Storm Surges – Mitigation (Actions Before, During, After)


The greatest potential for loss of life related to a hurricane is from the storm surge! The following actions are some important recommendations that you can follow through each stage of a Storm Surge emergency:[1] [2]

Actions Before: Determine Risk, Increase Knowledge, Safeguard, Plan

General All-Hazard Actions:

  • Determine the disaster risks in your locale and the hazards that accompany them.
  • Increase your knowledge about the emergency warning signals and alert notifications used in your community.
  • Instruct family members how to shut off water, gas and electricity to your house.
  • Make the necessary property preparations to reduce the damage from the hazard.
  • Acquire a backup generator in case of a prolonged power failure.
  • Check into insurance (property, health, life, and hazard type).
  • Make the necessary financial arrangements in case of a sudden evacuation and power outage that shuts down local ATMs and banks.
  • Organize important documents and records and store them in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box.
  • Perform home inventory video taping and store tape in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box.
  • Develop an Emergency Communication Plan with evacuation plan and ask an out-of-state person to serve as the "family contact".
  • Assemble a shelter-in-place Emergency Supplies Kit.
  • Assemble a mobile Emergency Supplies Kit that can serve as a “grab and go” bag?
  • Get a family member trained in first aid and CPR.
  • Make the necessary preparations and arrangements for pets, seniors, and the disabled.
  • Familiarize yourself with the emergency plans of your family member's employment building, school, day care center, or nursing home.

Hazard Specific Actions:

  • Find out if you live in an evacuation zone and keep track of which zone it is.
  • Check your house and land for any potential dangers related to flooding. Identify any vulnerability and repair it.
  • Ask your insurance agent about flood insurance.
  • Sandbags are a valuable tool to prevent water from entering your home. This approach requires specific instructions from your local emergency officials.
  • If you live in an area that is subject to flooding, do not store your important documents in the basement. Keep them at a higher level, protected from flood damage.

If a Storm Surge Warning has been issued:

  • Make sure that you have all the necessary items, namely, all medications, a radio, a flashlight and batteries.
  • You may be asked to evacuate.  In case you have to, make sure to have your emergency kit at the ready and in a portable bag such as a backpack, duffel bag, or small rolling case.
  • Prepare your home prior to leaving: board up doors and windows. Make sure that basement windows are tightly closed.
  • Fuel your car. If evacuation becomes necessary, it will be hard to stop for gas.
  • If you have any questions or want more information on evacuation procedures, contact your local Emergency Services, Police, or Fire department.

Actions During: Safety Basics, Evacuation, Shelter in Place

If sheltering-in-place:

  • Stay inside where you are protected from the water. It's best to be on the downwind side of the house, away from windows.
  • Monitor the storm's progress and listen for warnings or instructions from local officials.
  • Before driving anywhere, listen carefully to rescue officials who will be coordinating evacuation plans.
  • Be aware of risks such as hypothermia from cold water or drowning from running water.

During an evacuation:

  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately to avoid flooded roads, being sure to follow recommended evacuation routes and listen to radio for evacuation instructions.

Driving Flood Facts - The following are important points to remember when driving in flood conditions:

  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
  • A foot of water will float many vehicles.
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.

Actions After: Get Disaster Relief, Clean-up, Salvage

  • Continue to monitor local weather conditions and emergency radio before you head out.
  • If you're without power, avoid using candles (for fire safety reasons) and try to use flashlights to get around.
  • Avoid floodwaters. Do not let children play in the water.
  • Be aware of areas where water has receded. Roadways may have weakened and could collapse.
  • Avoid downed power lines and muddy water where power lines may have fallen.
  • Don't return home until authorities express it is safe to do so.
  • Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Help neighbors whom may need assistance.
  • Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes, that may have come into your home with flood waters.
  • Take pictures of damage for insurance claims.
  • Look for fire hazards.
  • Throw away all food (including canned) that has come in contact with flood waters.
  • Pump out flooded basements gradually (~ 1/3 amount of water per day) to avoid structural damage.
  • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems ASAP - damaged sewage systems are health hazards.



  1. American Red Cross, CDC – Emergency Preparedness and Response, FEMA – Are You Ready? Guide,, Be a Force of Nature with NOAA’s Weather Ready Nation, National Weather Service Weather Safety
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