Located in a tropical region, flooding across Trinidad and Tobago comes with the location. Both islands have several areas with very high flood vulnerabilities regardless of the variety of ways flooding can be mitigated. Hence, it is pertinent that as an individual, a family or as a business/company, you take steps to become prepared.
- Before moving into an area, or constructing a structure, check the surroundings for a history of flooding – whether that be street/urban, flash, riverine or coastal flooding. This will be important if constructing to know what flooding mitigation can be implemented, such as building your home higher or on stilts. If you are moving into a flood-prone area, consider purchasing a flood insurance policy.
- Locate structures away from flood-prone areas such as river banks, flood plains or major drains.
- Do not improperly dispose of waste such as furniture, appliances and other garbage into watercourses. Utilize proper waste disposal through your respective city, borough or regional corporation.
- Maintain all drainage systems. Clear watercourses on your property to facilitate the unhindered flow of water within the channel. Keep gutters and downpipes clear of waste and debris as any waste or debris will enter watercourses during rainfall.
- If living in a flood-prone area, construct or purchase flood barriers where necessary to prevent water from entering homes or businesses.
Before A Flood
With the exception of coastal and riverine flooding, street/urban and flash flooding occur with little or no warning. This is due to a myriad of factors but not limited to over-urbanization, blocked/improper drainage and intensity of the precipitation. Here are several tips compiled from the ODPM and FEMA:
- Create a Communications Plan – It is important to be able to communicate with your family and friends in the event of a disaster. Whether it is having a specific person identified to contact for status updates or a safe location to meet up with family members, having a plan in place will give you peace of mind if disaster does strike.
- Assemble an Emergency Kit – It is good practice to have enough food, water, and medicine on hand at all times to last you at least 3 days in the case of an emergency. Water service may be interrupted or unsafe to drink and food requiring little cooking and no refrigeration may be needed if electric power is interrupted. You should also have batteries, blankets, flashlights, first aid kit, rubber boots, rubber gloves, and a battery-operated radio easily available.
- Know Your Risk – Is your home, business or school in a floodplain? Where is water likely to collect on the roadways you most often travel? What is the fastest way to get to higher ground? Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time can save your life.
- Sign up for notifications – This can be done through social media channels for many of the social media pages from your local media, local meteorological offices, and disaster preparedness or management offices. They may also offer other means of notifying such as mobile applications or emails.
- Prepare Your Home – Sometimes floods develop slowly and forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen days before it occurs. Oftentimes flash floods can occur within minutes and sometimes without any sign of rain. Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind.
- If you have access to sandbags or other materials, use them to protect your home from floodwaters if you have sufficient time to do so. Filling sandbags can take more time than you may think.
- Secure your documents such as birth certificates, passports and similar documents in waterproof bags or sealed containers.
- Secure valuables and park vehicles in places that will not be flooded
- Have a professional install check-valves in plumbing to prevent floodwaters from backing up into the drains of your home. Make sure your sump pump is working and consider having a backup. Make sure your electric circuit breakers, or fuses, are clearly marked for each area of your home.
- Since standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding, ensure coverage by contacting your insurance company or agent to purchase flood insurance. This must be done before there is even a threat of flooding as insurance companies stop issuing policies if there is a threat of flooding. (i.e. an approaching hurricane). Many flood insurance policies take at least 30 days to go into effect so even if you can buy it as a storm is approaching, it may not protect your investment.
- Prepare your Family/Pets – You may be evacuated, so pack in advance. Don’t wait until the last moment to gather the essentials for yourself, your family and/or your pets. Sometimes, state agencies may take far too long to issue evacuation notices so use your discretion. If you live in a flood-prone area, with the threat of additional rainfall and river levels are already at threshold levels – it may be a good idea to self evacuate before conditions worsen.
- Charge Your Essential Electronics – Make sure your cell phone and portable radios are all charged in case you lose power or need to evacuate. Also, make sure you have back-up batteries on hand. This was an issue during the floods of October 2018, where a number of stranded Greenvale residents on roofs had to switch phones off to conserve charge, awaiting rescue.
