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Flood Preparedness and Clean-Up

Floods are the most common natural hazard in Canada, especially in low-lying lands.

Unfortunately, the odds are high that we’ll each experience a flood at some point in our lives, whether it’s localized to your basement or one that has an impact across your neighbourhood or town.

Dangers from flooding don’t just include high water levels—other concerns include fast moving water and debris, contaminated water, electricity, structural instability along with mould and mildew.

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Flooding is common, but the good news is that there are lots of things you can do to protect your family and property before it happens.

In most cases, flooding is just a minor, albeit expensive, nuisance that involves safely drying out and cleaning a basement or yard and replacing water damaged items. But it’s important to have a plan in case of flash floods, during which fast moving water can rise quickly. In those cases, you need to be ready to evacuate.

Helpful Products Checklist for Flood Preparation:

  •   Buckets
  •   Cordless Drill
  •   Extra Drill Battery
  •   Fire Extinguishers
  •   Ladders
  •   Portable Generator
  •   Portable Radio
  •   Plywood
  •   Sand Bags
  •   Screwdriver
  •   Wood Screws

FAQS About Preparing For Floods

What can I do to protect my house in case of flood?
    • Add weather protection sealant around basement windows and ground-level doors to help keep out excess water.
    • Check your house’s exterior and repair potential hazards, including a leaky roof or windows, loose boards, foliage that blocks roadways or paths, open holes or crumbling embankments and retaining walls. Ensure that downspouts are clear of blockages and drain far enough from your home so they route water away from the property.
    • Keep insurance details handy, and keep your policy up to date. If you live in a flood-prone area, be sure you have water damage insurance—flood damage is not covered in basic home owners’ policies.
    • Consider installing a sump pump or zero reverse flow valves in basement floor drains.
What should I include in my Family Disaster Plan?
    • Create an evacuation plan with your family. Discuss how you would reach each other from school, work or home. What routes would you take? How would you communicate if cellphones are not working? How will you reach and transport pets?
    • Include children in your plan: Prep them for potential emergencies and scenarios, teach them to dial 9-1-1 and reassure them that this plan is “just in case.”
    • Plan for two scenarios: Remaining in your home after a disaster or evacuating to a safer location.
    • Identify more than one evacuation route from your residence. Draw a floor plan for each storey of your house and circle escape routes.
    • Familiarize yourself with the nearest shelter and evacuation routes.
    • Choose designated meeting places nearby and far away in case you get separated. Choose a friend who lives in another region or province to be your “check-in contact.”
    • Keep a list of key phone numbers by each phone in the house, stored in your cell phone and in your Family Disaster Kit. Include each family member’s cell phone number, your check-in contact and emergency resources including your doctor, the nearest emergency room, and the closest shelter or local emergency support such as the Canadian Red Cross.
    • Keep a fire extinguisher on each floor of your house, especially in the kitchen. Read the instructions ahead of time so you know how to use one.
    • Ensure you have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms that comply with your building code (at least one on every floor of your home and in sleeping areas.) Replace any that are more than 10 years old.
    • Check smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm batteries regularly to ensure they are working.
    • Make sure your property is clearly marked with a visible street number so emergency rescue workers can easily locate you.
    • Store all important records, including passports, health and insurance records in a waterproof container.
    • Regularly check fuel-burning appliances to ensure they’re properly installed, ventilated and working according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    • Make sure all family members know where your Family Disaster Kit is stored.
What should I include in my Family Disaster Kit?
  • Every family should have a Disaster Kit ready, be it for a flood or any other unexpected occurrence.

    • Baby wipes or moist towelettes
    • Backpacks or wheeled totes to carry essentials in case of evacuation
    • Batteries and chargers (phones, flashlight, radio, etc.)
    • Battery-powered or crank radio.
    • Bottled water, 3-day supply
    • Camera to document damage
    • Can opener
    • A change of clothes, especially sweaters and raincoats
    • Duct tape and/or rope (to secure tarp)
    • Dust masks
    • Emergency candles
    • First aid kit
    • Flashlights
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Household essentials including leashes, etc. for pets
    • List of emergency contacts including local authorities and your “check-in contact”
    • Map showing routes to shelters and emergency contacts
    • Non-perishable food, 3-day supply
    • Prescription medications (check regularly to ensure they don’t expire)
    • Re-sealable plastic bags
    • Sleeping bags or blankets
    • Tarp or tent (makeshift shelter)
    • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
    • Utility knife
    • Water purification tablets
    • Waterproof matches in a waterproof bag
How do I know when a flood is coming?
    • Listen to local news reports and verify conditions with Environment Canada, either by way of its Weatheradio program or on its Weather website
    • Extreme flooding may be handled municipally, provincially or federally depending on the severity or location. To learn more about flood safety and dealing with floods in your area, visit: getprepared.gc.ca
Once a flood or flash flood warning has been issued, what should I do?
    • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
    • Appoint a person in your family to turn off utilities. Ensure you take special care with fuel-burning appliances.
    • If no evacuation has been ordered, move small appliances, furniture and valuable household items, pesticides and insecticides to above ground level (second floor or above). Secure all outdoor furniture, grills, etc.
    • If evacuation is recommended, head for higher ground immediately and stay there. If you can, make your way to appointed shelters.
    • Leave a note or send a message informing others when you left and where you are going.
    • Stay away from floodwaters at all costs. Avoid flooded roads—find an alternate route. If the road floods while you’re on it and waters are rising rapidly, get out of the car and head for higher ground.
    • Don’t take short cuts when travelling. Follow defined routes and instructions from officials.
    • Be especially cautious at night when it’s harder to recognize flood danger.

