when traveling to work and on site, and observe signage on roads and in areas adjacent to ponds, where standing water may still be present.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends the following:

Before a flood
•If a flood is likely in your area, listen to the radio or television for information.
•If possible, construct barriers such as levees, berms and floodwalls to stop floodwater from entering your home or workplace.
•Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
•Know the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning. A watch means flooding is possible. A warning means flooding is occurring or will occur soon.

When a flood is imminent
•Pack a bag with important items in case you need to evacuate. Don’t forget to include medications.
•If advised to evacuate your home or workplace, do so immediately.
•If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground.
•If possible, bring in outdoor furniture and move essential items to an upper floor.
•Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances.

During a flood
•Do not walk through moving water. As little as six inches of moving water can make you fall.
•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.
•Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
•Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

After a flood
•Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
•Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
•Avoid moving water.
•Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
•Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
•Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
•Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
•Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.
•Clean and disinfect everything that is wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.

If you encounter unusual conditions due to the rain events in your work area or building, please contact your building manager or FESS operations.

J.B. Dawson