Heavy rains and snow melting in late April and May 2019 in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick caused $208 million in insured damage, as reported by Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. Overflowing rivers flooded roads and basements, submerged vehicles and shifted home foundations, while heavy rain caused roof leaks and sewer backups. Residential homes and personal vehicles accounted for 80% of the damage.
Why did this happen? The flooding was blamed on water levels being already high due to snowmelts and heavy rains for several days on end.
While the damage was significant, the 2019 floods cannot be considered a freak weather event, but rather a sign of what’s to come. As more homes are built on flood plains and changes in weather patterns increase the likelihood of frequent severe weather events, it pays to take a little time to prepare for the worst.
Know your risks
You don’t have to live in a flood plain to be at risk for flooding. It’s wise to examine the area around your home and consider any factors that would make flooding more or less likely. For obvious reasons, homes located close to a large body of water (either a large river or the coast) have a higher risk of flooding. If your home is located on higher ground or there are well-built and maintained flood defenses, this could reduce your risk substantially.
If you do live in a flood-prone area, you should have an evacuation plan. Locate your nearest evacuation center and map a route to that location, taking care to avoid roads or areas that could become treacherous in the event of a flood. Make sure your family members know about this plan and agree on a rendezvous point.
Create a checklist of actions and list all important contact numbers. Make sure important documents are in a safe and easy-to-access place. Compile a home inventory and keep a copy either with your insurer or your other documents.
Make up an emergency kit, including clean water, a water purifier, nonperishable food, basic toiletries, necessary medications, a battery-powered radio, flashlights with spare batteries and mobile phone chargers.
Prepare your defenses
You cannot entirely flood-proof your home, but there are many steps you can take to reduce potential damage to your property. Turn off the gas, electricity and water mains before evacuating your home.
Consider further waterproofing measures and install high shelving for electrical equipment to keep it above the water level. If possible, ensure switches, sockets and circuit breakers are installed above the usual flood level, and anchor and elevate generators, air conditioning units and fuel tanks.
Make sure to clear debris from gutters, drains and downspouts as soon as you are warned of a flood. Fit covers to air vents to reduce the flow of water into your home, but don’t forget to remove them once the risk of flooding has passed.
Your insurance broker is a valuable resource for flood preparation advice and information about obtaining overland flooding and sewer backup coverage.