Severe weather conditions such as cloudbursts, cold fronts, tropical depressions and tropical storms are likely to produce intense rainfall that can result in flash floodings, storm surges and overflows from blocked drains. Flooding occurs when drainage channels are filled and the rivers and streams can no longer accommodate the excessive water generated by severe weather conditions. The drainage channels then overtop their natural or artificial banks and water enters the surrounding lands to cause flooding.
Jamaicans most likely to be worst affected by flooding are those who live in flood-prone areas such as low-lying, coastal areas and those who occupy gully banks. While flood plain maps can identify flood-prone areas and forewarn of flooding, it is the planned and prompt actions of the individuals and the community that will determine the extent of the flood impact and save lives.
Emergency Precautions Before a Flood Event
- Make sure that you have a battery-operated radio that is in good working order.
- Stay tuned to news, weather reports and bulletins.
- Listen for flood alerts, watch and warning advisories that may be issued by the National Meteorological Service, and emergency instructions from the ODPEM.
- If you live in an area with a history of flooding or your house is likely to be flooded:
- You must have a family or community emergency plan to ensure the personal safety of your family and wider community.
- If you plan to stay or leave, secure your roof, windows and doors against flood waters and wind damage.
- Seal all cracks in floors and walls.
- Arrange to stay with relatives or friends in safe locations or use the quickest route to secure temporary shelter provided by your Parish Disaster Committee at higher ground.
- Your possessions are difficult to replace. Wrap all important documents, personal items, electrical appliances, and items of sentimental value in plastic bags or other waterproof containers and secure in a safe place, preferably on the highest shelves you can build above water level.
- Raise large items of furniture and appliances such as your refrigerators and stoves on building blocks off the floor, or strap them securely to the wall or a beam, above water level.
- Shut off all electrical power, gas and water supplies in areas in immediate danger of flooding.
- Check your plumbing for leaks.
- Keep a stock of emergency supplies handy. Include batteries, flashlights, candles, sterilized water, plastic bags, water boots, hand tools, raincoats, tinned foods and special medicines. Also keep a list of emergency numbers handy.
- Protect the lives of domestic animals and livestock. Secure birds and small animals in cages and boxes and put cattle on the loose in open field.
- If you need information or assistance, contact the nearest police station or fire brigade or other emergency services.
- You Must Be Prepared To Evacuate At Short Notice!
Emergency Precautions During A Flood Event
- Remain calm and take all necessary precautions.
- Keep your radio on and listen for special weather reports and news bulletins. Do not disregard flood warnings. Follow instructions carefully.
- Organize a simple early warning system with your neighbours.
- Do not go outside unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Do not touch electrical switches, loose or dangling electrical wires.
- Do not go sightseeing in flooded areas.
- Do not attempt to drive or walk across bridges, fordings and passes that are near to rivers and streams in spate. Use only recommended routes if you must travel.
- Do not use telephone lines unless it is vital. Keep all communications channels clear for emergency use.
- Do not pass along rumours. Get the facts from an authorized source.
- Do not go swimming in floodwaters.
- Request evacuation procedures early from your Parish Disaster Committee or the ODPEM.
- Listen to your radio for instructions to help return your community to normal.
- Be prepared to assist the injured, the elderly and children in your community.
- If you must re-enter a building that has been flooded, do a safety check:
- Move about the building slowly.
- Do not touch electrical appliances or fixtures.
- Do not smoke or use open flames.
- Clean up debris around your house and roadways as quickly as possible to prevent the outbreak of diseases.
- Boil and store drinking water until you are told the water supply is safe.
- Cover and protect all foods.
- Bury or burn all dead animals as soon as possible.
- Keep garbage tightly sealed and take to public dumps or collection points.
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