What to do during floods? While erratic weather is out of our control, there are vital steps we can take to safeguard our personal safety.
Parts of Malaysia were inundated in mid-December 2021 by severe floods. The once-in-a-century deluge unleashed by a tropical depression lashed the Klang Valley, amounting to a month’s worth of precipitation in a single day. The tropical depression made landfall in Pahang on December 17 as the devastating Typhoon Rai reverberated throughout Southeast Asia.
Consequently, rivers burst their banks, homes were submerged, vehicles were swept away and vegetation were uprooted. Compounding the disaster was a humanitarian crisis where 70,000 people were displaced, while the death toll reached 46 as of December 25, with several still unaccounted for.
Evacuation, search and rescue, donation drives – many of which were initiated by good Samaritans to ease the burden of the luckless victims – and clean-up efforts involving the voluntary masses in the aftermath were overt signs of people huddling together, offering relief in times of need.
Just as flood water recedes, the authorities have, however, ominously warned the country of a second wave where continuous rain is forecast to pelt parts of the country this week.
Here’s what you must do before, during and after floods:
Get updated by following the latest weather forecast.
Gather all your important documents and keep them in waterproof holders.
Procure a list of supplies you might need. These include a first aid kit, flashlight with batteries, power bank and cables, non-perishable food, drinking water, cash, clothing, sleeping bag, waterproof gear, and so on.
Ensure your mobile phone is fully charged.
Keep flammable liquids and hazardous materials sealed and locked securely.
Fasten movable objects including furniture which may be dislodged by floodwater.
Think of an emergency plan in the event you decide to leave early or stay put due to moderate floods, marooned by impassable roads or have to evacuate, and follow through decisively.
Plan a potential evacuation route and establish if the route remains accessible in the event of flash floods.
Discuss where to converge in case family members are separated.
Ensure your vehicle has sufficient fuel for the evacuation journey.
Signs of floods emerging
Turn off the power supply by switching off the fuse box. Don’t overlook gas and water.
Unplug all electrical appliances and move them to as far above ground as possible or upper floors.
Check on your neighbours.
Don’t touch any electrical appliances and cables.
To prevent accidental electrocution or risk being swept away, don’t wade in fast-moving or knee-deep water and stay away from uprooted trees, utility poles and places where the drainage system might be present.
Keep your doors shut firmly to prevent wild creatures intruding.
Notify friends and family of your whereabouts.
Reach out to emergency services if you need assistance and follow their instructions.
Wear sturdy footwear to prevent cuts. Floodwater may be contaminated with sewage discharge and faecal bacteria.
When you leave home, lock all doors and windows.
Prioritise your safety – not your possessions.
If you’re in a vehicle during flash floods
Be alert about landslides, sinkholes, felled trees and downed utility poles.
If you’re caught in a surging flash flood while you’re in a vehicle, abandon the vehicle and move to higher ground.
If the shallow flood water is still navigable, drive slowly, steadily and in low gear. Maintain adequate distance between your car and the preceding vehicle. Test your brake afterwards.
Never enter a building that is still flooded.
Keep the building ventilated prior to entry.
Don’t switch on the power or use any electrical appliances.
Hire certified technicians to thoroughly inspect your home, including power supply and gas piping.
Watch out for wild creatures that might have been seeking refuge in your home, particularly recesses such as the toilet bowl and septic tank where they can conceal well.
Contact your insurance agents on how to record damage and file for compensation, local councillors on disaster aid and contractors on home repairs.
Ascertain people who offer their help are qualified.
Don’t be timid to call for any form of assistance.
Hero and feature images by Mohd RASFAN / AFP