THINK ON THESE: What to do when there’s flood

From January 31 to February 1, most parts of Davao Region were experiencing incessant rain. Although the downpours of rain were not heavy, they were continuous – from morning until evening.

It was my first time to experience such a phenomenon. Usually, it rains in the morning and stops in the afternoon. Then, it rains at night. But the January 31 event was different: it rained from early morning until late in the evening. There was no sign of stoppage. February 2 was different: it rained late in the afternoon and ended in the early morning.

The result of these continuous downpours of rain was devastating in Davao Region.

“Thousands of families have been evacuated as floodwaters continue to rise, especially in the towns of Banganga, Caraga, Cateel, Lupon, and Tarragona as well as Mati City in Davao Oriental,” veteran journalist Edith Regalado wrote in her report for Philippine Star.

“Landslides have occurred in the towns of Maragusan, Mawab, Montevista, Nabunturan and New Bataan in Davao de Oro,” she continued. “Classes have been suspended in affected areas including Davao City.”

Just like the very popular American television sitcom, “Three’s a Company,” disasters are also like that. In the Philippines, disaster comes together in three forms: when there’s a typhoon, expect too much rain and inundating floods.

Dictionary defines flood as “an overflowing of a large amount of water beyond its normal confines, especially over what is normally dry land.” That definition is over-simplification.

The Manual of Operational Procedures on Flood Forecasting and Warning states: “From a strict hydrological sense, food is defined as a rise, usually brief, in the water level in a stream to a peak from which the water level recedes at a slower rate. The episodic behavior of a river that may be considered flood is then termed ‘flood event,’ which is described as a flow of water in a stream constituting a distinct progressive rise, culminating in a crest, together with the recession that follows the crest.”

When a flood occurs, it is due to the complex combination of weather, climatic, and human activities. More often than not, floods happen as a result of moderate-to-large rainfall events.

Heavy downpours of rain take place when there is a typhoon. Generally, about 20 typhoons enter our area of responsibility. Of these numbers, only 6 to 9 typhoons make landfall. The results are often devastating.

PAGASA says it issues a flood advisory as a notification that a flood may happen. The advisory contains suggested necessary actions that may have to be taken by the residents and the community in the threatened basin. An advisory is issued when the hydrological situation deteriorates further. It is also issued when condition is definitely improving but caution is still necessary.

A flood warning is issued when a flooding situation is a definite reality at least 24 hours before actual flooding occurs. This category is maintained in succeeding bulletins as long as the affected areas are inundated and the attendant dangers are present. Aside from the forecast, a warning states the necessary precautionary measures and actions residents as well as the affected community must take.

Flood bulletins are specifically directed to the public. They are intended to apprise the people in the threatened area of the present situation and of the expected development. It suggests the appropriate actions the community may have to take to prevent or mitigate the disastrous effects of a flood.

Since we are located in a disaster-prone country, I think we need to be ready for whatever disaster will happen in our areas. As in any kind of disaster, the best countermeasures for flood damage prevention and mitigation are those which are community efforts.

“Floods cannot be prevented,” PAGASA pointed out. “To a large extent, however, they can be controlled effectively. By this means keeping the river from overflowing.” And there are a number of ways of accomplishing this before and during a flood, according to the weather bureau.

For one, we can increase the flow capacity of a river by cleaning the channel of debris, by dredging, and by straightening of channels, among others. Construction of dikes and levees can also be done. Sandbagging during floods also helps.

Individually and collectively, people in a flood-stricken area must take precautionary measures to ensure personnel safety and health. People, particularly children, should avoid wading in floodwaters. Where houses are expected to be flooded, people should move to higher places.

Do not attempt to cross rivers with flowing streams where water is above the knee. Beware of water-covered roads and bridges. Do not go swimming or boating in swollen rivers. Beware of contaminated food and water.

After the flood, here are the things you need to do: Reenter the house with caution using flashlights. Flammable things and dangerous animals like snakes may be inside. Be alert for fire hazards like broken electric wires. Do not eat food and drink water until they have been checked for flood water contamination.

Report broken utility lines (electricity, water, gas, and telephone) to appropriate agencies or authorities. Do not turn on the main switch or use appliances and other equipment until they have been checked by a competent electrician. Do not go “sight-seeing” in a disaster area. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations.

“Flood damage mitigation and protection is a concern not only during the disaster,” PAGASA reminds. “It should be practiced before, during and after the occurrence of a flood.”

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