You can prepare for potential hazards by having a plan in place to deal with anticipated impacts of an event. Having your plan and emergency kit prepared in advance is the best way to support your family and pets. You may need to Shelter in Place or “hunker down” in your home for at least 72 hours (3 days) without needing to leave for supplies. Plan to be without power in many hazards that could occur.
Like many communities in Canada, flooding can occur at any time and can cause significant damage to your home and property. Sewer backups, leaks, broken water mains, torrential rainfalls, and sudden ice thaws can all result in flooding. The risk of flooding is generally highest in the spring with heavy rains and winter thawing. Weather disasters, such as hurricanes and storm surges, can cause the water level to rise violently along the coastline. While floods cannot be predicted when they will occur, working to mitigate their impact is key.
It doesn't take a major hurricane to cause major impacts to an area. Even relatively weak tropical systems can produce vast amounts of rainfall well inland from the coast, leading to devasting flooding.
Understand you may be asked to evacuate due to extreme flood conditions and blocked roads. Have a family evacuation plan. Know where you and your pets would go and what you would need to take with you (meds; clothing, documents, pet supplies). Be prepared to turn off utilities at main switches and disconnect electrical appliances if asked to do so.
You may also be asked to stay in your home so be prepared to “Shelter In Place” during heavy rain and wind events with enough family supplies for 72 hours or more without utilities. Being self-sufficient may decrease the need to evacuate.
Know the Risks
- Floods can happen at any time of the year and are usually the result of sudden, heavy rainfall, or ice jams.
- Severe flooding can occur during the annual spring ice-melt and winter run-off.
- Serious ice jams can be exceptionally deep and stretch extensively upstream.
- Flooding can take place in as little as one or two hours, allowing little time to implement emergency measures
- While flash or sudden flooding limits the warning time that residents and businesses may have, there are steps you can take to mitigate its effects on your family and your property.
An Ounce of Prevention
Don't underestimate the power of water!
- 6 inches of fast-moving water can knock over and carry away an adult
- 12 inches of fast-moving water can carry away a small car
- 18-24 inches of fast-moving water can carry away most large SUV's vans and trucks
Individuals, whether at home or work, play an important role. There are a number of important steps you can take to prepare your family, safeguard your property and protect personal items that cannot be replaced. This information was created to help answer questions and, to provide details to protect yourself against future flood threats.
Before a flood
Review your insurance policy
Flooding is not covered by a standard homeowner’s insurance policy. For more information, see Review Your Insurance. Click to learn more about Water Damage on the Rise (PDF).
- Create a detailed inventory of your property and keep it in a safe place. Video recorders are an easy way to document what you have, (enable the date function when recording).
- Store your documents or valuables, such as family photos in higher levels of your home, protected from flood damage.
- Documents should be stored in watertight containers that can be quickly moved or taken with you during an emergency.
To reduce the likelihood of flood damage
- Install backflow valves in sump pumps, floor, sink, toilet and washing machine drains in your basement to prevent sewer backups.
- Put weather protection sealant around basement windows and the base of ground level doors.
- Install the drainage for downspouts a sufficient distance from your residence to ensure that water moves away from the building.
- Consider installing a sump pump and zero reverse flow valves in basement floor drains.
- Check your sump pump to confirm it is working properly.
- Landscape and build up the areas against your foundation to keep water moving away from your home.
- Ensure that water does not drain onto your neighbour’s property.
- If your property is next to a ditch or stream, keep the banks clear of brush and other debris.
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 there is enough time, consult your electricity or fuel supplier for instructions on how to proceed.
If flooding is imminent
- 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.
- Remove toilet bowls and plug basement sewer drains and toilet connections with a wooden stopper.
- Disconnect eavestroughs if they are connected to the house sewer.
- In some cases, homes may be protected with sandbags or polyethylene barriers. Follow instructions from local emergency officials.
- Fill your bathtub(s) with water for flushing, washing, and cleaning.
- Set aside a supply of drinking water in case your supply becomes contaminated.
- Don’t park vehicles along streams, rivers, or creeks, especially during threatening conditions
3 Simple Steps for Flash Flood Safety
During a flood, water levels and the rate at which the water is flowing can quickly change. Remain aware and monitor local radio and television.
- Get to higher ground - Get out of the areas subject to flooding
- Do not drive into water - Do not drive or walk into flooded areas. It only takes 6" of water to knock you off your feet
- Stay informed - Monitor local radar, television, weather radio, internet or social media for updates
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.
- Keep your emergency kit close at hand, in a portable container such as a duffel bag, backpack, or suitcase with wheels.
- Do NOT attempt to shut off the electricity if any water is present. Water and live electrical wires can be lethal. Leave your home immediately and do not return until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.
If you need to evacuate
- Vacate your home when you are advised to do so by local emergency authorities. They or their representatives may come door-to-door or provide information through media.
- Ignoring evacuation warnings could jeopardize the safety of your family or those who might eventually have to come to your rescue.
- Remember your neighbours, particularly the elderly who may need your help or the assistance of emergency services.
- Take your emergency kit with you.
