A flood is retention of water in the landscape due to excess rain that occurs in low-lying areas and/or near watercourses that can lead to water overflow. Flash floods can occur when a storm moves slowly, so that a small area receives most of the rain, but the drainage and runoff characteristics on the ground can also determine the area of greatest impact.

Flood damage is not always covered by insurance – check your policy documents carefully.

Before the flood

By being aware and taking preventative measures before a flood, the negative effects can be reduced. Here are some actions you could take in advance of a flood to prepare your home and to reduce the impacts to you and your family:

  • Research local flood history – ask neighbours, locals and Council for information.
  • Avoid building on floodplains unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
  • If you area is flood prone, consider alternatives to carpet on ground levels, such as removable floor rugs, and tiled floors and walls.
  • Raise your electrical panel to a high position above flood level.
  • Install check valves in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your house. This will prevent raw sewage from contaminating your house.
  • Seal walls in basements, or those regularly exposed to flooding with waterproofing compounds to prevent seepage through cracks.
  • Construct floodwalls to stop floodwater entering your home. You will need to check with Council Engineering Staff to confirm the regulations pertaining to the construction of floodwalls and levees in your area. You may not be allowed to build a floodwall in your area.
  • Have a builder add a waterproof veneer to exterior walls of your house.
  • Keep insurance policies, documents and other valuables in a watertight container stored in a high place in your house. You will need your personal papers after the impact to ensure speedy insurance claims and to access bank accounts, etc. Do not forget to take the container with you if you have to evacuate.
  • Keep a supply of sandbags, and sand to fill them with, available to sandbag doors to prevent water from entering your house.
  • List emergency phone numbers in a clearly visible location.
  • Prepare a household emergency plan and an emergency kit including emergency phone numbers, portable radio, torch, spare batteries, first aid kit, strong plastic bags for clothing, valuables, and plastic sheets, timber strips, hammers and nails for temporary repairs.
  • Do not camp in dry river beds as they can become flooded without warning.

During heavy rainfall / flood events

It is important to stay informed during heavy rainfall and potential flooding events. Warnings, latest situation updates and information will always be released via the broadcast media.

  • Tune into local radio – heed all warnings, information and advice.
  • Check the Bureau of Meteorology for weather warnings, rainfall and river heights.
  • Check your emergency kit and evacuation kit.
  • Anchor down anything which might float away. Move vehicles, outdoor equipment, garbage, chemicals and poisons to higher locations – unsecured items can cause damage to people, property and the environment.
  • Plan which indoor items you will raise or empty if water threatens your home e.g. TV, fridge / freezer, etc.
  • Avoid travelling long distances as motorists can be stranded for days at a time in the wet season.
  • Safeguard your pets
  • Important information regarding flood water is available here

What to do if you need to evacuate

  • If you have to evacuate go to family or friends who live on higher ground. In some circumstances, Council may establish an Evacuation Centre for people who are unable to make alternative arrangements. If activated, the location will be publicised on broadcast radio.
  • Collect your evacuation kit – pack warm clothing, essential medications, valuables, personal papers, mobile phone, photos and mementos in waterproof bags to be taken with your emergency kit
  • Raise furniture, clothing and valuables to higher ground – on to beds, tables and into roof spaces
  • Empty freezers and refrigerators, leaving doors open
  • Turn off power, water and gas
  • Whether you leave or stay, put sandbags in the toilet bowl and over all laundry/bathroom drain holes to prevent sewage back-flow
  • Lock your home and take recommended evacuation routes for your area
  • DO NOT attempt to cross a flowing stream / creek on foot.
  • DO NOT attempt to cross flooded creeks and rivers in vehicles. A stalled vehicle can easily be swept away by rapidly rising waters. Abandon the vehicle if necessary.
  • Consider hidden hazards – roads may have been damaged and may not be intact under the water.

After the flood

Cleaning up after a flood is challenging and you may be faced with dangerous and hazardous situations. Always consider hazards and never put your safety in jeopardy.

  • Continue to listen to the radio for additional weather warnings and official advice.
  • DO NOT drink or prepare food with tap water until advised by Council that the infrastructure has been checked as it may be contaminated. Boil tap water until supplies have been declared safe.
  • If you had to evacuate, DO NOT return home until advised it is safe to do so and then only use the official route recommended.
  • Avoid entering flood waters. If you must, wear solid shoes and check depth and current with a stick. Stay away from drains, culverts and water over knee deep.
  • DO NOT allow children to play in or near flood waters.
  • Be wary of fallen power lines, damaged buildings, flooded roads, unstable tree branches, and hidden dangers associated with any flooding.
  • Electrical equipment that has been water damaged should be dried and checked by a qualified electrician before use.
  • When entering buildings use extreme caution.
  • Check the fridge and freezer for spoilage.
  • Throw away any food that has come into contact with flood waters. DO NOT consume.
  • Pump out flooded basements gradually to avoid structural damage.
  • Repair damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems as soon as possible as they pose a health hazard to yourself, your family and your neighbours.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls as the networks will be busy.

