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Protecting Your Property From Flooding During A Hurricane

Provided to WMFE by Jim Rinaman

The 2020 hurricane season is projected to be a busy one, and knowing how to protect your property from flooding is important.

Here are the guidelines set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on how to prepare your home:


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Regular insurance policies usually do not cover flood damage. Homeowners should contact their insurance company to see if it is offered as an add-on. Flooding insurance can also be purchased as a separate policy under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The policy should be purchased before the flooding occurs, as it takes about 30 days for it to take effect. For general information on NFIP, call 1-800-638-6620. 

Certain areas in South Florida have a projected flood elevation. You can find out what your community’s flood map looks like from your emergency management office, building department or floodplain management office. This will help you prepare for the amount of water that may come in.

Homeowners can create temporary walls with sandbags to protect their homes from flooding. Sandbags are usually made of plastic or burlap bags and are filled with sand or other fine-grained soils. FEMA recommends advanced planning and guidance from trained personnel in order to prevent leakage and failures. Sandbags should be stockpiled and checked regularly for deterioration. It is recommended to put plastic tarps beneath sandbags as an extra layer of protection. The tarps should wrap onto the house so that it covers the height the flood waters are expected to reach.

Homeowners should also protect electrical appliances. The main electric panel board should be at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation. Washers and dryers can be elevated on masonry or pressure-treated lumber. Homeowners can also build a floodwall around these appliances. Outside appliances, such as air conditioning compressors or package units, can also be placed on a base of masonry, concrete, or pressure-treated lumber. Any changes must follow state and local building codes.

Sewage can back up into homes if flood waters enter the sewer or septic system. To prevent this from happening, homeowners can have a plumber install a backflow preventer or valve. This installation may require building permits. 

Car owners may also want to take preventative measures to protect their cars from hurricane damage. They can check in with their car insurance company to see if their policy covers flooding. Comprehensive policies usually pay for storm-related damage. FEMA may also be able to provide assistance for repairs through the Other Needs Assistance program of Individual Assistance. However, assistance is usually limited to one vehicle and does not cover cosmetic damage.

Cars should be parked inside home garages to protect them from debris and falling trees or power lines. Garages also serve as a barrier for potential flooding that may cause damage to cars. If car owners are unable to protect their vehicles at home, they should consider moving them to higher grounds, such as parking garages. During Hurricane Irma, various municipal garages were open for public parking. 

The best advice to avoid permanent damage to a vehicle is to avoid driving into a flooded area. According to a FEMA news release on the Turn Around Don't Drown campaign, “six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.” It also warns that a foot of water will float many vehicles and two feet of rushing water can carry them away.

For more information on how to prepare for a hurricane visit www.ready.gov/hurricanes.

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