Flooding can impact staff and student health, disrupt education, and damage vehicles and property. A mere one inch of water inside a structure can cause up to $25,000 of damage, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It is important to know your flood risk, understand your coverage, and make a plan to limit the impact of floods on your organization.
Flood risk factors
During the record-breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, storms dumped buckets of rain across the U.S., including right here in Texas. Unfortunately, there may be no relief in sight. Scientists expect climate change to drive up the number of hurricanes and other natural disasters for the foreseeable future.
While you can’t predict whether a flood will hit your facilities, you can identify factors that increase your risk:
- Heavy rainfall
- Nearby ocean that could experience storm surge
- Nearby river or stream that could swell over its banks
- Nearby hills or valleys that cause rain to quickly run into rivers
- Inadequate flood control or prevention measures such as dams, sea walls, and diversion canals
- Urban areas where roads, buildings, and parking lots prevent rain from absorbing into the ground
When do floods happen?
Floods are the most common weather-related disaster. Your risk of flooding increases during the spring and summer.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that 75 percent of flash flood reports in the U.S. happen between late April and mid-September, and 34 percent happen from June 10 through Aug. 3.
Heavy rain and flooding are also common during hurricane season, which runs from June through the end of November.
3 steps to protect people, property, and vehicles
Flash floods can happen within a few minutes or hours of excessive rainfall or a dam or levee failure, according to the National Weather Service. Follow these steps to ensure your organization is ready to respond quickly.
Step 1. Prepare for a flood
- Ensure backup power for sump pumps, which remove accumulated water.
- Store back-up files of school records off site.
- Add, clean, or repair sewer line valves.
- Monitor weather and flood warnings.
- Ensure emergency operation plans are up-to-date.
- Elevate electrical equipment and move vehicles from lower-lying areas to higher ground.
Step 2. Follow these best practices during a flood
- Monitor weather conditions through social media, local news, and NOAA Weather Radio.
- Stay clear of flood-prone areas, floodplains, and areas where water collects.
- Do not go into classrooms, cafeterias, offices, or other areas where water covers electrical outlets or where cords are submerged.
- Collaborate with local emergency management personnel and first responders to get updated road closures and damage assessments.
- Communicate with transportation departments about low-water crossings along bus routes. Identify alternate routes or transportation options to avoid those areas.
- Tell staff and students to avoid walking and driving in or near flood waters. Nobody should drive around barricades. It’s against the law and it may be deadly. Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than any other severe weather-related hazard because people underestimate the force and power of water.
Step 3. Learn how to respond to a flood
- Remember that floodwaters can force wildlife from their hiding places, leave behind dangerous debris, and create slippery surfaces.
- Understand and comply with the responsibilities explained in your insurance policy or coverage agreement.
- Do not enter a school if there is flood water in or around the building; if you smell gas; or if the building could be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines. Contact the power company for guidance.
- Look for signs of structural damage, such as cracked walls and sagging roofs.
- Do not use the toilets until you investigate whether the pipes are broken. You can check community reports for damaged sewer pipes.
Controlling mold in schools
Wet carpet, walls, and furniture make perfect breeding grounds for mold. Left unchecked, mold in schools can compromise indoor air quality and trigger coughs, sneezes, and itchy eyes. More-serious symptoms can include allergic reactions and asthma attacks.
To reduce the risk, dry out everything that got wet:
- Run your HVAC system to remove moisture from facilities.
- Use wet vacs to clear water from flooring.
- Circulate air by using fans and air movers.
- Pick up furniture and other items sitting on wet floors.
- Remove wet, damaged building materials before they grow mold.
Anyone conducting mold assessment and remediation services is regulated by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). Oversight by TDLR ensures properly trained and licensed professionals are involved in the inspection, investigation, survey, cleaning, or removal of mold in school buildings.
TASB Facility Services employs licensed mold assessment consultants and offers indoor air quality services, including mold assessments.
For more information about mold in schools, see the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings Guide.
Zoning and coverage
The Fund Property program includes a flood endorsement. The endorsement provides coverage depending on the zone where the covered property is located. FEMA flood maps help determine the applicable zones for your covered property. For detailed information about coverage, contact your marketing consultant.
Report claims promptly
Fund members are required to report claims within 365 days of the date of loss for coverage to be considered. The sooner you report a claim, the sooner our team can start guiding you through the process:
- Save time by reporting claims online.
- You can also call 800.482.7276. If you call outside business hours, our answering service will contact one of our adjusters, and you will receive a call within one hour.
- If your property sustains damage, please make temporary repairs or start mitigation as needed.
Want to learn more?
For more information or questions about flood prevention, response, and coverage, contact TASB Claims Manager Robert Piña or TASB Property Claims Adjuster Kim Shelly. For assistance with emergency management planning, contact TASB Emergency Management and School Security Consultant Melanie Moss.
Fund members benefit from our on-demand training package at no additional cost. Members with Property coverage can access the Water Damage Prevention course. Anyone can visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for basic flood safety information.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in April 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.