A flood recovery strategy can vary depending on the scale of the situation.

You may be eager to rush back home to assess and repair the damage, but your first concern is safety. Have the local authorities cleared the area? They will need to ensure that flood waters have diminished (with no threat of returning), that there isn’t any major road or structural damage that could cause danger, that electrical and gas lines have been repaired and that there are no water contamination issues. Approach a flooded area with caution.

Helpful Products Checklist for Flood Recovery:

  •   Air Filters
  •   Broom
  •   Buckets
  •   Caulking
  •   Cleaning Solutions
  •   Duct Tape
  •   Clothesline
  •   Clothespins
  •   Dehumidifiers
  •   Dust Masks
  •   Extension Cords
  •   Exterior Paint and Stain
  •   Fans
  •   First Aid Kit
  •   Flashlights
  •   Insect and Mosquito Control
  •   Interior Paint and Stain
  •   Ladders
  •   Plastic Storage Boxes
  •   Mop
  •   Rags, Cloths and Sponges
  •   Rubber Boots
  •   Paint Brushes and Rollers
  •   Painters Tape
  •   Plastic Sheeting
  •   Plywood
  •   Portable Generator
  •   Gardening Tools
  •   Squeegees
  •   Submersible Pumps
  •   Tarps
  •   Saw Horse and Workbench
  •   Screwdrivers
  •   Utility Knives and Blades
  •   Construction Adhesive
  •   Cordless Drill
  •   Pipe Wrench
  •   Pliers
  •   Hammer
  •   Measuring Tape
  •   Nails
  •   Wood Screws
  •   Trash Bags
  •   Wet/Dry Vacuum
  •   Work Gloves

Looking for More Flood Preparation Checklists?