- Leave – If it is likely your home will flood, don’t wait to be ordered to leave; evacuate yourself! Make alternative plans for a place to stay. If you have pets, take them with you or make arrangements to board them at a facility well away from the flooding danger.
During A Flood
During a flood, water levels and the rate the water is flowing can quickly change. Remain aware and monitor local radio and television outlets. Avoid floodwaters at all costs and evacuate immediately when water starts to rise. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
- Stay Informed & Remain Calm: Listen to radio and television if possible, check the Internet and social media for information and updates.
- Get to Higher Ground: If you live in a flood-prone area or are camping in a low lying area, get to higher ground immediately. Move to upper levels of your home if the lower levels are threatened by flooding.
- Obey Evacuation Orders: If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Lock your home when you leave. If you have time, disconnect utilities and appliances.
- Practice Electrical Safety: Don’t go into a basement, or any room if water covers the electrical outlets or if cords are submerged. If you see sparks or hear buzzing, crackling, snapping or popping noises–get out! Stay out of water that may have electricity in it!
- Avoid Flood Waters: Don’t walk through floodwaters. It only takes 6 inches of moving water to knock you off your feet. If you are trapped by moving water, move to the highest possible point and call 990 (Fire Service) or 999 (Police Service) if possible.
Do NOT drive into flooded roadways or around a barricade; Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Water may be deeper than it appears and can hide hazards such as sharp objects, washed out road surfaces, electrical wires, chemicals, etc. A vehicle caught in swiftly moving water can be swept away in seconds 12 inches of water can float a car or small SUV, 18 inches of water can carry away large vehicles.
After A Flood
- When floodwaters recede, the damage left behind can be devastating and present many dangers. Images of flood destruction depict destroyed homes and buildings, damaged possessions, and decimated roadways. However, what you can’t see can be just as dangerous. Floodwaters often become contaminated with sewage or chemicals. Gas leaks and live power lines can be deadly but are not obvious at first glance.
- Stay Informed: Stay tuned to your local news for updated information on road conditions. Ensure water is safe to drink, cook or clean with after a flood. Authorities may ask you to boil water for a while after a flood. Never use a portable generator inside your home or garage. Report broken utilities or utility lines to the respective public utility company: WASA, T&TEC or TSTT.
- Avoid Flood Waters: Standing water hides many dangers including toxins and chemicals. There may be sharp objects under the water or the road could have collapsed. If it is likely your home will flood, don’t wait for an evacuation order, get out! Talk to friends and family about emergency visits. If you have pets, take them with you or get them somewhere safe.
- Avoid Disaster Areas: Do not visit disaster areas. Your presence may hamper rescue and other emergency operations.
- Heed Road Closed and Cautionary Signs: Road closure and other cautionary signs are put in place for your safety. Pay attention to them!
- Wait for the All Clear: Do not enter a flood-damaged home or building until you’re given the All Clear by authorities. If you enter a flood-damaged building, be extremely careful. Water can cause floods to collapse, ceiling to fall, etc. Make sure the electrical system has been turned off. Have the power company or a qualified electrician fix wires. Contact your insurance agent to discuss property damage. If you have a generator, follow proper safety procedures.
- Contact Your Family and Loved Ones: Let your family and close friends know that you’re okay so they can help spread the word.
- Post Flood Clean-up: Bury all dead animals as soon as possible or contact the Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (CEPEP) Dead Animal Removal Team (DART) at 800-DART (3278). Clear all debris from drains and channels near your residence as soon as it is safe to do so and properly dispose of the waste by contacting your respective city, borough or regional corporation.
Useful Emergency Numbers
Emergency Shelters Across Trinidad
While these buildings are designated as emergency shelters, only particular locations will be opened in the event of a high-impact natural disaster. Keep checking our social media, website, as well as governmental channels for updates on which shelter may be opened near you in the event of a disaster.