What to Do Before, During and After a Flood

Submitted by: Susanna Chu

Flood_corridor.jpgFlood damage can be devastating. Red River, 2009. Thunder Bay to Montreal, 2012. Calgary and Southern Alberta, 2013. Quebec, 2017. Flooding is Canada’s most costly and frequent natural hazard. According to a University of Waterloo study, Canadians personally bear $600 million a year in losses related to flood damage. Yet almost 90 per cent of the 2,300 survey respondents didn’t even know they lived in a flood-prone area.

In the U.S. this year, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have left thousands of people without food, shelter, water or electricity for days or even weeks. You’ve seen the images of victims searching flooded homes for photos, documents and memories.

While you may not live on a flood plain or in a hurricane-plagued area, your home may become flooded for much more mundane reasons. A broken water main. A burst pipe while you’re on holidays. A broken sump pump. Whatever the reason, water can cause tremendous damage and loss in your home.

Get Prepared Canada has extensive advice on what to do before, during and after a flood. Here are some of their tips:


Reduce the likelihood of flood damage

  • Put weather protection sealant around basement windows and at the base of ground-level doors
  • Install the drainage for downspouts far enough away to ensure water moves away from your building
  • Install a sump pump and zero reverse flow valves in basement floor drains
  • Store important documents at higher levels


If a flood is forecast or imminent

  • Turn off basement furnaces and the outside gas valve
  • Safeguard electrical, natural gas or propane heating equipment
  • Move furniture, electrical appliances and other belongings to floors above ground level.
  • Remove toxic substances such as pesticides and insecticides from the flood area to prevent pollution.
  • Do NOT attempt to shut off electricity if any water is present. Water and live electrical wires can be lethal.


  •  Keep your radio on to find out what areas are affected, where to go and what to do.
  • Keep your emergency kit close at hand, in a portable carrier.
  • Evacuate immediately, if advised to do so by local emergency authorities.
  • Take your emergency kit with you.
  • Follow the routes specified by officials. Don't take shortcuts.
  • Make arrangements for pets.
  • Time permitting, leave a note informing others when you left and where you went.
  • Never cross a flooded area, whether on foot or in a car. If your car stalls, leave it and save yourself and your passengers.


  • Do not return home until authorities have advised that it is safe to do so.
  • If the main power switch was not turned off before the flooding, do not re-enter your home until a qualified electrician has determined it is safe to do so.
  • Don’t turn on appliances or use electricity until all electrical components and the main electrical panel has been cleaned, dried and inspected or tested by a qualified electrician.
  • Make sure the building is safe. Look for buckled walls or floors, holes in the floor, broken glass and other hazardous debris.
  • Don’t drink well water until it has been tested.
  • Discard flood-damaged household items, which may have been contaminated by sewage and other pollutants.


  • Store all valuable papers that have been damaged in a freezer until they are needed (After your cleanup, consult your lawyer to determine whether flood-damaged documents, or just the information in them, must be retained).
  • Record details of flood damage by photograph or video, if possible.
  • Register the amount of damage to your home with both your insurance agent and local municipality immediately.

See Get Prepared Canada for more tips on what to do after a flood, including how to clean drains, structures, carpets, furniture; remove debris; remove water; turn on, repair or replace your heating; minimize and kill mould; discarding food, medicine and other materials; what to salvage; and when to move back in.

The Red Cross also has good advice on planning for a flood and preventing damage.


Note: This blog discusses general safety and security topics. It is not intended to provide comprehensive advice or guidance. In all matters of personal safety and security, we encourage readers to research topics in depth and consult a security professional about specific concerns.


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