Floods are the most frequent natural hazard in Canada and the most costly in terms of property damage. Prepare for a flood and reduce the likelihood of flood damage:
- Put weather protection sealant around basement windows and the base of ground-level doors.
- Install the drainage downspouts a sufficient distance from your residence.
- Consider installing a sump pump and zero reverse flow valves in basement floor drains
- Do not store important documents or valuables in the basement.
If a flood is forecast:
- Turn off basement furnaces and the outside gas valve.
- Take special precautions to safeguard electrical, natural gas or propane heating equipment.
If flooding is imminent:
- Move furniture, electrical appliances and other belongings to the floor above ground level.
- Remove toxic substances such as pesticides and insecticides from the flood area.
- Disconnect eaves troughs if they are connected to the house sewer.
- Do not attempt to shut off electricity if any water is present.
During a Flood
- Listen to the radio to find out what areas are affected, what roads are safe, where to go and what to do if the local emergency team asks you to leave your home.
- Never cross a flooded area:
- If you are on foot, fast water could sweep you away.
- If you are in a car, do not drive through flood water or underpasses.
- Avoid crossing bridges if the water is high and flowing quickly.
After a Flood
Re-entering your home:
- Do not return home until authorities have advised that it is safe to do so.
- If the main power switch was not turned off prior to flooding do not re-enter your home until a qualified technician has determined it is safe to do so.
- Appliances that may have been flooded pose a risk of shock or fire when turned on. Have them inspected by a qualified electrician.
- The main electrical panel must be cleaned, dried, and tested by a qualified electrician to ensure it is safe.
- If a natural gas odour is present:
- Don’t touch any electrical fixtures, telephones or switches – any spark may ignite the gas line.
- Don’t light matches or smoke cigarettes.
- Open all windows to ventilate the house.
- Leave the house immediately.
- Contact the gas company and the fire department from a safe place.
- If you are exposed to biological hazards (raw sewage); you may become ill by breathing or swallowing the contaminants. Some contaminants like bacteria or viruses may be left indoors by floodwater, while fungi or mould may grow indoors after water has left.
Ensure building safety:
- Make sure the building is structurally safe.
- Look for buckled walls or floors.
- Watch for holes in the floor, broken glass and other potentially dangerous debris.
- Flood water can be heavily contaminated with sewage and other pollutants.
- If through colour, odour or taste you suspect that your drinking water has been contaminated, don’t drink it.
- If you accidentally swallow flood water or sediment that is contaminated, you might develop gastrointestinal (digestive tract) illness. Contact your physician if this occurs.
- Household items that have been flood-damaged will have to be discarded according to local regulations.
To reduce your risk of illness:
- Do not drink the water.
- Discard food that has come in contact with flood waters.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, before eating or preparing food, or after participating in flood clean-up activities.
- Use soap or detergent, ‘elbow grease’ and hot water. Thoroughly clean all hard surface with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.
- When cleaning wear rubber cloves, an N-95 disposable mask and other protective equipment.
- Thorough scrubbing with a detergent or soap and water, then mopping with a mixture of 120 millilitres (one-half cup) of liquid bleach in nine litres (two gallons) of water is recommended to clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces.
- Remove and discard items that can’t be washed and disinfected.
- Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters. Note: We suggest you contact your insurance agent to obtain approval before discarding or destroying any furniture or equipment or removing structural elements such as drywall.
- Wash your hands with soap and clean water after being in contact with flood water, sewage or items that have been contaminated.
- Wash all clothes worn during the clean-up in hot water and detergent and separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens. If possible discard clothing used for clean-up activities.
Foods affected by flooding
- Disinfect everything the water has touched with a chlorine bleach solution (2 tablespoons of bleach per litre of water).
- Discard food that has come into contact with floodwaters. The following should be considered unsafe and thrown away if they may have come in contact with contaminated flood waters:
- Food and food products stored within paper, cloth or cardboard boxes/containers.
- Home canned foods.
- Flour, grains, sugar, and coffee in canisters or bags.
- Fresh meat, poultry and seafood.
- Any food in cellophane.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables that do not have a peel or shell that can be removed before eating.
- Bottled or canned juices, bottled water, condiments, peanut butter, jellies.
- Commercially canned food without dents, leaks or bulges are considered safe if properly cleaned and sanitized. To sanitize, remove label, thoroughly wash the cans in warm soapy water and rinse with clean water, soak for 30-60 minutes in a solution of 2 spoonfuls of bleach in water, re-label cans with a permanent marker, making sure to include the expiration date.
- Containers and utensils that come in contact with food may also be unsafe. If they have come in contact with contaminated flood waters do the following:
- Dishes and eating and cooking utensils should be thoroughly cleaned with water and chlorine bleach solution.
- Throw away any plastic utensils, paper and plastic plates, wooden bowls, chopping boards and kitchen tools or any other non-food items that are made from a porous material.
- Food preparation surfaces should be wiped down using hot tap water and soap. Use bleach and water to sanitize after cleaning.
- If any plates, glasses, pots or pans are badly chipped or damaged do not use them.
Refrigerators, Freezers, Stove and Other Appliances
- Any appliance that has been partially or wholly immersed in water will have wet insulation with no insulation value. It can’t be dried without removal. A qualified service technician should be contacted before the appliance is put into service.
- Once the safety of the appliance has been verified, it should be cleaned by turning off the power, cleaning with a detergent solution, rinsing with clean water, wash with solution containing one-half cup of Javex or similar product in 9 litres (2 gallons) of water, and allowing the unit to dry with the door open.
- Store all valuable papers that have been damaged in a freezer until needed.
- If possible, record details of flood damage by photograph or video.
- Contact your insurance agent and local municipality immediately to notify them of the amount of damage to your home.