During the flood

In every emergency situation, being prepared is one of the best means possible in order to try and minimise the amount of damage inflicted on yourself, your family and property.

Emergency Management Australia identifies three key words for you to remember, they are:

1. Protect valuables and goods

  • move household items to a high place. Place furniture on beds and then personal items in the furniture

    Caution: Your ceiling or upper floor may not be able to safely support the additional weight of heavy equipment or furniture unless you have had it specially strengthened beforehand.

  • Remove wood drawers from built-ins, cabinets and furniture. Wood swells when wet and the pressure between the drawers and their containers can damage furniture.

  • Remove light bulbs from light fixtures below any known flood level. Put the light bulbs and other glass items in plastic bags and move them above flood level.

  • Protect valuable machinery, equipment or commercial stock that cannot be relocated by enclosing in waterproof covers or by coating them with grease. If unable to move, consider encircling such equipment with a wall of sandbags.

  • Plan what you are going to do with your pets and farmers should move their stock to higher ground

2. Secure dangerous or damageable items

  • Relocate chemicals that react with water to give off heat or form explosive or toxic gases and poisons to the highest level in your home in waterproof containers. Include any substances that could contaminate floodwaters.

  • Include cardboard boxes and newspapers etc, as items to be moved to higher ground. If this is not done, they will disintegrate and clog drains.

  • Secure any items that may become debris or battering rams in moving water, for example, tie furniture and personal items on top of a bed and then anchor the bed by tying it to the house structure.

  • Remove perishable food from refrigerators, and garbage cans, place in plastic bags or containers and seal. Tie and anchor outdoor garbage cans to minimise spread of disease and unsanitary conditions. Leave refrigerator and freezer doors or lids open, otherwise they may float, tip over and be damaged or cause damage.

  • Tie down timber, drums and other loose, buoyant items in the yard to prevent them from being carried away by floodwater or battered against other items or structures.

3. Evacuate by authority or voluntarily

  • Don't wait to be told to evacuate. If you decide to leave, be sure to 'shut down' household utilities as described below. Collect all your valuables including birth and marriage certificates, passports, wedding and family photographs, money, valuable documents (for example: share certificates, land title deeds etc), phone charger, medications - at lease 3-days worth, pack them in a waterproof container and take them with you.

  • If you evacuate voluntarily make sure you tell a member of the family, a friend or neighbour and Victoria State Emergency Service or Police when you are leaving and if you know, where you are going so that authorities can account for you. Leave a contact number as well.

  • Don't forget to take your emergency kit.

  • Listen to flood reports and bulletins on the radio and be ready to act. Additional information is available on the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) website.

  • Don't use your phone unless it is essential.

  • Discourage others from sightseeing in the flood area.

  • Carry out instructions issued by Emergency Services.

  • If you remain in your home during a flood, keep a sharp eye out for unwelcome flood "victims" such as snakes and spiders coming indoors.

  • Avoid boating and do not drive or swim  in flood waters unless absolutely essential.

  • Never drink or wash in flood waters as it may be contaminated.

  • Do not walk through floodwater as you cannot see where your placing your feet and you could seriously injure yourself

Sandbagging / creating a levee

Sandbags stacked to form a barrier against rising floodwaters are one of the most common emergency (flood-proofing) techniques used.

The bags used must be of suitable construction and have sand (brick or packing sand) or other fill placed in them to hold off water as long as possible.

Water exerts large amounts of pressure against the bags therefore (and if possible) a shallow trench should be dug to provide a footing. Other methods used to create an anchor for a small levee are to place the bags on or against specific features such as a ditch, open drain, raised roadbed or against a foundation wall.

When laying the sandbags it is a good idea to anchor sheet plastic underneath and place up across the front of the levee facing the floodwaters as this will assist in preventing seepage. (Refer to the diagram below)

Cross section diagram of a sand bag levee construstion.

Sandbags should never be totally filled with sand for two reasons:

  1. It allows them to 'overlap' one another, which locks them in place (as you would stack hay). In addition, the bags should be stacked at right angles to layers above and below, this is done so to provide greater stability.

  2. They will be too heavy to lift, particularly after the waters have subsided, because wet sandbags are heavier than dry ones.

Travel in flood conditions

Warning: The majority of flood-deaths in Australia are a result of inexperienced people entering floodwaters either in boats, vehicles or on foot. You should never enter floodwaters unless it is absolutely necessary.

Page last updated: Monday, 7 January 2019