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Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States. Devastating floods occur throughout the U.S. every year, and can occur during any season. Even the deserts of the Southwest are at risk during the late summer monsoon season. However, some areas of the country are at greater risk at certain times of the year.

Only an inch of flooding can cause catastrophic damage to homes and businesses, ruining flooring and wallboards, as well as family treasures. Severe flooding can ruin communities and cause significant loss of life from high waters, as well as from electrical shock and contaminated waters. Ninety percent of all presidentially declared natural disasters involve flooding. Flooding occurs in coastal areas and along major rivers and smaller waterways. Flooding can cause death, injury and property damage.

The International Codes, and specifically the International Residential Code (IRC) ensure homes are properly constructed to prevent against the worst of flood damage.

Be Prepared in the Event of a Flood

If you are building, improving or retrofitting your home, consider these recommendations and consult with your local building official:

  • The best method of protecting your home is to raise it above the predicted level of flood by at least one foot, called freeboard. For new and substantially improved homes, the minimum elevation required by the 2018 International Residential Code and International Building Code is the base flood elevation plus one foot. Freeboard reduces physical damage to homes in the event of a flood and lowers federal flood insurance premiums.
  • Wet flood proofing your home allows flood water to flow through the uninhabited parts, such as the crawlspace or garage. Install flood openings (sometimes called ‘flood vents’) in foundation or garage walls to allow water to flow in and out to prevent the buildup of pressure. Another example is raising utilities above the base flood elevation.
  • If you have an existing home with flood damage, the Code Council recommends that you replace damaged materials with flood damage-resistant materials, such as closed-cell insulation.
  • Construct non-supporting, break-a-way walls designed to collapse under the force of water without causing damage to the foundation.

Mitigation efforts will reduce your home’s risk to future floods and allow you and your family a speedy return home, with less damage, after a flood. The Code Council, FEMA and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) offer resources to help communities prepare for floods and stay safe during cleanup as well.


IRC Flood Provisions Part 1

IRC Flood Provisions Part 2

Reducing Flood Losses Through the International Codes: Coordinating Building Codes and Floodplain Management Regulations

 International Code Council: Flood Cleanup (Safety and Salvaging) 

International Code Council: Safety First Disaster Preparedness (Tips for Your Home and Family) 

International Code Council: Mold: Tips on Prevention and Control Brochure (set of 25)



How to prepare for a flood 

What to do after a flood                                                                                                   

Protect Your Property from Flooding                                                                 

Cleaning Flooded Building Fact Sheet             

Rebuilding Your Flood-Damaged House

Elevating Floodprone Buildings Above Minimum NFIP Requirements

FEMA National Flood Insurance Program

Risk Mapping, Assessment and Planning (Risk MAP)                           

Protecting Manufactured Homes from Floods and Other Hazards 

Above the Flood: Elevating Your Flood Prone House                                     

Protecting Building Utility Systems from Flood Damage                                                                            

Free Building Code Resources for all hazards     

Building in Higher Flood Zones: Freeboard – Reduce Your Risk, Reduce Your Premium

What is Freeboard? Raise your home, Lower your monthly payment

Reducing Losses through Higher Regulatory Standards


FEMA Flood Insurance

National Flood Insurance Program: How to file a flood insurance claim 

Flood Insurance Claims Handbook                                                                             

National Flood Insurance Program                                                                     

What to do after a flood adjuster visits  



Flood Safety

Floods BFE: Know your base Flood Elevation

Floods: Flood proofing-wet                                        


Other Links                                                                                                                                                   

American Red Cross: Flood Safety Checklist 

American Red Cross: Repairing Your Flooded Home 

National Weather Service: Flood Safety Tips and Resources                         

The 9 Worst Things you can do during a flood emergency 

Flood Prepared Communities