Lifesaving Mudslide Safety Tips from FLASH

The mudslide that impacted Snohomish County, WA this weekend has claimed at least 16 lives, destroyed homes, and countless others are still missing. With the potential threat of another mudslide affecting the area and spring showers around the corner, here are some lifesaving safety tips to protect your home and family from mudslides.

  1. Know your mudslide risk. Create a family disaster plan that includes a plan for evacuation and a 72-hour emergency kit.
  2. Heed evacuation warnings by officials. Know in advance who will give the official evacuation orders.
  3. The elderly, people with disabilities, those dependent on medical equipment or anyone else who would need help to evacuate should register with local officials in advance.
  4. Those with pets should identify pet-friendly options ahead of time.
  5. Mudflows are not covered by a standard home insurance; however they are covered by flood insurance. A mudflow is the movement of water and mud that flows across normally dry land.   A mudslide or landslide, which can result from a collapsed hillside, happens when earth and rock travel downhill. Only mudflows, not mudslides or landslides, are covered by flood insurance. Click here for more information from the National Flood Insurance Program.
  6. Be aware of any sudden increase or decrease in water flow and notice whether the water changes from clear to muddy. These changes may mean there is debris flow activity upstream so be prepared to move quickly.
  7. Stay alert when conditions are ripe for mudslides especially when driving. Watch the road for collapsed pavement, mud, and other indications of a possible debris flow.
  8. Listen for sounds that indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking.
  9. After the mudslide, stay away from the affected areas and watch for flooding that can happen after a mudslide event.

Floods Happen Anytime, Everywhere: Protect Your Home and Finances

By Terry Sheridan, FLASH Consumer Blogger

Just one inch of water in a 2,000-square-foot home can cause $21,000 in damage.

That startling fact, courtesy of the National Flood Insurance Program is something to keep in mind about the trauma of flood damage and loss in Boulder, Colo. Many residents there had much more than an inch of water. One anonymous posting on the city’s flood website reported that 7.5 feet of water poured into the finished basement. Everything was lost, the resident said.

Of course, not everyone had 90 inches of water lapping at the basement walls. A homeowner might have had an inch of water while a neighbor had several feet. Some with crawl spaces had little or no water while others with crawl spaces are still pumping out. Others saw water leak in from the roof, too.

It’s seems like a head-scratcher but there’s some logic to it. The position of homes, how and where storm drains back up, positioning and diameter of gutters and downspouts, types of foundation waterproofing, and whether there are flood vents in basements and crawl spaces are just some factors that affect a flood’s impact.

Neighbors Michael Leccese and John Pollak learned firsthand about the vagaries of nature’s impact.

Leccese’s home has a crawl space about three feet below the ground floor. A tiny furnace room sits deeper at what would be basement level. The crawl space remained dry but about an inch of water seeped into the furnace room, which took Leccese an hour to remove with a wet vacuum.

Pollak had only a small amount of water in his crawl space. But the basement of his rental triplex took in more than two feet of diluted sewage. He gutted the basement, removing drywall, carpeting and anything else 2.5 feet above the floor. When the doors kept leaking, he realized that their hollow cores acted like straws that couldn’t contain all of the water they had absorbed. So the doors were removed, too.

Here’s what Leccese and Pollak would like you to know from their experience:

  • Install concrete flooring in the basement instead of wall-to-wall carpeting.
  • Inspect the roof regularly.
  • Get a sump pump. If you’ve already got one, service it and check it during storms or flood alerts.
  • Consider flood insurance. Don’t assume you’re OK because flood maps say you’re not in the flood zone. Some flooding was the result of rising water tables, rivers and creeks that found new courses, debris that created dams, overflowing irrigation ditches, mudslides and drain overflows.
  • Check the waterproofing of your home’s foundation.
  • Install larger diameter downspouts and gutters, and extend the downspouts farther away from the house.
  • Know what your homeowners insurance covers. Will damage from backed-up drains be covered or will your insurer refuse because it’s a flood?
  • Consider installing drywall several inches above the floor and covering the gap with base trim. That way, the drywall won’t start slurping up the water until you’ve got several inches.

Learn more about flood protection at www.flash.org.

Editor’s Note: Terry Sheridan is an award-winning journalist who has more than 30 years of experience in reporting and editing for newspapers in the Chicago and Miami areas. She covered the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew’s devastation in 1992 in South Florida, and has experienced damage to her own homes from two hurricanes. She now lives in New Hampshire.

Remembering the 9.0M Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami

It’s been three years since the 9.0M Tohoku earthquake and tsunami claimed more than 15,000 lives.  In fact, more than 260,000 people are still living in temporary housing.  In recognition of this historic catastrophe, here are our tsunami tips for residents along at-risk coastlines in the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

1. Listen to official emergency management or law enforcement instructions on radio and television stations. Monitor NOAA weather radio with a tone-alert feature. The tone-alert feature will warn you of potential danger even if you are not listening to local radio and television stations.

2. Be on guard for strong earthquakes. Earthquakes can trigger a tsunami. Do not stay in low-lying coastal areas after a strong earthquake has been felt. Tsunamis can impact every coastline in the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

3. When there is little time, consider vertical evacuation. The upper stories of tall, multi-storied, concrete buildings like hotels can provide refuge if there is no time to quickly move inland or to higher ground.

4. Never go down to the beach to watch for tsunamis. If you can see the wave you are too close to escape it – tsunamis move much faster than a person can run.

5. Remember a tsunami is a series of waves and the first wave may not be the largest wave. The danger can last for several hours after the arrival of the first wave.

6. Develop a family emergency plan. Have a family meeting place that is an elevated inland location. Ask a relative or friend outside your community to be the emergency contact.

7. If you are visiting an area at-risk for tsunamis, check with the hotel, motel or campground operator for tsunami evacuation information and how you would be warned. Know designated emergency escape routes before a warning is issued.

For more information on how to protect your home and family from earthquakes and tsunamis visit http://www.flash.org.