How do you Prepare for a Flood: Before, During and After?

Floods are the most common natural hazard in Canada. Floods occur when there is an overflow of water onto land that is normally dry.

Floods are the most common natural hazard in Canada.   

Floods occur when there is an overflow of water onto land that is normally dry (Government of Canada).  It may happen with only a couple inches of water or water may submerge vehicles and buildings.  Floods can occur at any time throughout the year and have a variety of causes.  While Canadians from coast to coast have experienced the devastating consequences of a flood, the biggest flood in Canada occurred in 1996 in Quebec.  It killed 10 people, forced 12,000 people to evacuate from their homes and caused over 1.5 billion in damages (Katie Dangerfield, 2019).

In Canada, both Alberta and British Columbia have already had to deal with a flood this year. British Columbia is dealing with 100-200 year flood levels (CBC News) and in Fort McMurray over 13,000 people were forced from their homes (The Canadian Press). 


Preparing for a flood can reduce the likelihood of damage occurring when a flood occurs and can make recovery easier. 

Things you can do include:

  • Put weather protectant sealant around basement windows and the base of all ground-level doors;
  • Consider alternatives to carpet that would be easier to clean and repair;
  • Install downspouts to ensure water drains properly and moves away from your building;
  • Check with local authorities about flood plans and relocation routes;
  • Install a sump pump and zero reverse flow valves in basement floor drains;
  • Prepare a portable emergency kit;
  • Store important documents in a waterproof case;
  • Ensure you have appropriate flood insurance; and 
  • Store important items above typical flood levels 

If a flood is likely to occur:

  • Turn off basement furnace and the outside gas valve; and 
  • Safeguard electrical, natural gas or propane heating equipment

If a flood is imminent:

  • Roll up rugs and move furniture, electrical appliances and other belongings to above ground level;
  • Remove toxic substances from the flood area to prevent water contamination;
  • Remove toilet bowls and plug basement sewer drains and toilet connections with a wooden stopper;
  • Disconnect eavestroughs (if connected to the house sewer system);
  • If appropriate, use sandbags or polyethylene barriers;
  • Do NOT attempt to shut off electricity if any water is present;
  • Leave your house immediately and get to higher ground; and
  • Do not return to your home until authorities say it is safe to do so. 

During a Flood:

  • Keep your radio on to stay informed about current conditions and to what to do if local emergency teams ask you to evacuate;
  • Keep your emergency kit close and in a portable container; and 
  • Avoid entering flood water as it is often contaminated.

After a Flood:

  • Do not return home until local authorities say it is safe to do so;
  • An electrician must determine if your building is safe to enter if the main power switch was not turned off prior to flooding;
  • Thoroughly clean, dry and inspect all appliances, heating, pressure and sewage systems as they pose a risk of shock or fire;
  • Have a qualified electrician clean, dry, inspect and test the main electrical panel; and
  • Ensure the building is safe and structurally sound before entering.  Look for buckled walls or floors, holes in the floor, broken glass and other potentially dangerous debris. 

Remember that flood water can be heavily contaminated and may cause a variety of illnesses and infections.  Test well water before you drink it to ensure that it is safe.  Photograph or video record the damage for insurance purposes and register the damage with both your insurance company and your municipality.  Sometimes financial aid is available to those affected by disasters but the damage must typically be documented to receive it.  

Recommended flood clean-up equipment includes;

  • Gloves;
  • Masks and other protective gear;
  • Pails, mops and squeegees;
  • Plastic garbage bags;
  • Unscented detergent; and
  • Large containers for cleaning bedding, clothing and other linens and a clothesline to hang them to dry

The following image is of the contents of a free flood clean-up kit offered by the Canadian Red Cross in 2016 to those affected by a flood in Nova Scotia.  More than 100 kits were given out to help residents safely begin the process of cleaning up their homes.

For more information on how to properly clean up your home or office after a flood go to or

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Related posts:Personal Disaster Preparedness; 72-Hour Kits

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