As the nation marks Flood Safety Awareness Week, County Executive George Latimer is urging residents to be prepared in case severe flooding impacts their homes or neighborhoods.

“Significant flooding can happen anywhere, not just in the coastal and low-lying areas of our County where it historically is more likely to occur. Taking precautions now and having a plan in place will enable you to stay safe during an event and to recover more quickly should something occur.”

According to the National Weather Service, flooding happens nearly every day somewhere in the United States. It is “one of America’s most underrated killers,” the NWS says, causing nearly 90 fatalities each year. In addition, flooding is responsible for more than $8 billion in property damages annually.

In Westchester, severe flooding last summer caused significant damage across the County and claimed the lives of five persons who were traveling on local roads when flash flooding occurred.

Commissioner Richard G. Wishnie of the Department of Emergency Services said residents can obtain preparedness and safety information at He offered the following practical guidance for things that residents can do before, during and after a severe flooding event.

Preparing for a Flood

Stay Informed: When a severe storm is forecast, listen to weather reports on television and radio, and follow government and emergency service agencies on social media. Knowing when major flooding might occur is a key to staying safe.

Have a Plan:  Families are urged to have a disaster plan in place for any major weather event or other emergency. This plan should include creating a go-bag with needed items to take with you, such as documents and medicines, in the event you have to leave your home quickly.

Have Non-Perishable Food and Other Supplies on Hand: Flash flooding has the potential to trap you in your home, often without power.  Keep a three-day supply of canned and other non-perishable foods on hand along with a manual can opener and utensils. Also have a gallon of water per person per day on hand. Flashlights and batteries are other essential items to keep for any emergency.

Insurance-Related Matters: Know whether your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance covers damages from flooding. Your agent can advise you on how to obtain flood insurance. Maintaining records of your possessions, and a video recording of the inside and outside of your home, will aid greatly in filing an insurance claim if your home is damaged by flooding.

During a Flood Event

Obey Evacuation Orders: If you are directed to leave your home, do so promptly.

Get to Higher Ground: If you live in a flood-prone area, or are camping in a low-lying area, get to higher ground as quickly as possible.

Do Not Drive on a Flooded Roadway:  Appearances can be deceiving and a car can quickly stall and be swept away on a flooded roadway. Just two feet of moving floodwaters can cause a car to float away. Do not drive around barricades placed there to close a flooded road. Turn around, don’t drown.

Do Not Try to Walk Through Fast-Moving Water: Even six inches of swift water can knock people down and sweep them away. If your car becomes disabled in flood waters, call 911 and try to stay inside the vehicle. If the water begins rising around the car, try to climb on to the roof and wait for rescuers to arrive.

After a Flood

Returning Home: Only return home if authorities say it is safe to do so. Throw out any food that has come in contact with floodwaters. Wear proper protective equipment and clothing during any cleanup. Do not handle any live electrical equipment that was exposed to floodwaters.