Flooding: The Big Picture

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery, Floods September 30, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

Experiencing a flooding event is always difficult but having a broader understanding of what is happening around you can help you through the process. Disasters can be understood to be a four phase process that includes preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. These phases last different lengths of time for different people in different events. In addition, homeowners may find that they are completing tasks in multiple phases at once.


 Preparedness includes those actions taken to prepare people and property for a flooding event that may take place but is not currently forecast. Activities included in preparing for floods include

  • Creating emergency go-kits
  • Storing food, water, and other necessities in your home, and
  • Making plans for dependent members of your family. 

It is important to remember that we do not just prepare to respond to a disaster but we also prepare to recover from a disaster. Activities included in preparing to recover from a flood can include signing up for the appropriate hazard-related insurance or setting aside funds specifically for recovery.


Response can be described as any immediate activity to save lives and property when a flood event is going to occur, as well as during and after a flood event. These activities may include things such as sandbagging, turning off utilities, and moving valuable items to higher floors. Response also includes sheltering and evacuation. 


Recovery involves actions taken to restore and rebuild impacted areas. It is a difficult and lengthy process. Recovery is traditionally divided into short-term and long-term tasks and activities. Short-term recovery can include gutting homes, seeking temporary housing, and salvaging items. Long-term activities may include submitting claims to insurance companies, rebuilding, and returning to permanent housing. 

Mitigation, or impact avoidance

There are many ways individuals can reduce their potential for experiencing future flood damage before or after a flood event. This is often called mitigation. Mitigation tasks or activities are steps to reduce or eliminate the risk of a flooding event. They could include structural changes (for example, raising your home) or changes to your property. Non-structural actions, such as the purchase of flood insurance, also can be taken. 

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.