Response: What to do during a flood
This page provides flood response messages.
Put safety first. Don’t take any chances. Act quickly if you see rising water.
Floods and flash floods can happen quickly. If you see rising water, do not wait for official warnings. Head for higher ground and stay away from floodwater.
Do not try to walk, play, swim, or drive in floodwater: even water just 15 centimetres deep can sweep you off your feet, and half a metre of water will carry away most vehicles. Flood water is often contaminated and can make you sick.
Help others if it is safe to do so, especially people who may require special assistance.
Be ready to act quickly. Floods and flash floods can happen quickly and without warning.
Be prepared to evacuate and keep your grab bag close.
Leave mobile phones on and charged so you can receive Emergency Mobile Alerts.
Listen to the radio for updates, and check the websites of your Regional Council and your local Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.
Many Regional Councils have systems for contacting rural landowners whose properties are close to monitored waterways.
Listen to emergency services and local Civil Defence authorities and follow any instructions regarding evacuation of your area.
Get your whare/home or business ready:
- Move valuable and dangerous items, including electrical equipment and chemicals, as high above the floor as possible. Use watertight containers to store important items.
- Lift curtains, rugs and bedding off the floor.
- Secure outdoor possessions including outdoor furniture and trampolines that can be swept away in floodwaters.
- Clear debris and leaves from external drains and gutters.
- Take photos of your ground floor rooms and outdoor areas, for insurance purposes.
- If you can, attach sheets of waterproof plastic around exterior doors using duct tape.
- Consider using sandbags to keep water away from your house or other buildings.
- Move vehicles to higher ground, or park vehicles in garages, if you can.
Help neighbours who may need assistance.
If you have been evacuated, it may not be safe to return home even when the floodwaters have receded. Listen to emergency services and local Civil Defence authorities and don’t return home until they tell you it is safe to do so.
Bring your pets indoors as soon as possible. Ensure you keep control of your pets.
Confine pets to one room. Pets may try to run if they feel threatened. Keeping them inside and in one room will allow you to find them quickly if you need to leave.
Get pet carrier boxes and leashes ready.
Where possible, move livestock to higher ground.
Take your pets with you when you evacuate – if it is not safe for you, it is not safe for them. Leaving them behind may endanger you, your pets, and emergency responders.
Consider an early evacuation of pets and other animals. Waiting to evacuate animals until the last minute can be fatal for them and dangerous for you.
Sandbags can be used to divert water away from your house or other buildings. They can be used to block doorways, drains, and other openings into properties, as well as to weigh-down manhole covers, garden furniture, and to block sink, toilet, and bath drains, to prevent water backing up.
Sandbags require time and effort to fill and place, so they need to be filled and placed in advance of flooding, rather than in the middle of a flood or a storm. They also won’t stop water coming from under a house, through floorboards or other access points.
If you don’t have sand, any fine material including soil can be used. You can also use pillowcases as makeshift sandbags.
Filling the bags:
- Fill bags with sand or any other fine material. Don’t use gravel or rocky soils as they will let the water through.
- It’s easiest if two people are involved - one to hold the bag and the other to shovel the sand in.
- Only fill bags to half or two-thirds full. This gives the sand room to expand as it absorbs the water.
- Don’t tie or seal the bag when you put it in place, fold the flap into a triangle and tuck it under the bag.
Placing the bags:
- Clear any debris from the area where the bags will be placed.
- If you can, put a large sheet of heavy-duty waterproof plastic between the sandbags and the building or surface.
- Place your first row of sandbags lengthwise and flat to the ground, butting each end to the next, folding the open end of the sandbag underneath.
- Place bags in layers like a brick wall, overlapping each row. Place the second row of sandbags on top staggering the joints.
- Stamp bags firmly into place to eliminate gaps and create a tight seal.
- Bags can be placed like this to a height of three layers, if further height is required, place sandbags behind to add strength to your wall.
Stay out of flood water
Never try to walk, swim, drive through or play in flood water.
Many flood deaths are caused by people attempting to drive through water, or people playing in high water.
Slow-flowing, deep water or fast-flowing, shallow water, can unbalance people and sweep them away. Even water just 15 centimetres deep can sweep you off your feet.
Keep children away from flood waters. It is not safe for them.
Do not put yourself at risk to take photos or videos of the flood.
Always assume that all flood water is contaminated with farm run-off, animal and human sewage and chemicals. Flood water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
If you come in contact with floodwater, thoroughly clean hands, clothes and any property touched.
If you are driving
Never try to drive through flood waters. Most deaths from floods are vehicle related.
If you come to a flooded area, turn around and go another way. Avoid already flooded areas, and areas subject to sudden flooding. Do not attempt to cross fords, flowing streams or water-covered roads.
If your vehicle stalls during a flood, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles.
Driving through water also puts other people’s lives and properties at risk. Driving through floodwater causes waves which can wash into other vehicles, other people’s property and over pedestrians.