Spring brings warmer weather and longer days, but it also brings a variety of weather conditions that can result in heavy rains and flooding. Floods are one of the most common hazards across the United States. They can develop slowly over a few hours or days, leaving ample time to prepare and implement established flood procedures. However, flash floods can develop within minutes from intense rainfall, tropical storms and their remnants, or dam failures several miles upstream from a facility. Facilities must have an established and exercised flood emergency response plan in order to minimize the potential impact on life, the environment, and business operations.
The National Weather Service offers real time river observations data across the United States. Monitoring water levels allows companies to determine the likelihood of flooding resulting from local conditions, and enables prompt and accurate response decisions. In addition, FloodSmart.gov offers a variety of assessment tools, including a free hypothetical flood risk scenarios guide that can assist companies to better protect against financial losses due to flooding. Developing a flood emergency plan can prepare employees and facilities before, during, and after a flood to minimize health and safety impacts.
The following flood planning tips can be implemented to minimize risks to your business or industrial facility:
- Assess the flood risk potential in your area. Be aware of stream, ditches, drainage areas, and other low-lying areas on the property.
- Map facility and identify multiple access and egress routes.
- Familiarize staff with the evacuation plan and alternate routes.
- Ensure important documents and server(s) are not stored in basement or on ground level and review backup procedures.
- Update employee contact lists with alternate contact information in the event evacuation is necessary.
- If evacuation is necessary, assign trained personnel to secure the premises and equipment (such as sandbagging and/or extending regulator vents and relief stacks above the level of anticipated flooding, as appropriate.).
- Perform continuous monitoring of the flood through various media outlets and weather tracking.
Flash flood watch: flooding is possible
Flash flood warning: flooding is occurring or is imminent
- If flooding is probable, request that gas and electric services are turned off.
- Communicate imminent flood status updates to supervisory personnel.
- Deploy personnel so that they will be in position to take emergency actions, such as shutdown, isolation, or containment in the event of emergency.
- Implement developed data backup procedures.
- If applicable, identify, contract, and communicate with water damage specialist(s).
- Ensure clean-up equipment is available, adequate, and ample. If clean up will be done by employees, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may be required. OSHA requires Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for cleanup operations if water source is contaminated with sewage, chemicals, or other biological pollutants.
- Evaluate the accessibility of necessary equipment (such as valves, storage sheds, regulators, relief sets, etc.). Mitigate accessibility, if possible.
- Consider obtaining portable pumps and hoses from local suppliers.
- Unplug all electrical devices.
- If applicable, determine if flooding can expose or undermine pipelines as a result of erosion or scouring.
- If applicable, coordinate with emergency and spill responders on pipeline location(s) and condition, and provide maps and other relevant information to them.
- If applicable, advise the State Pipeline Safety Office (for intrastate lines), or RSPA's Regional Pipeline Safety Office (interstate lines) prior to returning pipelines to service, on increasing the operating pressure, or otherwise changing the operating status of the line.
- Conduct a post-incident review and identify mitigation opportunities to prevent future flooding impacts.
Download this free 9-Step sample Emergency Response Procedures Flow Chart.