What a Flood Plain is and the Dangers of Living there

Many people reside in a floodplain and do not even realize the fact that they live in a floodplain or the dangers of living there.  FEMA describes a floodplain as “an area adjacent to a body of water”, but even they note that you may live in floodplain and be miles away from water. 

To determine if your home is located in a floodplain, you must determine where the nearest body of water is.  If you live near a waterway, including a stream or creek, you are living in a floodplain.  Keep in mind that regardless on if you are in a floodplain, your home can still be damaged by a flood.  Floods can happen from heavy down pours, clogged sewer drains, or even broken damns.  Living in a floodplain simply means that you are MORE likely then someone who does not live in a floodplain to experience flooding. 

Many people believe that because a river bed or lake has not flooded in recent history, they are highly unlikely to experience a flood.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  The environment and weather patterns have proved that history does repeat itself.  We’ve all heard of the term “100 year flood”, meaning that certain bodies of water flood every 100 years or so.  Just because a flood has never happened doesn’t mean it can’t.  Small creeks can flood with heavy down pours and can easily swell their banks or even create a new stream, breaking levees and flowing into a new path. 

There are many dangers of living in a floodplain.  The most obvious is the possibility of death. According to Environmental Literacy Council floods cause more deaths than any other natural disaster.  That is often because people doubt the power of the water.  The current and depth of water is difficult to predict and because of that, many people venture into unsafe waters.

Other dangers include the loss of property or livelihood.  After a flood, many businesses do not reopen due to economic insecurity.   Imagine the devastation of having your business and home destroyed by a flood. 

When you lose your home or personal belongings to a flood, the recovery time can be years.  There have been many cases where floodwaters have remained above their banks, submerging houses for weeks and even months.  In these rare cases, the houses are completely destroyed, even though they remain standing.   

Another danger people fail to realize is the disease and illnesses that often follow floods.  There are many water borne illness that can be easily spread from floods, such as typhoid fever, cholera, malaria and many more.  To prevent such diseases make sure that if there is flooding in your area to insure that you find a clean water source and follow precautionary measures when you are exposed to flood waters.    For more information on water borne illnesses visit the World Health Organizations website. 

As you can see, there are many dangers to living in a floodplain, but by following the appropriate steps, you can protect yourself, your family, and your property by understanding the dangers of living in a floodplain.