How to be ready for anything: Flooding

Did you know that in Canada, the average cost to repair a basement after a flood is $43,000?1 That’s right, this natural disaster can cause major damage to your home – and your wallet. This is why every Canadian should make sure they’re prepared for a flood, especially if you live in a flood-prone area like Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces. No matter where you live, being prepared for flooding is the best way to protect your house, and your finances.

Read on to find out how to get ready for a flood – as well as what to do during and after.

First, make sure you have overland water coverage

Overland water is an optional coverage that covers your home and/or personal belongings when they’re lost or damaged due to flooding from freshwater rivers or lakes, melting snow or ice, heavy rain or spring run-off. Since it’s optional, it isn’t usually automatically added when you buy your policy. Because of this, many homeowners think they’re covered for this type of flooding when really, they aren’t. The fact is, flooding is Canada’s costliest and most frequent natural disaster.2 That’s why it’s crucial to carefully review your policy and consider adding overland water if you don’t already have it, especially if you live in an area prone to flooding. As with any insurance coverage, you need to have overland water before a flood happens. If you add it afterwards, you won’t be covered for that event. And finally, keep in mind that overland water doesn’t include coverage for flooding caused by coastal water (saltwater), tsunamis, waves and tidal waves.

Did you know? In general, you can’t add overland water coverage without sewer backup coverage. To provide you with comprehensive water damage protection at Sonnet, we’ve combined sewer backup and overland water into one package and have made the coverage limits the same. That’s because it’s best to have both to make sure your home and belongings are fully covered. For example, if you only had sewer backup coverage on its own, if sewer backup occurred due to overland water flooding, you wouldn’t be covered for any loss or damage.

What to do before a flood

The most important step you can take to ensure your personal safety and prevent water damage to your home during a flood is to be prepared in advance. It’ll take some planning and probably a trip to the hardware store, but the extra effort you put in will be worth it if you do have to file a claim (and hopefully, you won’t have to!). Here’s what you can do to get your home ready – both inside and out – before flood season even starts, and what to do when you know a flood is coming:

Prepare the outside of your home before flood season

  • If your home has a sump pump, make sure it’s working properly. And, install a backup battery in case of power outage.
  • Clean drains, eavestroughs, gutters and catch basins and ensure they’re draining well.
  • Position downspouts to redirect water away from the foundations of your house.
  • Check around the house to ensure the land is graded away from the foundation. If your property is sloped and this is difficult, consider a swale. A swale is a v-shaped channel that collects water and directs it away from your home.
  • Buy sandbags at a hardware store or from local sandbag suppliers. Buy empty bags if you prefer to fill them yourself or purchase filled bags.
  • Put sealant around any basement windows and the base of ground-level doors.

    Prepare the inside of your home before flood season

    • Call your electricity or fuel supplier to find out if there are any special instructions to follow in case of a flood.
    • Take photos or video of your home contents, as well as important documents (passport, birth certificate, social insurance card, etc.). Keep originals in a fire- and water-proof safe.
    • Take your valuables out of the basement and store them away from areas that could be flooded.
    • Use risers to raise basement appliances off of the floor, if you can’t move them upstairs.
    • Prepare an emergency kit supplied with three days’ worth of food and water for each person, as well as a first aid kit. Include tools like a can opener, a flashlight, a battery-powered radio and extra batteries.
    • Have a “go bag” ready if you need to evacuate, filled with essentials like medication, clothing and toiletries. Take mobile phones and chargers with you. Don’t forget to include food for your pets.

      Prepare for an imminent flood

      • During flood season, stay alert for local flood warnings. If they’re calling for a flood, stay tuned to radio/tv/social media for updates, and regularly check the Government of Canada’s Public Weather Alerts page.
      • If possible, move vehicles to a higher-level location.
      • If you’re leaving your home, turn off power and water mains, as well as the furnace and outside gas valve.
      • Only turn off electricity before flooding begins and if the area around the electrical box is dry. Never attempt to turn off electricity if water is present.

        What to do during a flood

        You’ve prepared your home inside and out, and now’s the time to jump into action. Take the following precautions while the flood is happening to protect yourself and your family:

        • If you’re able to stay at home during the flood, use bottled water only for drinking and food preparation. If you must use tap water, boil it before using.
        • Monitor traditional and social media for any evacuation orders from the authorities.
        • If you need to evacuate, take your emergency kit with you.
        • Be extra cautious when you’re leaving your home – there could be downed electrical wires and debris that could cause injury.
        • Don’t try to drive or walk through a flooded area. The water may be deeper than it looks. Check for road closures and take only safe routes to get to a secure location.

        Did you know? You should contact your insurer as soon as possible if you’ve been asked to evacuate by civil authorities.

        What to do after a flood

        The worst may be over, but now it’s time to clean up and get your home back to normal. Here’s what to do when you return in order to keep yourself safe and prevent any further damage to your home and property:

        • Only return to your home once the authorities have advised that it’s safe to do so, and be careful when re-entering.
        • You must have your home’s main electrical panel and any electrical appliances and outlets cleaned, dried and inspected by a qualified electrician before you use them.
        • Depending on the amount of water in your home, you may need to rent additional equipment, such as a dehumidifier or an industrial fan, to remove excess moisture until a contractor can come.
        • Keep your eyes open for any signs of mould within the first 24 to 48 hours.
        • Take video and photos of any damage to your home and personal belongings.
        • Call your insurer to start a claim for any damages.

        TIP: Visit the Government of Canada’s web page on what to do after a flood for more recommendations.

        Dealing with a flood is stressful for any homeowner – that’s why your insurer is there to get you back to good after the worst has happened. You should always review your policy to find out what types of water damage you’re covered for, and if you need to add extra protection. And, never hesitate to get in touch with your provider if you have any questions.


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