How to Survive a Flood: What I Learned in Venezuela

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by J.G. Martinez D, The Organic Prepper:

It seems like floods are becoming more and more common all over the world. I am not going to write any useless dissertation about what causes these huge flooding events we are starting to witness everywhere. There are a lot of people more qualified than me that have dedicated their lives to research about it. But I do want to write about how to protect ourselves and survive a flood, because I experienced a very unexpected situation that, after passing that scary moment, I realized that was very dangerous afterward.

The danger of a flood is that they can be unpredictable, and the amount of energy they unchain is vast.

Editor’s Note: I think there is a lot to learn about disasters from the way they’re handled elsewhere. Different areas have different supplies available and different norms, and this can help us to quickly adapt the things we have on hand during an emergency. Learning about the way the deal with natural disasters in other locales can provide very useful to the wise prepper. ~ Daisy

Floods in Venezuela

I have seen videos in the middle of a Caracas highway filled with water so high that cars started to float, and the level was up to the window. I have never been a fan of 4x4s, but I started to reconsider this after seeing how the only cars that did not suffer any damage were the raised up and all-terrain capable 4x4s driven by young men (mostly) with snorkels and such, that could climb the 1.5 meters high roadside to get out of the water.

Sadly, that day I remember having read about an elder man that, trapped in his car in the middle of the highway, suffered a heart attack. May God have mercy of his soul. With some self-control, and leaving his car for a while, getting into one of the 4x4s, that, even parked, they seemed to be much safer (there was no place to go, really, the highway was collapsed) he could have survived.

In our area, the weather was somewhat predictable: rain, then sun, and then rain again, and sometimes even the sun while raining. The soil is quite permeable, and land mostly flat. So, unlike other areas, mudslides like those in Vargas state (Venezuela) are unlikely.

However, once the equilibrium point between the water absorption rate of the soil and the rain amount was surpassed…water starts to accumulate, logically. The drain system is usually good, depending on how clean it is.

However, these last few years, local government contracts for these jobs are no longer profitable, and the drains are filled with all kind of debris. Garbage collection is not done by private companies (Uncle Hugo took good care of that and plenty similar business, because private employees do not go to demonstrations to show support to any president) but by the local government. Therefore, garbage is starting to pile up everywhere, in every city of Venezuela. These clog the drains, and voila. You have suddenly half a meter of water and your car becomes a boat…without being designed to navigate in body waters.

Every area has different flood risks

But let’s get back on topic.

Depending on your surroundings, city or country, you could have a different level of risk in a flood. I have seen pictures of the half of the first floors of a building getting flooded in Caracas, just under heavy rains, and drains clogged by debris dragged from the surrounding poor barrios, where garbage collection is inconsistent, so to speak.

I don’t like apartment living, though, mainly because I am not usually allowed to get my bike inside the living room. One of the parameters I used to select our home, where we would live with the kids, over ten years ago, was how far away it would be from drains, schools, supermarket, the access to the water grid, and how stable was the electricity. With the storms and winds, this would be very useful after all. I mean by drains those huge channels, almost one meter deep, one meter wide that are needed when it really rains.

And in some subdivisions, these channels are much larger. Seasonal water streams are a problem because many times urbanization was done in former horse field, where there was only pasture, and with natural streams that had been running there for centuries.

When there is enough rain, the water looks for the best roads, no matter if 40 years ago they built houses there.

One of my former coworkers lives nearby a huge channel, which it is supposed to conduct water to one of these seasonal streams. In the middle of a storm, water started to flow backward through the channel. Imagine the mess. There were homes where people came back from work, to find out that their place was immersed in one and a half foot of filthy water. And this was in a middle-class subdivision. Imagine the poor barrios.

Another problem is when the backyards get flooded because of too much rain.

Our own flood preparedness set-up

We have rain gutters that go to the street, but it is always a concern that the nearby drain could overflow. It has not yet happened, but there is a pump, a gen-set, and enough hoses to drive the water outside…via the main door. All of this is conveniently housed in their movable racks, high enough, and with the wiring in good condition.

In case water started to come out of the backyard drain, immediately the pumping plan starts. All of this is done with transparent hoses for very important reasons: if the water level is too low for the pump, cavitation would destroy it, and this way we also can see if there is debris in the water too that could damage the turbine. This can be detected by checking the pumping through the clear hoses, something that I highly recommend.

We used to clean this drain (it is a 6 in. underground pipe, all the way from the backyard, under the house, to the main road) with 2 or 3 bottles of drain cleaner, once a year. Dog and cat hair, and all kind of small residues would be dissolved (hopefully), and the water would drag the rest.

For us, manual pumps are very hard to find: our farms received water enough in the rainy season, and many of them have lagoons for irrigation in summer. There was, and yet there is no need for underground water, so manual pumps as those you have were not necessary, and a very rare item around here.

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