Solutions for Self-Reliance

The Most Common Natural Disaster


Considering that flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States, our resiliency plans should include provisions to protect against potential damage.

You may be thinking “I don’t live in a flood area…this isn’t for me.”  According to the National Flood Insurance Program, over 20% of all flood claims each year come from homes outside commonly flooded areas.  In fact, homes in low risk areas received over 1/3 of all flood recovery funding in 2011.

If there is water nearby – flooding is possible.

Even areas without a water source nearby can fall victim to damaging waters when significant rainwater does not drain properly.

How do you know if you live in an area with the potential for flooding?  Most local environmental agencies have resources available for residents that show high risk areas for flooding.  The FEMA website has a useful tool that allows you to enter your address and receive flood risk information.

Remember that flood zones change annually and you should be checking these resources at least once a year in case projected flood zones have changed.

Let’s take a look at some ways to prevent flooding when possible and avoid serious damage when flooding is imminent.

New Sandbag Technology

The sandbag has been used to stave off flood waters for centuries.  It is still a reasonably effective method that continues to be used.  The problem with sandbags is that they need sand.

Although sand is not all that hard to procure, we can’t wait until a flood occurs to begin filling bags with sand.

It also isn’t practical to store thousands of pounds of sand at home (or even possible in many cases).

Fortunately, there is a new solution; a “better sandbag.”


This bags are practically paper thin and can be stored for years.  A small amount of polyacrylate polymer is contained in each bag that expands when combined with water.  The polypropylene outer shell is strong enough to withstand the pounding of flood waters.

These are great because a few boxes of these things can be stored and deployed quickly if needed.  Especially in flash flood situations, these instant sandbags may be the only thing capable of stopping flood waters quickly.

Sustainable Solutions

Figuring out how or when a flood will occur is difficult in most cases.  If you live next to the Mississippi, the cause of flooding is pretty evident.  In other areas of the country, it is not so black and white.

Our best course of action is to implement a few landscaping changes that can reduce the likelihood that flooding will occur in the first place and making provisions for excess water when it does.

If you haven’t yet started foodscaping, flood control is another excellent reason why you should start.  More vegetation in your yard equals more water retentive capabilities.  A combination of ground cover and large trees is ideal to prevent significant precipitation from building up and causing damage.

Terracing is another technique that has been used successfully to slow the flow of water.  Terrace gardens are a great way to maximize space and cultivate otherwise useless land.  The fact that flooding risks are reduced is an added benefit.

Floodways can also be constructed in your yard.  These are useful when flooding is imminent and help divert flood water away from your property.  A large scale version, known as the Morganza Spillway, protects New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and other major cities on the lower Mississippi from river flooding.


Mitigating Flood Damage

If flooding is imminent and your preventive measures have failed, you can expect serious damage to your home and property.  If you live in an area with the potential for flooding, take time to prepare your home for flooding.  Time spent now could save you thousands in repair costs in the wake of a flood.

  • Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electrical panel
  • Install “check valves” to prevent water from backing up through the drains in your home
  • Apply waterproofing sealant to basement wall joints (or first floor if you do not have a basement)
  • Turn off electrical power at the main breaker before flooding begins

These steps are designed to reduce damage caused by flooding.  However, the best prevention is to live in an area where flooding is not likely.  After all, if you have been implementing resilient food solutions, they would be quickly destroyed in a severe flood.

Flooding is one of the most destructive forces in nature.  When large amounts of water head in your direction, there is little you can do to protect yourself.  Being proactive and taking steps to prevent flooding at home is the best way to keep your property safe during a flood.

Permaculture, terraces, “improved” sandbags, and other water diversion techniques are all excellent ways to improve your resiliency in the face of natural disasters.

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