With Increased Risk of Flooding During COVID-19, AFC and APHA Release New Handbook for Local Officials to Address Potential “Dual Disasters”

Date: May 21 2020

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Handbook provides most comprehensive guidance to-date for communities navigating sheltering at a distance, delivery of medical supplies, identifying responses for vulnerable communities, and more

Today, as the state of Michigan experiences major flooding, spring flooding is well underway, and hurricane season is upon us, the American Flood Coalition partnered with the American Public Health Association to release their Dual Disaster Handbook: a comprehensive resource to help local officials and emergency managers address the “dual disaster” scenario of flooding during the COVID-19 pandemic. This Handbook, the first of its kind, will help officials plan a proactive response as communities face multiple threats this season.

The dual disaster of COVID-19 and flooding will likely be widespread: 128 million Americans are at risk of flooding this spring, and the country is likely to see more hurricanes than normal this season. For communities still waiting for federal assistance following the devastating flooding in 2019, this year’s dual disaster threat will be particularly taxing. The Handbook, which draws on dozens of case studies and guidance from emergency management experts, provides local leaders with a guide to prepare for flooding during COVID-19.

This handbook provides six specific recommendations for preparing for a flood during COVID-19:

  • Secure additional volunteers, medical supplies, food, and shelters
  • Identify potential responses for vulnerable populations
  • Examine existing emergency plans
  • Activate necessary legal authorities: emergency declarations, evacuations, and price controls
  • Develop an emergency communications plan and coordinate responses with regional neighbors
  • Set up a system to accurately and thoroughly document disaster expenses

“There’s no doubt that flooding coupled with the COVID-19 crisis could further upend communities this spring and summer. In the face of an unprecedented dual disaster, leadership is more important than ever,” said Melissa Roberts, Executive Director of the American Flood Coalition. “My hope is that this handbook provides local leaders with additional insight and best practices to proactively and thoughtfully navigate these inevitable threats.”

“Over the last several decades, we have seen an increase in the number of heavy precipitation events in the U.S., which contributed to more severe flooding in certain regions,” said Surili Patel, Director of the American Public Health Association’s Center for Climate, Health, and Equity. “Floods are one of the deadliest weather-related hazards in the U.S. – second only to heat. This handbook can help communities plan for inevitable flooding events and respond to their unavoidable health impacts, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Flooding continues to be the most common and costliest natural disaster in communities across the United States. While the country and world face a global pandemic amid the outbreak of COVID-19, local leaders must be prepared to protect their towns and cities from the threat of a ‘dual disaster’ by putting robust disaster response plans into place,” said Congressman Charlie Crist. “As a proud member of the American Flood Coalition, I commend AFC for its proactive approach to sharing mitigation and adaptation efforts in these unprecedented times. For communities like my own in Pinellas, now more than ever it’s important that we focus on resiliency efforts to weather any storm and safeguard the wellbeing of our homes, neighborhoods, and small businesses.”

“Over the last few years, historic flooding has inundated South Carolina’s Lowcountry, threatening our medical district in Charleston and nearly every military installation in the First Congressional District,” said Congressman Joe Cunningham. “During a public health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever that our hospitals and military installations can continue their work uninterrupted. I applaud AFC and APHA for their work on this vital issue. These guidelines will help us navigate these challenging times and build a flood-resilient South Carolina.”

"In Charleston, we're facing many unknowns as hurricane season approaches in the midst of the pandemic. Local elected officials like me know that our preparedness and response measures need to adapt, but we also need guidance on what that looks like," said Councilwoman Carol Jackson. "With the unprecedented threat of dual disasters, it's more important than ever for communities to plan in advance and protect those who are most vulnerable."

"In Ponce Inlet, we're surrounded by water and rely on bridges for emergency evacuations, making hurricane season a critical time for thoughtful planning and preparation to protect the safety of our residents," said Councilwoman Lois Paritsky. "As hurricane season begins alongside our current COVID-19 crisis, we need to look at every avenue for building up our town's resilience and keeping our residents safe."

Access the Dual Disasters Handbook.


APHA champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the public health profession. We speak out for public health issues and policies backed by science. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Visit us at www.apha.org.

About the American Flood Coalition

The American Flood Coalition is a nonpartisan group of cities, elected officials, military leaders, businesses, and civic groups that have come together to drive adaptation to the reality of higher seas, stronger storms, and more frequent flooding through national solutions that support flood-affected communities and protect our nation’s residents, economy, and military installations. The Coalition has over 200 members across 17 states.

Cities, towns, elected officials, businesses, and local leaders wishing to join the American Flood Coalition or read more about the organization’s work can visit the Coalition’s website (www.floodcoalition.org) to find out more.