Main Content

You Can Floodproof Your Utility Systems Before Disaster Strikes

Release date: 
October 23, 2006
Release Number: 

GLEN ALLEN, VA -- If you aren’t located in a flood zone, you may think you don’t have to worry about protecting your home or business against flood damage. But, Mother Nature would tell you otherwise. Nearly a quarter of National Flood Insurance (NFIP) claims come from areas that aren’t considered at high risk for flooding.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has information for both home and business property owners on how to floodproof electrical, plumbing and heating systems.

“Before they begin, property owners must call their local planning commission to get the base flood-elevation levels for their location,” said Gracia Szczech, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer for recovery operations. “Specific rules apply based on your community’s risk for floods.”

Advice for property owners is available on FEMA’s web site,, that will save you money and, in the long run, help keep your home or business safe.

“The first and most important thing a property owner should do is elevate electrical and heating systems 12 inches above the height water would reach during a 100-year flood event or the highest known flood levels for the area,” said Michael Cline, the state coordinating officer. “That information is available from your local planning commission office, and making use of it could save you a lot of money and inconvenience in the future.”

Below are other important safety measures to take before the next flood:

Electrical and Heating Systems

  • Elevate all outlets, switches, light sockets and junction boxes, as well as the main breaker or fuse box and electric motors. Junctions should be located in approved junction boxes with the 100-year rule in mind.
  • Run wires overhead. If they have to be in areas where they could get wet, use a wire rated for underground use.
  • Elevate electric baseboard heater systems. For the wall area below the baseboard units, use waterproof wall construction materials and techniques.
  • Elevate or relocate the electric panel with the 100-year rule in mind. The maximum panel height is regulated by the code. Check with your local county commission office for the maximum height that applies to your community.
  • Elevate or relocate the heating unit. Consider installing utilities on the second floor or in the attic. If you are replacing your furnace, ask the supplier for information about a downdraft system.
  • You can also consider suspending the heating system, making sure it is 12 inches above the highest flood levels.
  • Elevate your air conditioner or heat pump on masonry, concrete or pressure-treated lumber base at least 12 inches above the highest flood levels.
  • Anchor your fuel tank. Unanchored fuel tanks can tip over or float, and escaping fuel may result in spills or fires. Use non-corrosive metal structural supports and fasteners. Check with the fuel tank manufacturer for recommendations since the type of anchorage, including slab dimensions, varies depending on tank size. Keep the tank topped off to reduce its tendency to float.


  • Elevate a basement-level washer and dryer on a masonry or pressure treated lumber base to at least 12 inches above the highest flood levels.
  • Relocate the washer and dryer to a higher floor in the home.
  • Elevate or relocate the water heater to at least 12 inches above the highest flood levels.

When making repairs or putting up a building, you should always check with the local planning commission, local building official or floodplain administrator to make sure you are following local zoning regulations and state and local building codes. Damaged properties should be checked before ...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
State/Tribal Government or Region: