What to do during a flash flood

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The beginning of the rainy season in South Africa has already seen a number of casualties. Durban has seen eight confirmed deaths as well as a missing toddler who was swept away during the flash floods. The death toll is expected to rise as others are still missing.

Although government offices have released an official warning to stay indoors during severe weather, many people have found themselves out on the roads during these times.

The question remains: What necessary precautions do you take if you are caught in a flash flood?

A flash flood is a rapid flooding of a low-lying area that causes damage to property and ultimately loss of life.

What to prepare at home:

  • Keep Emergency numbers and important information close by, This includes Emergency Service Numbers, Ambulance Service Numbers and any medical information should you experience a medical emergency;
  • Keep Emergency supplies well-stocked, This includes basics such as water, canned food (and a can-opener), a battery-operated radio, a flashlight and protective, insulated clothing;
  • Keep a fully-stocked First Aid Kit;
  • Turn off all household electrical devices;
  • Lock all doors and close all windows.

How to drive in heavy rains:

  • Most importantly your headlights should always be on;
  • Your speed should be reduced;
  • Stopping distance is increased due to it taking longer to stop on wet surfaces. Stopping distance should be increased from 3 seconds to between 4 and 8 seconds;
  • Avoid sudden acceleration, braking or steering manoeuvres.

What to do if you get caught in a flash flood:

  • Get to higher ground and stay there until the flash floods have passed;
  • Avoid walking or driving through flooded areas or roads. Water levels as low as 15cm can sweep you off your feet and will touch the bottom of most cars. Water levels of 30cm may cause cars to start floating and be washed away;
  • If you do begin to float, open the car doors in order to let some water in, the additional water will weigh down the car and stop you from being washed away.

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