Sunday 24 May, 2020

How to prepare for flooding

As the country prepares for heavy rains and/or associated flash or riverine flooding, here are several steps that could help citizens prepare for the worst.

(Photo: Areas in Trinidad with a very high susceptibility to flooding shown as dark blue. Photo courtesy the ODPM)


Here's a list of measures we can all take to prepare for flash flooding:

1. Be aware of the risks

Is your house in a low-lying area, or are you on a hill prone to landslides? Are there trees hanging over your house?

Make a note of the issues which may affect your home during a natural disaster such as riverine or flash flooding, heavy winds or torrential rain.

Make note of a secondary location (friend or relative’s house) where you can stay if needed for a few days.

Make note of your local hotlines and the contact information for your local councillors and keep them handy.

Here’s a list of emergency contacts:

Diego Martin Regional Corporation - 800-DMRC (3672)

San Juan/Laventille Regional Corporation - 800-SLRC (7572)

Arima Borough Corporation - 800-2ABC (2222)

Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation - 800-TPRC (8272)

Port-of-Spain City Corporation - 800-PSCC (7722)

Sangre Grande Regional Corporation - 800-SGRC (7472) 

Chaguanas Borough Corporation - 800-DCBC (3222)

Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation - 800-CTTC (2882)

Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation - 800-4MRC (4672)

Princes Town Regional Corporation - 800-PTRC (7872)

Point Fortin Borough Corporation - 800-PFBC (7322)

San Fernando City Corporation - 800-SCDU (7238)

Penal/Debe Regional Corporation - 800-PDRC (7372)

Siparia Regional Corporation - 800-4SRC (4772)

ODPM: 511

TEMA (Tobago Emergency Management Agency): 211

Fire Service: 990

Ambulance: 811

TTPS: 555, 999


2.  Stock up your emergency kit

The American Redcross advises packing an emergency backpack to keep important medicines and other supplies.

Some of the items include:

- Flashlight

- Medicines (including prescription medicines, inhalers, etc.)

- Drinking water

- Sanitation and feminine hygiene items

- Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)

- Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)

- Extra set of car keys and house keys

- Extra cash

- Cell phone with chargers

- Clothing

For the full list see here: 


3. Listen to weather updates

- Keep abreast of weather reports from reputable sources such as the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service.

- Make note of flood watches and flood warnings. A flood watch means a flood or flash flood is possible whereas a flood warning means means flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon.


4. Reinforce your home

If you live in low-lying or flood-prone areas, try to reinforce your home to make damage less likely during a flood.

Trim any trees that may fall on your house. 

Keep your living space elevated so as to avoid rising water levels. Floodgates or door dams are also an option for keeping water out of your home.

(Photo: An example of a door dam made by US company Quick Dams.)

Keep sandbags filled and prepped ahead of time. According to the American Red Cross, it takes two people about one hour to fill and place 100 sandbags, creating a wall one foot high and 20 feet long.

Install check valves in plumbing to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home. (As a last resort, when floods threaten, use large corks or stoppers to plug showers, tubs, or basins.)

Park cars in more elevated locations so as to avoid being trapped in flood waters.

If possible, consider purchasing a flood insurance policy for your home and car.


5. Avoid danger

During a flood warning, stay away from dangerous situations as much as possible.

Stay out of flood waters. Sharp objects, depressions, holes, and diseases are just some of the dangers of wading in flood waters. Driving through flood waters can do irreparable damage to cars. If you must walk through flood waters, use a stick to measure depth or to tell what objects are in the way.


Move to higher ground if possible, or try moving furniture and other items to an upper floor if you have one.

Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances.

Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.

Never drink water or eat food you suspect might be contaminated. If you don’t have bottled water, make sure to boil all water before drinking. Wipe all tins/jars with a solution of bleach and water (1/4 cup bleach to a gallon of water) to reduce the risk of contamination.  


6. Recovering after the flood

It’s important to remain calm during natural disasters. Ensure your family is safe and wait for help. Keep in contact with your local councillors and emergency responders and remember that there are grants available to persons who have suffered from natural disasters.

- Here’s a list of public grants available to citizens:

- Take photos of the damage for record-keeping purposes for your insurance companies or when filing for claims or grants. 

- Wear protective clothing during the cleanup process as the water could have contaminated many areas of your home.

What other measures would you suggest? Let us know in the comments below. 


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