Reviewed by Jackie Kloosterboer
Updated September 11, 2023
Did you know that overland flooding has accounted for more than $20 billion in damages over the past ten years in Canada? Besides the obvious damage they can cause to your property, floods can also wreak havoc on your day-to-day life.
To help you prepare against overland flooding, we’ve developed a guide that outlines 10 ways you can minimize and reduce the overall impact a flood can have on your life.
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It may be through social media, local radio stations or TV, but it is important you are tuned-in so that you know if you need to evacuate or gather together your most important belongings. It’s also important to pay attention to any road closures that might affect your evacuation route. You should also determine if you live in a high flood risk area. To do so, use this global flood map tool.
If family members are at work when evacuated, have a pre-identified location to meet. Before being evacuated, determine how you would get your kids from school. In your plan, make sure to include any recommended emergency routes for your area to avoid running into flood waters on roads. Try to have a couple of options in case routes are closed during the emergency.
Turn off your electricity if the water begins to reach electrical outlets or if you see sparks, frayed wires or power cords underwater. Don’t step into the water if you believe it could be electrically charged. Call your local power company and get professional advice or assistance. Please note that by shutting down your electricity, you may also shut off power to your sump pump that has been installed to prepare for overland flooding.
Open a window if you smell gas or hear a hissing sound. If you turn off the gas, contact a professional to turn it back on. Don’t enter the basement until you’ve determined it’s safe. If you don’t hear or smell signs of leaking gas, however, then you’ll want to make sure you shut and lock all exterior windows and doors to prevent outside water from coming in.
Buy proper, quality protective gear like rubber boots, gloves, safety eyeglasses and a mask. If there is the risk of a flood, you don’t want to be contaminated from the potential sewage and chemicals that can be found in flood waters.
If you know a flood may occur, safely remove as many of your belongings as you can, or at least move them to a higher location to avoid flood waters. You also may be able to gather some valuables and family items that were not affected by the flood waters. Any items that were touched by flood water need to be put in plastic bags so that they can be properly cleaned later. If you can, raise furniture, clothing or other valuables onto tables, roof spaces or counters.
Prepare an emergency backpack for your family and your pets that is easily accessible during a flood. Plan to keep one in the back of your car in case you can’t get back home. The backpack should include flashlights, batteries, a crank radio, first-aid materials, candles or wetproof matches, small amounts of cash, copies of important identification papers, some non-perishable food, and whatever supplies your pets will need. Make sure there are enough supplies for a minimum 72 hours and that they are stored in a waterproof backpack.
If you anticipate a flood, ensure your sump pumps or backwater valves are operating properly. Check to see if your local municipality offers a subsidy for purchasing and installing a backwater valve. Your portable pumps and generators should be tested if they have not been used for a while. And, of course, it’s best to ensure they are in easily accessible locations.
Preparing for an overland flood is not just about your physical belongings. Keeping your personal data safe is important too. Many of us have priceless photos and digital information. Take care of these items by backing-up information from your phone, computers or other electronics to a portable hard drive that can be stored in a safe location. An even better alternative would be to store all this information in the cloud, where it’ll always be easily accessible.
Stock up on sandbags as they can help divert and prevent some movement of water into or around your home. They’ll be in high demand when a flood strikes and you may not have access to them when you need them the most. If you prepare for an overland flood now, you won’t have to worry about finding the final few sandbags in the eleventh hour.
Don’t wait to take action on these 10 steps. Floods are becoming more frequent every year, so it’s important you start now. Maybe the emergency plan will be a part of your next family dinner conversation or creating an emergency kit could be on your list of things to do the next time you run errands. Either way, it’s good to get ahead of the worst-case scenario before it strikes.
You can find more information on preparing for overland floods at Square One’s website designed to provide information about flood prevention and support.
Want to learn more? Visit our Home and Personal Safety resource centre to find more information about protecting your family and your home. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.
About the expert: Jackie Kloosterboer
Jackie Kloosterboer runs a speaking business called Survive It. As a disaster preparedness expert, Jackie facilitates upwards of 100 preparedness workshops annually to individuals and groups, working with them to prepare for whatever disaster comes their way. Jackie is the recipient of the Queens Jubilee Award and the Northwest Preparedness Society Award of Excellence, recognizing outstanding dedication to providing emergency support services and disaster preparedness education.
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