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Flooding Safety tips

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Flooding is a leading cause of death in many disasters. Learn how to prepare for a flood, stay safe during a flood, and protect your health when you return to clean up flooded areas.

What is Flooding?

Flooding is an overflow of water that can rang from a few inches to fully submerging buildings. Flooding occurs when rivers, lakes, and the ground cannot contain or absorb excessive rain or snow melt, or when water containment systems (dams, pipes) break.

Some floods can develop slowly, while flash floods can occur within minutes or hours after a weather event or containment break.

Flood Watches and Warnings Terms

It is important to understand the differences between watch and warnings so you know what to do to stay safe.

Flood Watch vs Flash Flood Watch

Flooding or flash flooding in your area is possible. Pay attention to changing weather and flood conditions, be prepared to move to higher ground.

Flood Warning

Flooding is occurring or about to occur. Avoid low lying areas and if necessary evacuate.

Flash Flood Warning

A flash flood is occurring or about to occur. Seek higher ground immediately.

What to do before a Flood

Find out if your property is in a flood prone or high risk area. Explore NZ’ flood maps of your area and learn more about your community’s risk of flooding.

Create a plan in case of an emergency:

  • Do you have chemicals, materials or other items that are high-risk if they get wet

  • How would you evacuate the work premise, where would you instruct workers to evacuate to? Does anyone need assistance to get there?

  • Is there a particular direction the flood would come from?

  • If you have time to prepare if a ‘watch’ is given, what needs to be done? Items elevated, electricity and other utilities turned off, back-ups to important systems completed?

  • • Is there an emergency kit available?

What to do during a flood

  • Move immediately to higher ground or stay on high ground.

  • Continue to check the media for emergency information.

  • Follow instructions from public safety officials. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

  • Take only essential items if you need to evacuate and if safe to do so.

If you are evacuating during a flooding event, remember:

  • Do not walk through flowing water. Most drownings occur during flash floods. Flowing water can easily knock you off your feet, or suck you down a hole / or obstacle.

  • Remember the phrase “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” and don’t drive through flooded roads. Cars can be swept away in only a few feet of moving water. If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, stay in the vehicle. If water is rising inside the vehicle, seek refuge on the roof.

  • Do not drive around barriers. Roads and bridges may be washed out or structurally unsound.

What to do after a flood

  • Continue to monitor the media for emergency information

  • Follow instructions from public safety officials

  • If you have evacuated, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so

  • Call 111 to report any emergencies, including downed power lines or gas leaks

  • Check on others. Family, friends, neighbours, workmates, and especially the elderly.


  • Stay away from downed utility wires. Always assume a downed power line is live.

  • Does electricity and other utilities need to remain off / be checked over by a qualified person before being used again? Speak to a qualified technician first.

  • Stay out of damaged buildings and away from affected areas, roads, landslips until authorities deem them safe.

  • Look before you step. Debris and mud covering floors can cause slips, trips and falls.

  • Listen to reports to learn if water is safe to drink. Boil water before drinking or using it for cooking until you know it is safe.

  • Throw away any food that has come into contact with floodwaters.

  • When cleaning up flood damage. Take precaution, wear appropriate PPE such as gloves, safety glasses, gumboots and face masks. You never know if the floodwaters or mud / debris is contaminated with oil, chemicals or sewage. Clean hands after removing soiled PPE or clothing.

  • Avoid entering floodwaters or mud if possible.

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