Thanks to climate change, India is witnessing extreme monsoons that is only getting worse year on year. In the monsoon of 2018, 1200 people died and 70 lakh people were affected across the country, as per the Home Ministry statistics. This year, 193 deaths were reported from two states of Bihar and Assam in July alone, affecting 1.17 crore people. The numbers are rising, with heavy rain and alerts for possible flooding issued in several parts of the country. The danger is far from over.
This is our new reality, and we have to learn to cope. One of the key ways we can become climate-resilient is by becoming respectful and positive in our engagement with water. Let’s not fear it – it is time we made friends with it. The first step towards this is by learning to swim and picking up water safety skills – correctly, safely and enjoyably.
India SWIMS (Swimming and Water safety Is My Solution) to Prevent Drowning, a campaign by Olympians Association of India, conceptualised and executed by Swimming Matters, aims to create awareness around drowning prevention and promote safe engagement with water. As part of the campaign, we have compiled a list of to-do’s in flood situations to keep you, your family and your home safe this monsoon.
BEFORE A FLOOD
How to protect your home, furniture and valuables?
- Remove all electrical fuses
- Close gas valve
- Place a strong plastic bag full of sand or earth in the toilet bowl to prevent a back-flow of sewage into your home.
- Place a strong plastic bag full of sand or earth over shower and bath outlets
What should be there in your Emergency Flood Kit
- A change of clothing, raincoats and blankets
- Torch with spare batteries
- Charged mobile
- First aid kit with medications and duplicate prescriptions
- Non perishable food and water for your family and pets
- First aid kit
- a list of useful numbers
- Important records including wills, birth/marriage certificates, banking, financial records packed in a waterproof bag
- Valuables and cherished articles (jewelry, photographs etc)
DURING A FLOOD
How to manage when outdoors?
- Never try to walk or drive through floodwater – six inches of fast flowing water can knock an adult over and two feet of water will float a car.
- Don’t swim in flood water or even wade in shallow flood water – it is usually contaminated and often contains objects, strong currents and other hazards.
- Try to walk in areas where the water is not moving, or is moving more slowly. In order to avoid trip or fall always use a long stick to test the ground in front of you for holes, rough patches, or soft areas.
- If you must enter shallow water, wear shoes to protect feet. Don’t proceed beyond waist-depth unless absolutely necessary, and only if there is no obvious current.
- Never allow children or pets to go near or play in floodwater. It is hazardous and may be contaminated with chemicals.
- Monitor the weather. Do not travel in heavy rainstorms unless absolutely necessary.
- Stay away from downed power lines.
- Keep in contact with other people. Do things in pairs. Do not go anywhere alone.
- Take care on foot bridges and walkways as they may be extremely slippery.
How to handle a car in flood water?
- Avoid driving in flooded areas at all costs.
- Enter only if absolutely essential and safe to do so, and proceed slowly and steadily.
- Don’t enter flood waters before checking depth and current. Beware of wash-outs, fallen power lines and floating objects.
- Avoid driving at night – potholes and clean water cannot be seen
- Upon leaving flooded area, dry out brakes by applying light pressure until grip returns.
- If your vehicle is engulfed by water or the engine stops, immediately remove seatbelt, release any children from their seats, get out of the vehicle and climb to higher ground
- If the water level is high – escape out of the windows or doors onto the roof of the car. Stay with the car.
- If the car starts to move quickly with the water flow or the water is entering the car – escape out of the windows or doors, breaking windows if necessary. Stay upstream from the car, and swim to safety.
- If you cannot escape, call and signal for help. Turn on all of the lights and sound the horn.
What to do if someone falls in or gets trapped in flood water?
- Do not go after the victim!
- Use a flotation device. If possible throw the victim something to help them float, such as a spare tyre, a large ball, water cans, large water bottles, rope, clothing items that can be made into a rope etc.
- Call for Help
The most important tip? Know your swimming and water safety skills. It is more than just a sport – it is a life skill and a life saving one!
AFTER THE FLOODS
- Wait until authorities have declared the area safe before entering a flood zone. Before entering your house, wait until water has fallen below floor level.
- Indoors or out, under flooded or damaged conditions, treat every electrical item with the greatest respect. Every source of electricity can be extremely dangerous under flood conditions. An energised electrical wire or pole partially or totally submerged in water can create an electrical field in the water that will cause a serious electrical shock hazard.
- Wear rubber boots (or at least rubber-soled shoes) and rubber or leather gloves.
- On entering your home, move around slowly and carry a torch as you inspect for damage. Watch for loose floor boards, holes in the floor, protruding nails, and sagging ceiling areas.
- Do not turn on any lights or appliances until a qualified electrician has checked the entire electrical distribution system.
- Do not smoke or use open flames.
- Keep a look out for snakes.
- Drink only boiled or bottled water.
(Compiled from Royal Life Saving Society, Commonfloor, Emergency Management Australia, Susquehanna Flood Forecast and Warning System.)
(Picture credit: www.CBMIN.org)