Floods are a frequent hazard 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
- natural or man-made dam failures
Before a flood
The potential for flood damage is high in low-lying areas along rivers or in ravines, called flood plains. If possible, avoid building or buying properties located there.
Flooding is not limited to these areas and can happen anywhere. Individuals and families should be prepared to take care of themselves for at least 72 hours.
How to prepare
- Download the Alberta Rivers: Data and Advisories app or visit Alberta River Basins for more information.
- Maintain an emergency kit stocked with supplies such as water, food, battery-powered or crank radio and flashlight, extra batteries or Weatheradio.
- Store important documents such as passports, birth certificates, banking information and insurance papers in a safe place in an above ground location.
- If you have a vehicle, keep the tank full in case fuel stations lose power or close down.
Protect your home and belongings
- 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.
Safeguard pets and livestock
- Have a plan in case of evacuation. Include where your pets will go and how they will get there.
During a flood
Never attempt to cross a flooded area. Water is powerful – 6 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.
Prepare to leave
- Stay informed on the situation by listening to updates from authorities.
- Be sure to follow all directions and instructions from authorities.
- Have your emergency kit, including your important documents, ready to go.
Protect your home and belongings
- Consult your electricity or fuel supplier for instructions on how to safeguard electrical, natural gas or propane equipment.
- Do not shut off electricity if any water is present.
- 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.
- Properties can be protected with sandbags or other barriers. This approach requires specific instructions from authorities.
Safeguard pets and livestock
Avoid locking farm animals in enclosures, such as barns. They could drown if they are trapped.
Evacuation alerts and orders
Evacuation alerts warn the public of a potential or current threat. Evacuation orders are mandatory and issued for public safety.
- If an order is issued, leave your location as soon as authorities tell you to.
- 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 it to save yourself and your passengers.
- Follow evacuation routes specified by authorities. Do not take shortcuts.
- Drive carefully with headlights on. Make way for pedestrians and emergency vehicles.
After a flood
After flood waters are gone, there could be substantial damage to a community and hazards to be aware of when you return.
If you are ordered to evacuate, you are not allowed to return until authorities have declared it safe to do so.
You should not re-enter your property if:
- authorities have 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
It is important to clean and dry your property after a flood as soon as possible to prevent further damage and reduce risks to your health.
- Maintain good hygiene during flood clean-up by:
- reducing contact with floodwater or anything that may have been in contact with it
- wearing protective clothing like rubber boots, safety glasses and hard hats
- never using water that may be contaminated and washing your hands often
- Keep children and pets away from contaminated areas during clean-up.
- Dry carpets within the first 2 days. Replace if carpets are deeply penetrated or damaged.
- Clean all interior wall and floor cavities with a solution of water and unscented detergent.
- Mud can be dried and brushed off.
- Move damp items to a cool, dry area as soon as possible. Set up fans to minimize mould growth.
Visit Cleaning your home after a flood for more information.
Mould spores are often invisible, and can cause long-term illness. Symptoms include persistent headaches, sudden nosebleeds or colds. Mould is identifiable by signs of brown, grey or black growth on surfaces. Not all mould damage is visible.
- Wear a dust mask and disposable gloves.
- Dispose of all insulation material, particleboard, furniture, mattresses, box springs, stuffed toys, pillows, padding, cushions and furniture coverings that show signs of mould.
- Freeze important textiles and documents until you have time to treat them.
Plastic and hardwood items may be saved. Let wet mould dry, then brush it off outdoors and disinfect. Washable items can also be saved. Disinfect by lightly misting each item with a cleaner (for example, rubbing alcohol or chlorine bleach – use one part cleaner to 4 parts water).
- Check local water advisories. Do not use water from the local supply unless it is declared safe by authorities.
- Do not drink water if it shows signs of contamination, such as colour, odour or taste.
- Standing water should be drained slowly and in stages. Use pumps or pails to remove, then a wet/dry shop vacuum to clean up the rest.
- Contact your local or provincial health authority for instructions on how to disinfect and restore wells and cisterns.
Heating and appliances
- Do not heat your property to more than 4°C/40°F until after all the water is gone.
- Do not use any appliances or electrical systems, or touch electric panels, until all components have been thoroughly cleaned, dried and inspected by a qualified electrician.
- Buy and install a carbon monoxide alarm if you plan to use pumps or heaters powered by gasoline, kerosene or propane during clean-up.
- Clean or replace soaked or damaged parts, such as filters, ducts and electrical components in the furnace and hot water tank.
Flood and medicine
- Thoroughly wash and disinfect all undamaged food, medicine and supplies.
- Dispose of all food, medicine, cosmetics and toiletries that made contact with flood water.
Recovering from a disaster is difficult. The Government of Alberta makes it easier by providing financial assistance through a conditional grant program after emergencies and disasters that cause uninsurable loss and damage.
Examples of support:
- programs, grants and tax incentives that support reconstruction
- arrange for the availability of insurance services
- work with local community to provide advice and the coordination of provincial support
- financial assistance through programs such as the Disaster Recovery Program
Visit Disaster assistance and recovery support for more information.
- Speak to an insurance agent about your specific needs.
- Know your insurance options and policy limits. Make sure your home, vehicle, business and belongings are protected. Talk to your insurance agent to learn about what is not covered in your insurance policy.
- If possible, consider an emergency savings account to cover temporary expenses while you are out of your home.
- If you can, keep emergency cash handy in case banking services are unavailable.
- If you are evacuated, keep all receipts for additional expenses.
- Prepare a detailed list of all your belongings. For more information, see Home Inventory.
- Know the 7 steps for making a home insurance claim. For more information, see Claims Management.
- The Disaster Recovery Program may provide assistance for uninsurable loss and damage.
Staying informed during emergencies can save your life. Protect yourself and your loved ones by downloading the Alberta Emergency Alert app to receive critical, life-saving alerts.
You can also find out more information by contacting your community directly to find out where they post updated information during emergencies.
Before you travel, check Alberta 511 for current road conditions to help you arrive to your destination safely.
Check with your community to learn how to help others during severe weather events. If you’re concerned for someone’s safety, call:
- 211 if someone is in distress or in an unsafe place
- 911 if they’re unconscious or need medical help
Education material you can read, print and download to share online and within your community.
- Flood preparedness
- What to do after a flood
- Power and water outages
- Severe weather
- Thunderstorms, lightning, and hail
- Hiring a contractor after a flood
- Information about price gouging
- Information for landlords and tenants