Flood Safety

Did you know that in certain flooding conditions, a vehicle can be washed away in less than 12 inches of fast-moving floodwater? Conditions that cause floods include heavy rain that saturates the ground that can last for several hours or days. In Texas, flash flooding is dangerous because it occurs suddenly due to rapidly rising water along a stream or low-lying area, leaving little time for affected residents to evacuate their home or business, or their car, if attempting to drive across a flooded roadway. Because flash floods can be sudden, roadways can be covered in swiftly moving floodwater, making them unsafe and impassable. Most flood-related deaths are due to motorists attempting to cross a flooded low-water crossing or road. Know your flood risk, and Turn Around, Don’t Drown®!

Flood Warnings & Disaster Preparedness

The ability to safely evacuate residents during a disaster depends on strong disaster preparedness planning and requires the cooperation of all affected citizens. Evacuations require the establishment of emergency shelters during disasters for evacuees, and significant coordination among City departments during disasters is critical in order to maintain essential City services.

The City of Houston maintains a cadre of warning systems in the event of a disaster. The City of Houston is able to send “Reverse 911” calls to localized areas which may be utilized if specific neighborhoods are threatened by an imminent or occurring flood. Important warning information may be obtained directly by calling the City’s Office of Emergency Management at 713-884-4500 or by visiting www.houstonoem.org. NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts current local weather information, watches, warnings, and forecasts 24 hours a day, and can be monitored on 162.400 MHz.

During periods of heavy rainfall, the City of Houston’s street drainage crew is on 24-hour call and inspects roadways to monitor flooding. City crews use barricades to close roads that are inundated with water and to discourage traffic from driving through these areas. The City also uses its real-time rain and stream gauge monitoring system to assist in determining road closure conditions.

If flooding is imminent and evacuation of the City is advised, the City of Houston will notify you through local radio and cable TV.

The City receives information from NOAA Weather Station Radio, which broadcasts weather information 24 hours a day, and from the National Weather Service offices in Texas. The local contact number is 281-337-5074. Please call in reference to evacuation notices, procedures and shelters.

The City’s Office of Emergency Management can be reached by calling 713-884-4500 or online at www.houstonoem.org.

Flood Safety Tips

Before the Flood

1. Check with the Floodplain Management Office on the extent of past flooding in your area by calling 832-394-8854. Its staff can tell you about the causes of repetitive flooding, what the City is doing about it, and what would be an appropriate flood protection level. They can also visit your property to discuss flood protection alternatives.

2. Prepare for flooding by doing the following:

  • Know how to shut off the electricity and gas to your house when flooding occurs. 
  • Make a list of emergency numbers and identify a safe place to go.
  • Make a household inventory.
  • Put insurance policies, valuable papers, medicine, etc., in a safe place.
  • Develop a disaster response plan (See the Red Cross’ website: www.redcross.org/services/disaster/ for a copy of the brochure Your Family Disaster Plan. 
  • Get a copy of Repairing Your Flooded Home, which also can be found on the Red Cross’ website. 

3. Consider some permanent flood protection measures.

  • Mark your fuse box to show the circuits to the floodable areas. Turning off the power to these floodable areas can reduce property damage (fires) and save lives. 
  • Consider flood protection alternatives such as flood walls or berms. 
  • Note that some flood protection measures may require permits. Please check with the Floodplain Management Office and/or the Building Code Enforcement Branch for more information. 
  • A copy of ‘Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect Your House from Flooding’ are available at no charge to download from http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/480. 

4. Talk to the Floodplain Management Office for information on financial assistance. 

  • If you are interested in elevating your building above the flood level, or if you are interested in selling your house to the City, the City may be able to apply for federal grants to cover a portion of the cost. 
  • Get a flood insurance policy – it will help pay for repairs after a flood and, in some cases, it will help pay the costs of elevating a substantially damaged building. 

5. Get a Flood Insurance Policy

  • Homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover damage from floods. However, some owners have purchased flood insurance because it was required by the bank when they received a mortgage or home improvement loan. 
  • Don’t wait until the next flood to buy flood insurance protection. In most cases, there is a 30-day waiting period before the National Flood Insurance Program coverage takes effect. 
  • Contact your insurance agent for more information on rates and coverage.
During / After Flood
  • If emergency evacuation is needed, please visit the City’s Emergency Management Office website for shelter locations at www.houstonoem.org and follow the instructions to evacuate – it saves lives of those around you and possibly of the emergency workers responding. 
  • Ask for a licensed electrician, plumber, etc., to check or turn on your power, water, and/or gas.
  • Do not wade through flood waters due to the danger of pollutants, debris (nails, glass, etc.), and animals (snakes, ants, etc.).
  • Flood waters are often murky and depth is hard to determine. Do not drive through flood waters! Turn Around, Don’t Drown®!


The following video from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (www.floodsmart.gov) shares personal stories from Houston-area homeowners affected by flooding over Memorial Day Weekend of 2015: