Understanding Flood Risk & Resilience

Canada faces the constant threat of flooding, making it the most frequent and expensive natural disaster in the country. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the 2013 flood in southern Alberta stands as the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history, with insured property damage exceeding a staggering $3.75 billion. The subsequent Toronto flood, occurring shortly after the Calgary event, served as a stark reminder of the sudden and devastating impact flash floods can have on communities.

Flooding can strike at any time of the year and is commonly triggered by heavy rainfall, rapid snowpack melting, ice jams, or the failure of natural and manmade dams. While most floods are predictable and inevitable, they are not entirely unavoidable. Taking proactive measures, such as preparation, understanding your residential or commercial insurance policy in Alberta, and knowing what to do before and after a flood event can significantly reduce the impact of flooding on your property.

What To Do Before A Flood


Preparation is the cornerstone of flood readiness. By taking preventative and precautionary measures, you can significantly reduce the impact of flooding. Here’s a comprehensive guide to permanent, contingent, and emergency flood-proofing:

  • Install backflow prevention check valves – Safeguard vulnerable points where utility and sewer lines enter your facility by installing backflow prevention check valves. These valves halt floodwater from entering the building, mitigating potential damage.
  • Reinforce and seal walls – Strengthen your facility’s walls to resist water pressure and ensure they are adequately sealed to prevent or minimize seepage during a flood event.
  • Create watertight zones – Identify areas within your facility that are particularly susceptible to flood damage, and construct watertight walls around equipment or workspaces to keep floodwater out.
  • Build floodwalls or levees – Consider constructing floodwalls or levees around your facility’s perimeter to act as a barrier and keep floodwaters at bay.
  • Utilize portable flood protection – Employ portable flood protection systems like flood panels, water-inflated property barriers, or flood blocks to swiftly set up defences around your building when flooding threatens.
  • Install permanent sump pumps – Install reliable sump pumps with solar and backup power solutions. Place backup power generators or battery supplies well above the high-water mark for added security.
  • Implement demountable flood barriers – Use demountable flood barriers, such as flood shields, to block water from entering through doors, windows, ventilation shafts, or any other openings vulnerable to flooding.
  • Install watertight doors and pumps – Enhance flood protection by fitting your facility with permanent watertight doors and pumps designed to efficiently remove floodwaters. Consider installing movable floodwalls for added flexibility.
  • Deploy self-closing flood barriers – Opt for self-closing flood barriers that activate automatically without human intervention during a flood event, providing immediate protection.
  • Have reliable backup systems – Prepare for emergencies by having backup systems readily available, such as portable pumps to remove floodwater, alternate power sources like generators or gasoline-powered pumps, and battery-powered emergency lighting located well above the high-water mark.

Stay prepared

When it comes to safeguarding your home or business against potential flood damage, being proactive is essential. Take the following steps to ensure you are well-prepared:

  • Review insurance policies – Examine your insurance coverage to ensure you are adequately protected from flood damage, business interruption, and lost revenue.
  • Keep important documentation offsite – Have copies of crucial documents easily accessible at an offsite location to prevent loss in the event of a flood.
  • Compile important contacts – Make a list of essential telephone numbers, including gas, electricity, water, and telephone providers, so you can quickly reach out for assistance during emergencies.
  • Create an employee contact list – Develop a contact list for employees, including their mobile and home phone numbers or the contact details of their friends or relatives, in case of evacuation.
  • Consider special assistance needs – Identify staff members who may require special assistance during a flood, such as the elderly or physically disabled, and plan accordingly.
  • Incorporate flood plan in health and safety strategy – Integrate a flood plan into your health and safety procedures, outlining evacuation routes, and organizing emergency drills for staff.
  • Know cut-off points for utilities – Familiarize yourself with the locations of gas, electricity, and water cut-off points. Ensure they are marked on a map stored with your flood plan and are easily accessible during emergencies.
  • Store hazardous materials safely – Be aware of the locations of chemicals, oils, or other hazardous materials that could contaminate floodwater. Store these materials safely away from flood-prone areas.
  • Protect key assets – Note down critical stock, equipment, and possessions that may require special protection from floodwaters.
  • Prepare emergency supplies – Consider essential items you may need during or after a flood, such as sandbags, plastic sheeting, or loudspeakers.
  • Explore alternate locations – Assess the feasibility of moving key operations, like shipping, receiving, or customer services, to a location less susceptible to flooding.
  • Identify critical products and services – Determine the essential products and services your business will need in the event of a flood. Create contingency plans or arrangements with suppliers to handle short-notice cancellations of deliveries.
  • Pre-contract emergency assistance – Consider pre-contracting with companies that can offer assistance after a flood. By securing agreements in advance, you avoid the stress of finding help during an emergency and gain better leverage for negotiating costs.
  • Build a network of support – Identify individuals who can provide support before, during, and after a flood. If your home or business is located in a flood-risk area, ensure you have a well-defined flood plan in place. Educate all family members and staff members about their roles and responsibilities in case of a flood.

