Floods are the most frequent natural hazard in Canada and the most dangerous in Ontario in terms of property damage, civil disruption and even death. Floods are typically caused by seasonal melting snow, ice jams, heavy spring rains and summer thunderstorms. Flash flooding is often caused by violent rain storms or breaking dams, and usually occurs with little or no advance warning. When you are building your family emergency plan review and discuss these safety tips with your entire household to make sure everyone understands what to do.

Make your Emergency Preparedness Action Plan

General Tips

If you are indoors:

  • Listen to the radio or television for emergency information.
  • Move essential items to an upper floor.
  • If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture.
  • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so by local officials. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • Do not eat fresh food that has come in contact with flood waters.

If you are outdoors:

  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Be aware that flash flooding may occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
  • Keep children away from flood water.

Fire Safety and Power Outages

The Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management offers the following fire safety tips if power outages occur during a flood:

  • To reduce fire risk, use flashlights, glow sticks, or battery-operated lanterns instead of candles.
  • If using candles, place them in a secure holder and cover with a glass chimney, away from children and pets.
  • Make sure electric stove elements and small appliances are OFF or unplugged to prevent fires from occurring when the electricity is restored.
  • Propane and charcoal barbecues are for outdoor use only. Do not bring them inside.
  • Make sure your home has battery-operated smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. Electrically-connected smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms will not work when the power is out unless they have battery back-ups.
  • Use only portable space heaters that have been designed for indoor use. Provide adequate ventilation and refuel the heater outside, when required.
  • Portable generators should only be used outdoors and carefully located to ensure that exhaust fumes do not enter the home.

Electrical Safety

Electrical equipment impacted by flood water can be extremely dangerous. For important information about electrical safety during floods, visit the Electrical Safety Authority’s website

Prepare Now

  • Review and discuss the safety tips with your entire household to make sure everyone understands what to do during a flood.
  • Put weather protection sealant around basement windows and the base of ground-level doors.
  • Install "check valves" in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Install the drainage for downspouts a sufficient distance from your residence to ensure that water moves away from the building.
  • Move any important documents or keepsakes out of the basement and store them at a higher level to protect them from flood damage.
  • For gas and water valves, keep shut off instructions close by and read them carefully.
  • Learn how to mitigate/prevent damages from flooding. Information on The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction YouTube Channel