State Emergency Service (SES)

The State Emergency Service (SES) is a volunteer based organisation that is designed to empower people to help themselves and others in their community in times of emergency and disaster.

Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ) provides management and support services for the SES including developing Operations Doctrine to assist them in effectively and efficiently undertaking their approved functions.

Functions of the SES:

  • Rescue or similar operations in an emergency situation
  • Search operations in an emergency or similar situation
  • Other operations in an emergency situation to help injured persons or protect persons or property from danger or potential danger associated with the emergency
  • Other activities to help communities prepare for, respond to and recover from an event or disaster.

For flood and storm emergencies contact the SES on 132 500.

Additional contacts can also be found here.

For further information on the role and responsibilities of the SES click here.

Flood warnings

The Bureau of Meteorology provides a flood warning service for most major rivers in Australia. This service is provided with the cooperation of other government authorities, such as the State Emergency Service (S/TES) in each State/Territory, water agencies and local Councils. The Bureau delivers this service through Flood Warning Centres and Regional Forecasting Centres in Bureau Regional Offices in each State and the Northern Territory.

The Flood Warning Service provides different types of information that depends on the type of flooding and the flood risk. The range of information, which may vary between States and areas within a State, includes:

An Alert, Watch or Advice of possible flooding, if flood producing rain is expected to happen in the near future. The general weather forecasts can also refer to flood producing rain.

A Generalised Flood Warning that flooding is occurring or is expected to occur in a particular region. No information on the severity of flooding or the particular location of the flooding is provided. These types of warnings are issued for areas where no specialised warnings systems have been installed. As part of its Severe Weather Warning Service, the Bureau also provides warnings for severe storm situations that may cause flash flooding. In some areas, the Bureau is working with local councils to install systems to provide improved warnings for flash flood situations.

Warnings of ‘Minor’, ‘Moderate’ or ‘Major’ flooding in areas where the Bureau has installed specialised warning systems. In these areas, the flood warning message will identify the river valley, the locations expected to be flooded, the likely severity of the flooding and when it is likely to occur.

Predictions of the expected height of a river at a town or other important locations along a river, and the time that this height is expected to be reached. This type of warning is normally the most useful in that it allows local emergency authorities and people in the flood threatened area to more precisely determine the area and likely depth of the flooding. This type of warning can only be provided where there are specialised flood warning systems and where flood forecasting models have been developed.

Interpreting flood warnings

In order to get the most benefit from flood warnings, people in flood prone areas will need to know what, if any, effect the flood will have on their property and some knowledge of how best to deal with a flood situation. Sources of such information could include

  • Flood Bulletins/Warnings issued by the Bureau and/or the local Council or emergency services which often contain details of areas affected by flooding, road closures and other advice on what the community should do if they are likely to be flooded;
  • Long term residents who may have experienced a similar flood in the past and remember how it affected them;
  • Local Councils that have conducted flood studies and have maps of areas that are likely to be flooded by a range of floods.

Flood Warnings typically include a statement about both current and expected levels of flooding at key locations in the area covered by the warning, along with a weather forecast and the latest available observations of river height and rainfalls in the area. In the interpretation of warning messages, it is important to note that the predicted height is a river level above a certain datum, and not a depth of floodwater. The Bureau’s role is to provide Flood Warnings, some of which contain forecasts of expected river heights. Other agencies (local Councils, S/TES, etc) are responsible for interpreting river levels into depths and areas of inundation. People living in flood prone areas should consult with these agencies to find out what level of warning service is operated for their area.

Minor flooding: Causes inconvenience. Low-lying areas next to watercourses are inundated which may require the removal of stock and equipment. Minor roads may be closed and low-level bridges submerged.

Moderate flooding: In addition to the above, the evacuation of some houses may be required. Main traffic routes may be covered. The area of inundation is substantial in rural areas requiring the removal of stock.

Major flooding: In addition to the above, extensive rural areas and/or urban areas are inundated. Properties and towns are likely to be isolated and major traffic routes likely to be closed. Evacuation of people from flood affected areas may be required.

Understanding Floods: Questions and Answers was prepared by the Queensland Floods Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) Panel convened by the Queensland Chief Scientist, Dr Geoff Garrett AO, to explain in clear and simple language the fundamental concepts of floods, including flood causes, impacts, forecasting, and flood risk management now and in the future.