- Follow the routes specified by officials. Don't take shortcuts. They could lead you to a blocked or dangerous area. Barricades are placed on roads for your protection. If you come across a barricade, go another way. Do not drive around a barricade.
- Make arrangements for pets.
- Time permitting, leave a note informing others when you left and where you went.
- Do not return to your home or business while the Evacuation Order is in effect.
- Stay away from flood zones and response routes.
- Click here for more Evacuation information.
- As you evacuate and then return home, be cautious and take the same safety measures you would when there is no emergency: buckle up and do not drink and drive. Also, make sure that children are properly buckled up and in the rear seat.
Never cross a flooded area
If you have a truck or SUV, it's safe to drive across rushing floodwater.
As little as two feet of rushing water can carry away must vehicles including pickup trucks and SUVs. Never try to drive (Walk or cycle) through rushing floodwater.
- If you are on foot, fast water could sweep you away. Less than 15 cm (6 inches) of moving water can make you fall.
- If you are in a car, do not drive through floodwaters or underpasses. The water may be deeper than it looks. Moving water can quickly sweep you and your vehicle away.
- If your vehicle stalls in rising waters, all occupants should get out immediately and safely go to higher ground.
- Standing water may be electrically charged from the ground or downed power lines.
- Do not drive around a barricade. Turn around and go a different way. Two feet of fast water can carry away most vehicles. Be especially cautious driving at night when it’s harder to see flood dangers.
- Watch for damaged roads, loose or downed wires & fallen objects on roads.
- Avoid crossing bridges if the water is high and flowing quickly.
After a Flood
Re-entering your home
- Do not return to your home or business until authorities have advised the Evacuation Order has been lifted.
- If the main power switch was not turned off prior to flooding, do not re-enter your home until a qualified electrician has determined it is safe to do so.
- Use extreme caution when returning to your home after a flood.
- Appliances that may have been flooded pose a risk of shock or fire when turned on. Do not use any appliances, heating, pressure, or sewage system until electrical components have been thoroughly cleaned, dried, and inspected by a qualified electrician.
- The main electrical panel must be cleaned, dried, and tested by a qualified electrician to ensure that it is safe. If using a generator, please follow Safe Generator Usage and ways to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Municipal or the provincial inspection authority is responsible for the permitting process required before your electric utility can reconnect power to your home.
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. It can cause sickness and infections.
- If your house has been flooded and you have a well, don't drink the water. Have it tested first.
- Flood-damaged household items will have to be discarded according to local regulations.
- Store all valuable papers that have been damaged in a freezer until 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.
Drinking Water During a Flood
Food Safety During a Flood
Medications / Drugs Exposed to Unsafe Water
- Drugs (pills, oral liquids, drugs for injection, inhalers, skin medications) may become contaminated and if so, should be discarded.
- For lifesaving drugs, if the pills are dry they may be used until a replacement can be obtained. If a pill is wet, it is contaminated and should be discarded.
- For drugs that have to be made into a liquid using water (reconstituted), the drug should only be reconstituted with boiled or bottled water. Liquids other than water should not be used.
- Contact your pharmacist if you have any questions such as proper disposal of medications and requirements for refrigerated medications during a power outage.
- If a contaminated product is considered medically necessary and would be difficult to replace quickly, you should contact a healthcare provider for guidance.
- During a flood, your water supply may be affected.
- Use boiled or bottled water to prepare powdered or concentrated formula.
- Always boil water to be used for preparing powdered infant formula. Use water that has been brought to a rolling boil for at least one minute and cooled to no less than 70ºC (maximum 30 minutes)
- Check bottled water and choose a product with the lowest possible sodium and nitrate content
- Follow proper sanitary steps to ensure child safety as you would on a daily basis.
- Acceptable guidelines for storing human milk are as follows:
- at room temperature (19-26ºC) for 6 hours
- in a refrigerator for up to 8 days (if collected in a clean, careful way)
- in a freezer (-18 to -20ºC) for 6-12 months
- It is safest to prepare a fresh feed each time one is needed and to consume immediately.
- For more information on breast milk or formula, please contact your local public health office.
- Electric powered medical equipment (ex. oxygen machine):
- Many electric distributors have a Critical Customer program for customers who have electric-powered medical equipment at home that is necessary to sustain life or avoid serious medical complications (such as an oxygen machine). For more information on this program, please contact your distributor:
- Nova Scotia Power
- Mahone Bay Electric
- Business Hours: 902-624-8327 or
- After Hours: 902-543-3251
- Town of Lunenburg Electric
- Business Hours: 902-634-4410, ext. 3 or
- After Hours: 902-527-0150
- Riverport Electric
Mould After a Flood
- Wet materials (ex. upholstered furniture, carpets, drywall and insulation) should be discarded as they cannot be cleaned thoroughly.
- Cleaning with unscented detergents is recommended. There is no need to use bleach.
- Once the area has been cleaned, further drying using mechanical means is recommended to ensure rapid drying, to prevent mould growth.
Source: Get Prepared and Environmental Health: Floods
For more information on mould, see specific links below
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation: Fighting Mould The Homeowners’ Guide (PDF) and Cleaning up after a flood
Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness: Housing
Canada Get Prepared: After a Flood