Disasters can happen… at any time. Be prepared to take action before, during and after.

Floods are one of the most common hazards in the U.S. For Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, floods impact the State annually and are likely to occur in many jurisdictions. For example, since 1981, 99 of the 102 counties in Illinois have been declared major disaster areas by the President due to flooding.

What you need to know
Not all floods are alike. Some floods develop slowly – often times over a period of days. Flash floods can develop quickly, sometimes in a matter of minutes and without any visible signs of rain. Flash floods often have a dangerous wall of roaring water that carries rocks, mud and other debris, sweeping away most things in its path. Here are terms that may be used by local officials to describe flooding in your community:
Flooding is possible.
Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground.
Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on food immediately.


Before an event, information about the risk of floods can be found on local television and radio, the National Weather Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. To find out about any potential flooding in your area, visit www.weather.gov and input your zip code.


1 – Complete the Family Emergency Plan and discuss it as a family. This is a simple way of keeping each member of the family informed on critical information: where to reconnect should you become separated, who to call, and what you will do should a flood occur.


2 – Complete the Emergency Contacts Card and place one in every Go Kit.

3 – Prepare a Go Kit for every family member. The Go Kit should be easily accessible if you have to leave your home in a hurry, and each household member’s Go Kit should be packed in a sturdy, easy-to-carry container such as a backpack. Make sure it is ready to go at all times of the year and contains items suitable for the season. Click for Go Kit items.

Floods are one of the emergencies that may require you to evacuate your home. You will need to stay tuned to local information so that you know if you need to evacuate. There are some actions you can take today to get prepared so that you will know what to do if you stay at home or if you need to leave.


  • If you are not evacuating, plan for moving essential items to an upper floor and sticking to higher ground.
  • If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Evacuation is simple and safer before the flood waters rise. Don’t forget the Go Kit of each family member, these should include the Emergency Contacts Card, and your Family Emergency Plan which includes your evacuation location options.
  • Have your evacuation plan, and follow recommended routes.
  • Do not walk through moving water, it is deceptively strong.
  • If you have to walk through water, choose a route with still water.
  • Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas because you and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas.
  • If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon it. Move to higher ground safely.
  • Know that 6 inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
  • Be aware that most vehicles begin to float in just 12 inches of water. 24 inches of water will sweep most vehicles away, including SUVs and pick-ups.
  • Find out if you live in a flood-prone area by visiting www.floodsmart.gov.
  • Know if your property is above or below the flood stage water level and learn about the history of flooding for your region.
  • Ask your insurance agent about flood insurance. Most homeowner and renter policies do not cover flood damage, but can be accessed through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
  • Have check valves installed in building sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing up in sewer drains
  • Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
  • Raise items in basements or at ground level to upper floors or higher off the ground to prevent damage if floodwater enters your home.


During a flood it is important to be aware and knowledgeable on what’s happening. Listen to news reports, secure important items to higher ground and get ready to make the decision to stay or go. The following are tips to help you:


Listen to the radio or television for information.
Know that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move to higher ground right away. Do not wait for instructions to move.
Be aware of streams, dry riverbeds, drainage channels and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings like rain clouds or heavy rain.
If you must evacuate, secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.
Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if asked to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.


Many injuries take place after a flood happens. Flood waters, standing water and flood water residue pose various risks including injuries, infectious diseases and chemical hazards. These tips will help to keep you and your family safe from the aftermath of a flood:


Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. The number two flood killer after drowning is electrocution. Electrical current can travel through water. Report downed power lines to the power company.
Wait before entering a structure damaged by flooding. Structures that have been damaged by flooding may not be safe to enter. Wait for the building to be inspected before entering. If the structure is deemed unsafe, arrangements will be made for you to be able to retrieve valuables left behind.
Small animals that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours, or in debris left on your property. Use a pole or stick to poke and turn things over and scare away small animals.
After a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris including broken bottles and nails. Floors and stairs that have been covered with mud can be very slippery.
Be alert for gas leaks. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Don’t smoke or use candles, lanterns, or open flames unless you know the gas has been turned off and the area has been ventilated.
Have your electricity turned off by the power company. Some appliances, such as television sets, keep electrical charges even after they have been unplugged. Don’t use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned, and dried.
Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
Water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.


  • 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 got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals. You can use a solution of 1 cup of bleach to 5 gallons of water to disinfect surfaces, especially those that may come into contact with food or areas where small children play.
  • Look out for any mold growth after a flood and learn about the best way to address any issues that you see.

Back to top