Flood emergency kit

In times of flooding, having a well-prepared emergency kit can make a significant difference in ensuring your safety and well-being. Here are the essential items you should include:

  • Flashlight
  • Mobile phone and radio
  • Important documents
  • Spare batteries
  • Medicine
  • Blankets
  • Dry clothes
  • Non-perishable food
  • First aid kit
  • What To Do After A Flood

During a flood, staying informed and following evacuation procedures is of utmost importance. To ensure the safety of your staff, communicate and implement these key points:

  • Maintain communication – Keep in contact with neighbouring business premises to stay informed about the flood situation and potential evacuation instructions.
  • Be ready to evacuate – Be prepared to evacuate promptly when advised by local authorities or emergency services.
  • Shut off utilities – Before leaving, turn off the electricity, gas, and water to minimize potential hazards.
  • Carry your emergency kit – Always bring your emergency kit with you when evacuating.
  • Stay informed – Keep your radio on to receive updates on affected areas, safe roads, evacuation routes, and instructions from emergency services.
  • Avoid flooded areas – Never attempt to drive or walk through floodwaters, and avoid crossing flooded bridges, as it can be extremely dangerous.
  • Keep emergency kit accessible – Store your emergency kit in a portable waterproof container and keep it easily accessible at all times.
  • Avoid walking through flood waters – Whether the water is rushing or slow-moving, never walk through floodwaters, as hidden debris can cause injury.
  • Follow evacuation warnings – Adhere to evacuation orders issued by local authorities without delay. Ignoring these warnings jeopardizes the safety of your staff and potential rescuers.

What To Do After A Flood

What To Do After A Flood

When entering a flood-damaged property

After a flood event, it is crucial to exercise caution before re-entering any flooded premises. The potential for structural damage can make it hazardous to enter immediately. Here are some essential points to consider:

  • Assess structural integrity – Prioritize safety by checking for structural damage before entering the building. Refrain from entering if there is any risk of collapse. Engage a qualified professional to inspect the building’s stability before entry.
  • Assume unstable conditions – Don’t assume that water-damaged structures or ground are stable. Consider all stairs, floors, roofs, and overhangs as unsafe until they are thoroughly inspected.
    Control electrical hazards – Ensure that the electricity is turned off at the meter or street before entering. Confirm that all electrical hazards are adequately managed.
  • Enter with caution – Carefully enter the building, being vigilant for any unusual or shifting noises that might signal potential collapse.
  • Watch for door sticking – If a door sticks at the top, it may indicate that the ceiling is at risk of falling. Avoid forcing the door open and stay outside the doorway in case debris falls.
  • Check the ceiling – Inspect the ceiling for signs of sagging, as water saturation can make plaster or wallboard extremely heavy and dangerous if it collapses.
  • Respond to gas leaks – If you suspect a gas leak or smell gas, immediately open a window, leave the building and premises, and call the gas company from a safe location. Do not re-enter the building or operate electrical devices.
  • Be aware of hazards – Be cautious of electrical shock risks and potential injuries from hidden sharp objects.
  • Turn off power – If you didn’t turn off the power when leaving the premises, switch off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel (if safe to do so). Otherwise, have your utility company disconnect the power at the meter. Do not restore power until a qualified electrician inspects the electrical equipment.
  • Avoid electrical equipment – Do not touch electrical equipment if the ground is wet, unless you are entirely certain that the power is off.
  • Shut off water – If the water supply hasn’t been shut off yet, do so as an additional precautionary measure.

Exercise caution with hazardous materials

During floods, it’s crucial to be aware of potential hazards that floodwaters may dislodge. Follow these guidelines to ensure your safety:

  • Be cautious with dislodged containers – Floodwaters can move tanks, drums, pipes, and equipment that might contain hazardous materials like pesticides, chemicals, or fuels. Do not attempt to move unidentified dislodged containers. Instead, contact the local fire department or hazardous materials team for assistance.
  • Wear protective clothing and respirators – If you must work in potentially contaminated areas, wear appropriate protective clothing and respirators to safeguard yourself from potential hazards.
  • Cleanse thoroughly – After being in contact with sewage, contaminants, hazardous substances, or chemicals, thoroughly wash all clothing and body parts. Use soap and clean water for washing or waterless sanitizers if uncontaminated water is unavailable.

Be cautious with floodwaters

Floodwaters can carry biohazards like sewage, medical waste, and animal carcasses, as well as other hazardous materials like fuels, asbestos, and chemicals. Assume that anything touched by floodwater is contaminated and use appropriate personal protective equipment, such as goggles, respirators, and gloves if you need to come into contact with floodwaters.

Document the damage

Once it is safe to re-enter the building, conduct a preliminary tour of all affected areas while wearing protective clothing. Keep the following points in mind:

  • Document equipment and objects – Before moving any equipment or objects, document their location and condition. This record will be essential for insurance claims and salvage efforts.
  • Record conditions – Utilize a camera or video camera to capture clear images of the structure, equipment, and furnishings, ensuring they clearly depict the extent of the damage. Supplement these records with higher-quality photos when needed. Accompany the visual documentation with notes and voice recordings to provide comprehensive context.
  • Maintain written records – Appoint staff members to maintain written records of all interactions with insurance agents, investigators, and decisions related to retrieval and salvage operations. These records will help track the progress and costs of clean-up and salvage efforts.
  • Record salvage procedures – Document each step of the salvage procedures visually, in writing, and through voice recordings. This detailed documentation will aid in understanding the restoration process and serve as a valuable reference for future actions.

Don’t Wait for the Storm: Ensure Flood Coverage with Alpine Insurance

Protect your home and business from the unexpected. Contact Alpine Insurance today to speak with a residential or commercial insurance broker today review your coverage and ensure you’re fully protected against flood damage. Don’t risk being unprepared – let our experts guide you through the process and find the right flood insurance for your needs.

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