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Protect your home from a flood

How to keep yourself and your home safe from potential flooding.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN

For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' "Home Rich," now in bookstores.

NEW YORK ( -- Flooding isn't just a problem in the Midwest. In fact, it's one of the most common hazards in the United States. Here are some tips on how you can protect your home from a flood.

1. Gauge the risk

Floods and flash floods happen in all 50 states. In fact, about one-third of the National Flood Insurance Program's claims come from outside high-flood-risk areas last year.

Your home has a 26% chance of being damaged by a flood during the course of a 30-year mortgage but only a 9% chance of fire damage.

2. Protect your home

First, make sure your gutters are free of leaves, dirt and sticks. A clogged gutter can cause massive problems by concentrating roof runoff water at your house's corners close to the foundation. This pooling of water can seep through your walls causing flooding.

The basement is another vulnerable area. Buy and install sump pumps with back-up power. Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if you think they are vulnerable to flooding. Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.

For drains, toilets, and other sewer connections, install backflow valves or plugs to prevent floodwaters from getting into your home.

3. Know the dangers

Turn off all utilities at the main power switch. You can usually find the main breaker panel in a wall or a basement. Make sure you close the main gas valve - that's usually located on the side or in front of the building. If you're told you need to leave the area, do not walk through moving water.

Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.

Don't drive into flooded areas. Just two feet of water can float a large vehicle even a bus. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.

4. Use extreme caution

Try to return to your home during the daytime so that you do not have to use any lights. Use battery-powered flashlights and lanterns, rather than candles, gas lanterns, or torches. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows, and leave the house immediately.

Avoid wading in standing water, which could contain glass or metal fragments. You should consult your utility company about using electrical equipment, including power generators To top of page

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