Video: Vaughn discusses flood preparedness and the best ways to protect your family and property

By the Public Communications Office

In this episode of “Stuff You Don’t Usually See,” Engineering Program Specialist David Vaughn and Marketing Coordinator Grace Hallowell discuss flood preparedness and the best ways to protect your family and property.

Hollowell tapes the spots weekly for broadcast by a local radio station.

Transcript

Grace Hallowell:

Good morning everyone. My name is Grace Hallowell with the City of College Station, and today my guest is David Vaughn from our Planning and Development Services. Good morning, David.

David Vaughn:

Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Grace Hallowell:

Yeah, thanks for being here. We’re going to talk about flood preparedness today, correct?

David Vaughn:

That’s correct.

Grace Hallowell:

Okay, so let’s start off with why is this important to talk about flood preparedness or be prepared for a flood?

David Vaughn:

Well, it’s always a good time to be talking about this, even though it’s not our springtime, rainy season. It’s always a good time to be prepared for flood events. The city of College Station is always trying to make the community more flood resilient and we do that through our CRS program, Community Rating System. That’s a voluntary program the city participates in and we do that to, again, just make the city more flood resilient. We get a bonus from FEMA, a flood insurance discount, 20%. That’s what we get in return for all the activities that we do to make the community safer.

Grace Hallowell:

Yeah, that’s a really good thing to have. Is there a difference between flooding and flash flooding?

David Vaughn:

Yes, flash flooding can be caused from different things; development, the more development takes place, the more imperious cover you have that creates flash flooding versus just overall flooding of a regional area.

One of the things that we try to do with the CRS program is public outreach. This is kind of what we’re doing today. There’s a few topics that I want to go over just to make the community safer.

I guess the first one is know your flood hazards. Knowing whether or not you’re in a flood plain. Those areas of land that are more prone to flooding, more specifically like the 1% flood, they call it. In any given year, an area of land has a 1% chance of flooding, so FEMA considers those to be high risk flood zones. So knowing whether or not your property’s in the flood plain is really important.

It’s kind of the first step to assessing your own risk. And of course the city can help with that. We provide flood maps that FEMA provides to us and to the public. So, with those flood maps, we can determine whether or not your house, your structure, your properties in a flood plain, and we can also help you determine whether you’re in a flood way, which is a more specific part of the flood plain. So you can think of it as the main part of the channel or stream and the area immediately outside of that channel. So basically, the area that’s going to convey most of the storm water during the flood. We can help you determine whether that’s on your property.

It’s a more dangerous part of the flood plain, so it’s important to know whether you’re near that or not. We can provide historical flood data, whether your property has flooded in the past, if you have local drainage problems on your property, and if you’re concerned about that, we can visit your property, and can assess your drainage and help you figure out if there’s going to be a problem in the future or help you explain why there’s been problems in the past. There’s protected areas, wetlands, critical habitat areas, conservation areas. So all of those things we can help you learn about on your property.

Grace Hallowell:

Perfect. And where can they find the maps to see if their property is in that area?

David Vaughn:

They can contact the city, contact our department, Planning and Development Services. We provide those maps again as part of the CRS program. So our phone number is (979) 764-3570. You can give us a call. You’re also more than welcome to go to the FEMA website, so that’s msc.fema.gov, that’s their map service center. So, once the webpage pulls up, you can type in your address and boom, right there it pulls up a digital map that you can look at and see where the flood plain is in respect to your property.

Grace Hallowell:

Perfect. Let’s talk a little about how we can be prepared for flood. So what should we do before? What should we do during, if there’s a flood and what should we do after there is a flood?

David Vaughn:

Well before the flood, it’s really important to purchase flood insurance. So, FEMA, along with the City of College Station, we all are very much in support of the purchase of flood insurance, even if you’re not within that flood plain area, or if you’re not in a high-risk zone, it’s still important to buy flood insurance. About 40% of flood insurance claims actually occur outside of those high risk flood plain areas. So again, it’s just real important to purchase flood insurance. There’s a 30 day waiting period for most policies, so you can’t really wait till the last minute to buy a policy. If the storm is happening, it’s kind of already too late to buy flood insurance. So that’s a big first step, purchasing flood insurance.