FAQS About Flood Clean-Up

I’ve been told it’s safe to return home. What do I do next?
    • Check for hazards before entering your home or yard. Look for loose power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks or rickety structures.
    • Approach with care: parts of your home may be collapsed or damaged. Make sure porch roofs or overhangs are structurally sound.
    • Do not turn electricity on or off unless you’ve confirmed it’s okay with authorities. Do not use any outlets or appliances that have been submerged until they’ve been repaired by a qualified electrician or technician.
    • Take pictures and videos of the damage for insurance purposes. Register any damage before you begin cleaning up.
    • Are external drains working? If you live on a rural property, you may need to have someone come to check their condition. If you’re in a city or town, your municipality should handle this.
    • Avoid contact with groundwater that can be contaminated with bacteria, chemical spillage or other dangerous debris. Keep kids and pets away.
    • Open doors, vents and windows and set up box fans to promote ventilation.
    • Keep temperature in house cool (about 4 degrees C if you can) until you’re done cleaning walls and floors to slow the growth of mould and mildew.
    • Put damp essential paperwork in a waterproof bag in the freezer to minimize damage, mould and mildew until you can replace it.
    • Don’t move back into the house until you’ve confirmed that the water supply is safe for use, every room has been cleaned and dried and all electrical and fuel-burning appliances have been approved for use by qualified professionals.
Where do I start my cleanup?
    • Don’t start cleaning up until local authorities have given you permission to return to your property. You need to be avoid danger from flood waters, electricity and other power sources, debris and structural damage.
    • First, put on protective clothing including rubber gloves, rubber boots, long sleeves and long pants. Wear a dust mask to protect your lungs from mould and mildew (you may need to use a respirator if damage is extensive).
    • Start by removing any soaked materials like drapes, rugs and furniture. If you’re storing them for pick up or putting them on lines to dry, keep them as far away from your residence as possible to discourage the spread of mould and mildew.
    • Discard the following items if they’ve come in contact with sewage water: carpets, pillows, food items, soft toys, mattresses, filters, toiletries and medicines. Some furniture may also need to be discarded if the water damage is severe.
    • Remove carpet, vinyl and buckled wood. (For help with how to do this safely, view the instructional videos and projects in our Know-How Centre.)
    • Dry carpet as fast as possible, but allow wood to dry slowly to avoid warping and splitting. If you can easily disassemble snap-together wood floors, do so as water can pool underneath. Lay planks flat to help them dry thoroughly.
    • Remove any drywall that has been submerged before it warps and buckles. Don’t put this off— it will begin rotting and growing mould almost immediately. Cut it at least 50 cm above the waterline and remove the affected material beneath it.
    • Take inventory of any food items and discard any that have come in contact with floodwater, including canned goods, water bottles and anything in containers. You don’t want to ingest any mould, mildew or bacteria and other contaminants.
    • Begin disinfecting every surface that has been submerged or that is close to the flooded area, including walls, floors, closets, shelves, studs and room contents.
    • You can use trisodium phosphate (TSP) to clean hard surfaces, walls, woodwork, cabinets, linoleum floors and tiles. Be sure to dilute it as per the manufacturer’s instructions and always wear long sleeves and gloves when using TSP to avoid contact with skin.
    • Next, check the yard and lawn. Clear debris, clean surfaces and dump anything that contains standing water. Check that your gutters are clean and can drain. Ditches and drains also need to be cleaned so they are able to carry storm water away from your home.
What do I do if my basement floods?
    • Don’t rush the process of pumping water out. If the water is pumped too quickly, pressure from water-saturated soil on the outside could cause basement walls to collapse.
    • Begin once floodwaters are no longer visible on top of the ground. Start pumping water out until it’s down to two or three feet. Mark the level and wait overnight.
    • Check water levels the next day. If the water level is above the mark, it’s still too early to continue draining the basement.
    • Wait overnight, then pump the water down to two or three feet again. Check the level the next day.
    • Continue this process until the water level remains at or below the mark. Then, pump the remaining two to three feet of water and wait overnight. Continue until all the water is pumped out of the basement.
    • Once you’ve used pumps and pails to remove standing water, use a wet/dry shop vacuum to clean up the rest.
How do I clean my heating and air conditioning ducts?
    • Heating and air conditioning ducts that were flooded will have mud and bacteria in them. If you don’t clean them soon after a flood, dirt, bacteria, mould and mildew can spread throughout the ducts in your whole house.
    • If you are familiar with cleaning ducts, removing vents and registers, you could do this yourself by thoroughly hosing out the ducts and washing them with disinfectant. However, you may also have to remove and replace any wet or mildewed insulation and filters. You should take precautions if doing this, and wear a respirator. For more information on cleaning ducts after a flood, consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    • If you are not familiar with removing ducts, or can’t reach all affected areas, it’s best to have them cleaned by a professional who will disinfect them, replace any wet or mildewed insulation and filters, and test the HVAC system fan for you.
How can I get rid of mould and mildew and ensure it won’t return?
    • Let as much air and sunlight in as possible. If weather permits, open exterior doors and windows to help ventilate the house. Leave closet and cabinet doors open, too. Use fans and desiccants (such as DampRid) to dry out closets and other areas that don’t receive sufficient ventilation.
    • It’s very important to wear appropriate safety clothing such as rubber boots, long pants and sleeves, a dust mask and rubber gloves.
    • After the bulk of water and mud are out of your home, you’ll need to take care of residual moisture to prevent mould growth. Dry items inside the house within 24 to 48 hours if you can, using towels, fans and a dehumidifier to help speed up the process.
    • Remove and discard water-soaked items that cannot be cleaned or disinfected, and remove all carpeting, drywall and fiberglass or cellulose insulation that has come into contact with flood waters—this is difficult and messy work but it’s critical to the future health and habitability of your home.
    • Thoroughly clean hard surfaces including floors, cabinets, countertops and appliances with hot water and detergent (use a solution of 5 parts water to 1 part bleach or cleaning products designed to remove and prevent mould and mildew such as Concrobium Mold Control).
    • Test mould and mildew stains by washing with warm water and mild detergent. Ordinary stains may wash out but mildew won’t. You can gently sand them out of hard surfaces using 150-grit sandpaper.
    • Check for standing water under your home that can cause high humidity levels inside and cause floors to warp and buckle. Adequate drainage outside, adjacent to and especially under your home is essential.
    • In the months and years after a flood, keep an eye out for any additional warping, water stains, mould or damp mildew smells. Take steps to disinfect the affected areas immediately.

Product Essentials