In retrospect of the floods that stormed Lagos and shut down entire areas of the flood prone Lagos Island, we have put together a list of things to consider during the periods of the floods. The list generally comprises a few important and easy to carry out directives that may be the difference between weathering the floods and being weathered by them.
While pushing blames between different parties as to why there aren’t efficient drainages and who built what where, may not contribute anything to recovery efforts; mitigating economic losses; or protecting the welfare of people who reside in the area remembering here that a considerable number of them are little children and the elderly who may be the worst affected, these are just a few pieces of advice that may come in handy:
- CALL/CHECK ON LOVED ONES: especially the elderly and the infirm. It doesn’t matter whether they reside around or afar, if you are in danger of being caught in the floods, picking up a phone and calling loved ones, especially the elderly, is not a bad idea. At best they are safe, at worst they are not, but the availability of information concerning their present conditions would inform on decisions of actions to be taken about ensuring their safety. As a matter of fact, research carried out in the US has shown that due to closer family ties between the Mexican and Latino population, they suffer considerably lesser compared with other racial groups in period of extreme weather events like droughts, floods, blizzards.
- LISTEN TO WEATHER REPORTS: this might be somewhat cliché but still. especially during the high points of the rainy season (between late June and August – this is when we usually get the “7-days-rain” that lasted about a month this year. Aren’t we blessed? Your dry season is over. Hallelujah.) and staying informed for the possible occurrence of floods or sustained periods of rain. Listening to weather sections on the news, setting up weather apps on mobile devices, turning on Google Notifications (yes, Google actually informs you when the rains are getting too heavy, lasting too long or when there is a flood and also where. Google Maps also gives direction on the best routes to follow in case you choose to drive away from flooded or potentially flooded areas. Facebook also gives a weather feed that tells when it might be rainy). In all, staying updated and informed may give enough time to get ahead of the situation and let you carry on in relative normalcy until the floods pass.
- CALL THE EMERGENCY SERVICES: 112, 767 (for Lagos only), 999, 101 are short codes that may put you in contact with emergency response authorities that may be better equipped to handle the emergencies that might arise due to the floods. They may provide evacuation, rescue, protection, medical attention and ambulance services for the instances that they may be necessary. The emergency numbers do not only call the police; depending on the situation you may be found in, they provide services that would best fit the given needs. Remember to be calm when speaking with them, try to get as much information across as possible and be as clear as you can especially when providing details on your location. They may also provide national coverage, so you can be in Lagos and organise a rescue team for someone in Niger State for free. All calls to emergency numbers are toll-free.
- KEEP A MOBILE EMERGENCY RESPONSE PACK: preferably waterproof, light and small enough that it is not bulky yet stocked well enough that it contains all the necessary essentials i.e. dry food [Indomie is king here], drinking water bottles, toiletries, antimalarial drugs, painkillers, first aid kits, a mobile power pack (because welcome to the 21st century – the last thing you might want would be for your phone to run out of juice just as you are giving details of your situation to emergency services) and some cash would also be nice. But remember to keep it small and devoid of unnecessary items. While a toothbrush and a few packs of wet-wipes might not be a bad idea, your makeup kit or a PS4 is unnecessary. If you have enough hands to carry them comfortably, a more than one or two of these emergency packs might be better than having just one.
- MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND: the earlier moving from flood prone areas to family or friends’ residence or emergency services approved temporary shelters on higher ground begins, the better especially for people with little kids, infirm individuals, elderly people etc. that may have to drive (driving in floods can be risky almost to the point of lethality.) However, if you step into the floods and the storm water is at knee level or above especially if you do not plan to make the trip in an SUV, driving may not be the safest option. It might seem funny but it really wouldn’t hurt to keep a raft or a canoe for yourself and a few more should there be an absolute need for movement.
- REMOVE YOUR ELECTRICITY FUSE FROM THE MAIN FUSE-BOARD: If the water begins to seem like it may be getting indoors, should you choose to remain or just before you leave, to prevent the possibility of electrocution in the event that power supply still remains, it is of utmost importance that one remembers to disconnect their electricity fuse from the cut outs or in the situation that that may be unlikely, keep everyone on dry ground and turn off the electricity from the central fuse box which usually is on a wall in the house. Or even easier still, flip your change-over switch to the side of your generator.
- DON’T go wadding through the water or swimming in it. Breaking news: some of it has received input not only from a gross network of filthy gutters around but also from sewers which makes it a very good way to infect yourself with salmonella.
On the part of the government however, setting up a proactive system of dealing with these situations is key. Employing remote sensing and predictive technologies especially to government institutions like the Nigerian Institute of Meteorology (NIMET) that ordinarily should be charged with informing the general public on the possibility of events like these way before hand, would be extremely valuable and help save lives as well as billions of naira in goods and property. Increasing funding to the various emergency response services also cannot be understated while we: the government and the people, continue to work towards a durable system of dealing with extreme weather events that would be beneficial in the long-term.
This round may have passed but by no means is this the last of them. Stay prepared.