You can also do things to protect your property. You can do what’s called dry flood proofing. That could be anything from watertight shields over doors and windows, it could be elevating your home, or relocating your home if it’s something drastic. So, those are the types of things that you can do. You can also find more information on dry flood proofing on the FEMA website, fema.gov. They also have good resources. We have resources at the city as well. Our Ringer Library has manuals that you can check out and those provide tips. Home Guide to Retrofitting, is one of our manuals, and that will give you detailed information on how to physically protect your home from a flood event.

Grace Hallowell:

Perfect. Now, during a flood, what is the best way to handle that situation if somebody is not familiar? I know I just moved here from the East Coast, and this isn’t really something that I had to worry about a whole lot, so it might seem like a scary thing when there’re calls for a flood warning or a flood watch. What should you do when there is flooding in your area?

David Vaughn:

So I guess the first thing to mention is turn around, don’t drown. So if you’re driving and there’s water going across the road, be sure to turn around. Don’t drown. It only takes six inches of water to sweep an adult off their feet. It takes about a foot of water to sweep away a vehicle, so it’s not much.

Grace Hallowell:

Yeah, that doesn’t seem like a lot at all.

David Vaughn:

No, no. So yeah, that’s the main thing. Also, I guess it’s kind of before the flood, but knowing your flood evacuation routes, getting to safety. So that’s something that you should do before the flood, knowing where you and your family are going to go in the event of a flood. Have several locations picked out that you can go to, that’s important. Stay out of the water in general, especially if you’re on foot. There’s always a risk of electrocution during a flood or storm event. Certainly don’t go wade into waters, you just never know if it’s electrically charged or not. There can be harmful chemicals, there can be wildlife, snakes, reptiles, that can be very dangerous in the water. And so it’s really hard to determine whether those hazards are in the water or not before you wade into it.

Grace Hallowell:

Perfect. Yeah, you wouldn’t think going into water would be so dangerous, but there’s a lot of risks to just go wading in the water. So what else can you tell us about flood preparedness?

David Vaughn:

So we talked about protecting property and protecting yourself. I guess building responsibly would be another point to make. It’s always important to get a permit before you build with Planning and Development Services, any construction work if you’re moving dirt, fill, things like that. Yeah, just be sure to check with us first, get a permit, especially if it’s going to be located in the flood plain. We have extra criteria that must be met to develop in the flood plain, so be sure to check with us before building. Also, just protecting natural floodplain functions. So, only rain down the drain, is something that we preached a lot too. That’s keeping debris and trash out of storm drain, storm inlets. Obstructed drain drainage ways are going to cause localized flooding issues. So keeping leaf litter, trash, debris, free from the drains, that’s going to not only benefit the local environment, but it’s going to keep your community safer as well.

Grace Hallowell:

Perfect. Yeah, that is very important, and don’t

be sweeping things in the storm drains that shouldn’t be there.

David Vaughn:

Correct, Correct. Also, if you see anything, if you’re a concerned citizen, you can report to us. If you see someone dumping chemicals or debris into a storm inlet, you can call us. We do enforce those kind of things. So again, you can call our number (979) 764-3570, you can email us at cspds@cstx.gov. We also have an app that you can use. It’s called SeeClickFix. You can report infractions that way as well.

Grace Hallowell:

Perfect. So a lot of easy ways to stay on top of these things. All right. Is there anything else that they need to know?

David Vaughn:

I think that pretty much covers it. Again, if you have any questions about flood maps or how to better prepare yourself for a flood event, feel free to reach out to us. You can contact me directly, check out your local library, or city hall, we have resources. So I guess that’s pretty much it.

Grace Hallowell:

All right. Well, thank you, David. And that’s stuff you don’t usually see.