Kenya: Explainer - Floods? Here's How to Keep Safe

Residents wait to buy water from a local vendor (file photo).
2 December 2019

Floods continue to wreak havoc in some parts of the country as the November-December rains persist.

Ravages of bad weather have been reported in various parts of Kenya, including West Pokot, Makueni, Nairobi, Mandera, Marsabit, parts of Nyanza and western Kenya.

According to National Geographic, the most common cause of flooding is water due to rain that accumulates faster than soils can absorb it or rivers can carry it away.


Flood-susceptible areas include valleys, plains, canyons, swamps, coasts, and anywhere near large water bodies.

Flooding can occur due to:

Prolonged rain falling over several days,

Intense rain falls over a short period of time, or

Debris that causes a river or stream to overflow onto the surrounding area.

Failure of a water control structure, such as a levee or dam.

As floods continue to sweep away crops, roads, bridges, animals and human life, here are tips to help you keep safe:

Listen to the news for flood risk warnings

Flooding information can be found on local newspapers, TV stations and the meteorological department website.

Tune in to monitor changes in the weather. Remember to listen to local radio stations for periodic updates.

Create a communications plan.

Write down contact information, emergency hotlines, neighbourhood meeting spots, and personal identification details.

It will make it easier to find everyone in case of an emergency.

Assemble emergency supplies kit

Prepare a kit that includes basic necessities.

A good kit will have enough food and water for everyone for at least three days and a flashlight.

Pack any special medications your family needs and a first aid kit with painkillers, flu medication and stomach ache medication.

Pack at least one clothing change for each person and sanitary items.

Include warm clothing and waterproof gear.

Pack personal identification documents such as birth certificates, ID, and bank account numbers.

Also pack some extra cash in a sealed plastic bags.

Identify evacuation routes

Know which roads will get you out of the flood zone the fastest.

Be prepared to leave on foot should the roads become clogged with other fleeing residents.

Evacuate if necessary

When a flood warning is issued for your area, evacuate.

You may have only a short time to escape.

Grab your emergency kit and head for higher ground and stay there until you are informed of the area's safety.

Stay out of moving water

Six inches of moving water can sweep you off your feet.

Use a stick to measure the depth of water and feel the firmness of the ground in front of you.

Six inches (15.24 cm) of water is enough to reach the bottom of cars and cause stalling. 12 inches (30.48 cm) will float away most vehicles.

Never try crossing standing water.

The current is usually stronger than it appears and even a slight current is strong enough to carry off adults and vehicles. Most flood deaths come from people trying to walk through water.

Hold onto strong trees

Try to find something to hold onto, such as a strong branch. Once you do this, point your feet downstream and yell for help.

Avoid going under debris.

Keep your head above water and avoid the debris or pass over it.

Yelling for help makes it easier for rescuers to spot you.

Wave an arm if you have the strength. Don't give up until someone comes for you.

Barricade your home against floodwater

Sealing your basement makes it more resistant to water.

Fill in cracks and spread sealant over the walls. Keep the gutters on your house clean, too.

Embankments and floodwalls may also be built to help hold back floodwater.

Use sandbags to divert mild flooding away from your home.

Turn off all electrical and gas lines

Your home may have structural damage, including wet electrical wires and gas leaks due to floods.

Inspect your home for damage using a flashlight. When possible, have a professional repair the damage.

If you smell gas or hear hissing, get away from your home immediately.

Don't use candles or lanterns until you're certain the gas lines are secure.

Identify temporary shelter

Identify places in your house especially rooms not on the ground floor that will serve as a temporary shelter should you not be able to evacuate.

Keep most of your supplies like water, food, medication and sanitary items there.

You should also have a way to get onto the roof, just in case.

According to National Geographic, surviving a flood is a combination of preparation and appropriate action as soon as the disaster begins.

After the flood wave, cautiously return home.

Disinfect and repair affected areas so you will stay safe even after the water is gone.

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