Floods are common in Canada and have devastated many areas of Alberta. Flooding can occur at any time of year and can result from heavy rainfall, ice jams, rapid melting of glaciers or snow packs or natural or man-made dam failures.

The potential for flood damage is high in low-lying areas along rivers or in ravines, called flood plains’ however, flooding is not limited to these areas and can happen anywhere.

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Before a Flood

Protect your home and belongings

  • Store important documents such as passports, birth certificates, banking information and insurance papers in a safe place in an above-ground location.
  • Use weather protection sealant around basement windows and the base of ground-level doors.
  • Ensure downspout drainage moves water away from the property.
  • Install a sump pump and zero reverse flow valves in basement floor drains, if possible.
  • Consult your electricity or fuel supplier for instructions on how to safeguard electrical, natural gas or propane equipment.

During a Flood

Never attempt to cross a flooded area. Water is powerful: six inches of moving water can knock over an adult and 12 inches can carry away a car. Two feet of moving water can easily move mid-sized vehicles.

  • If you’ve been directly impacted, make sure you are safe before assisting others. Check yourself and those around you for injuries; administer first aid, if needed, and call 9-1-1 if there are life-threatening injuries.
  • Activate and follow your emergency plan.
  • Get your emergency kit and keep it nearby.
  • Monitor alerts from Alberta Emergency Alert.
  • Listen to a local radio or television station for information from local authorities.
  • Access your local authority's website and/or social media channels for information.
  • Listen to instructions from authorities; you may be asked to evacuate or stay where you are.
  • Limit non-emergency phone calls to keep phone networks free for those who require emergency services. This also helps to save battery power if you are using a cell phone.
  • In some cases, authorities will give instructions on how to protect your home. They may ask you to shut off water, electricity or gas. Do not shut off your utilities unless directed to do so. Do not shut off electricity if water is present.
  • If you have to evacuate:
    • Evacuate with all household members, including pets.
    • Lock up your home and follow evacuation routes specified by authorities.
    • Avoid low-lying areas such as ravines or underpasses that could flood quickly.
    • If you are caught in fast-rising waters and your vehicle stalls, abandon your vehicle to save yourself and your passengers.
    • Drive carefully with headlights on, and make way for pedestrians and emergency vehicles.
    • Register at the reception centre, if applicable.
  • Let your out-of-town contact know what is happening in case you are separated from loved ones.

If time permits, consider the following:

  • Gather valuables and cherished items to bring with you in case you must evacuate.
  • Leave a note in your mailbox letting authorities know where you are going and how you can be reached.
  • Move furniture, electrical appliances and other belongings to floors above ground level or elevate them off the floor if possible.
  • Wrap electronics in layers of protective plastic wrap and tape to prevent water from getting inside.
  • Remove toxic substances such as pesticides and insecticides from the flood area to prevent pollution.
  • Disconnect eavestroughs if they are connected to the house sewer.
  • Properties can be protected with sandbags or other barriers. This approach requires specific instructions from authorities.

After a Flood

Floods can cause mould or toxic residues that make your home unliveable.

If you had to evacuate, you can’t return home until authorities tell you it is safe to do so. In some cases, re-entry can involve a brief return home only to inspect damages. Authorities may notify you using the contact information you shared when registering at a reception centre.

Before homeowners are allowed to return to their homes, the area must be deemed safe, and must have heating, water, sewer and communications. In areas serviced by wells, groundwater needs to be inspected to make sure it has not been affected.

When not to enter your home
Do not enter your home or property if any of the following apply:

  • an expert has not deemed it safe to do so
  • any part of the structure has collapsed
  • the structure is off its foundation
  • the main power switch was not turned off prior to flooding

When re-entering your home, use extreme caution at all times. This is especially true if there are holes in the floor, broken glass and/or dangerous debris.

What to do when you return home

Authorities may give specific instructions for things you need to do when you return home. Below is a list of possible actions you could take:

  • Work with your insurance company to make informed decisions about your home and needed repairs.
  • Have your home inspected to ensure power, water and gas have been restored and there are no leaks.
  • Have your home inspected for safety if the emergency was severe, since structural damage may not be visible. 
  • Keep fridges and deep freezes sealed if power was off during an evacuation. Follow instructions of authorities and/or your insurance company for removal and disposal.
  • In case of flooding, ensure proper ventilation in case of water damage inside your walls. 
  • Do not put yourself at risk by moving heavy items without help or by overworking to get things done. 
  • Seek medical help immediately if you become overwhelmed or stressed by your tasks ahead.

Specific actions are needed after a flood. Learn what steps you need to take when returning home after a flood.