Residents urged to plan ahead to protect themselves from flooding HARRISBURG-With heavy rain projected for this weekend, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency today urged residents to take steps to protect lives and property from possible flooding. “Some of the latest forecasts indicate that a weekend storm system could affect the commonwealth over the next few days, bringing rain, major lightning and, perhaps, high winds,” said Richard D. Flinn Jr., PEMA’s deputy director for operations. “This storm has the potential to trigger power outages and flooding, especially flash flooding, which could threaten communities with little warning. “It is critical for people to pay attention to flood watches and warnings. Pennsylvania is one of the most flood-prone states in the nation. I encourage everyone to think about flood safety and take the necessary steps to protect their homes and families.” Flinn said if weather conditions deteriorate, the National Weather Service will issue a flash flood watch or a flash flood warning. A flash flood watch means that flooding may occur, while a flash flood warning means flooding is present. Residents should remain alert and watch rivers and streams. If they rise, people who live near the bodies of water should move quickly to higher ground. “Those living in flood-prone areas should listen carefully to all severe weather warnings and act immediately if protective measures are advised,” Flinn said. “Develop a family plan that identifies evacuation routes and a place to meet in case your family gets separated. “Also, don’t drive into low-lying areas or over roads and bridges that are already under water. The average automobile can be swept off the road in 12 inches of moving water, and roads covered by water are prone to collapse. If you come upon a flooded street, take an alternate route.” Flinn offered these important flood preparedness tips: Find out if you live in a flood-prone area from your local emergency management office. Ask whether your property is above or below the flood stage water level, and learn about the history of flooding in your region; Learn flood-warning signs and your community alert signals. Request information on preparing for flooding flash floods conditions, and have check valves installed in building sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing up in sewer drains; Plan and practice an evacuation route. Contact the local emergency management office for a copy of the community flood evacuation plan; Develop an emergency communication plan. In the event family members are separated from one another during floods, have a plan for getting back together; Ask an out-of-town relative or friend to serve as the “family contact.” After a disaster, it is often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address and phone number of the contact person; Make sure that all family members know how to respond after a flood or flash flood and teach all family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water; and Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, the police, the fire department, and which radio station to tune to for emergency information. PEMA advises that an evacuation plan should include information on the safest routes to shelters. People living in flash flood areas should have several alternate routes. Have disaster supplies on hand, including: Flashlights and extra batteries; Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries; First aid kit and manual; Emergency food and water; Non-electric can opener; Essential medicines/prescriptions; Cash, credit cards and important legal documents; and Sturdy shoes Additional flood safety information and weather updates can be found at www.pema.state.pa.us.