Subway Flooding: Keeping Yourself Safe and Dry

The climate crisis is causing shifts in typical or traditional weather patterns. Many metropolitan areas are seeing significant rainfall resulting in unprecedented flooding. Recently, in New York and other major cities worldwide, subway stations are becoming increasingly susceptible to flash floods. While the U.S. has been lucky to avoid any deaths from these strange incidents, other countries have experienced casualties.

Now that the world is seeing such disasters occur with limited frequency, it is time to prepare for the potential threat, to identify ways to stay safe and out of harm’s way. Thankfully, the flood safety protocols do not change too much just because the location is unique.

Stay Dry To Stay Alive

When in a location with flooding risks, it is vital to stay away from the most dangerous areas during inclement weather; for example, get to high ground during downpours or heavy rains. The lower you are, the more danger you put yourself in. Obviously, it is not always possible to stay above ground, especially in busy cities, but avoiding these lower levels during risky weather patterns is best.

Additionally, turn around if you are making your way into the subway and there is a buildup of water on the platforms. The federal safety adage “turn around, don’t drown” is true even in subways. During times of flash flood warnings, the goal of every individual should be to avoid rising water levels at all costs.

The Dangers of Low-Level Flash Floods

Flash floods do not always account for outrageous depths, but they do make up some of the scariest and most dangerous floods. A water depth of six inches is enough to knock a full-grown adult off their feet and into the current.

If you are unlucky enough to get swept into a flood current, do not try to swim against the current because that is a sure-fire way to exhaust yourself. Instead, point your feet into the current, float on your back, and try to steer around or over obstacles with your legs. Essentially, you treat a flood current precisely like a rapid that you’ve fallen into — don’t fight it, go with it.

Trapped in the Subway

If you find that waters are rising too quickly and pouring in from the stairwells, it is best to find something secure to hold on to — a post, rail, toll booth, etc. The goal is to avoid being swept away. Obviously, making your way to higher ground is ideal, but with water sweeping past you, it is best to stand firm where you are holding tight to something foundational.

In the U.S., cities are better equipped to handle the onslaught of flash floods, and many stations have hired specialists to help plan for emergencies like flash floods. With the resources and established protocols, it is — so far — unlikely that the U.S. will experience the type of subway tragedies experienced by China and other parts of the world.

When it comes to subway flooding, avoidance is the best way to stay safe. Before traveling on underground railways, check weather reports and emergency alert broadcasts. Know what the weather will be like and prepare accordingly. If thunderstorms and heavy rains are predicted, schedule above-ground travel using cabs, bicycles, or a good pair of walking shoes. Survival isn’t always convenient or easy; it’s about making smart and safe decisions for the day ahead.

How would you escape a subway flood? Leave a comment with your best advice.