Ministry of the
Solicitor General

Hazard Based Planning


Guideline for the Development of a Municipal Flood Emergency Plan


Ontario municipalities are required to have an Emergency Management Program pursuant to the Emergency Management & Civil Protection Act and Regulation 380/04. The Act also requires municipalities to adopt emergency response plans to describe the method by which the municipality and its agencies will respond to an emergency. While such documents may be general in nature and premised on an “all-hazards” approach, some municipalities may wish to develop plans and procedures to respond to specific types of emergencies. The purpose of this guideline is to provide further advice and assistance to municipalities interested in preparing an emergency plan related to a flood emergency.

Since this is a guidance document, the information contained is not intended to limit the arrangements that a municipality may adopt in its approach to flood planning. Municipalities are encouraged to research additional sources of information and seek further guidance from lead agencies and other experts or stakeholders when preparing an emergency plan.

Aim and Scope

The aim of this plan is to allow for a more coordinated response to an emergency arising from a flood.

A flood emergency plan should contain information related to:

  • The role of the Conservation Authority and/or Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).
  • The role of the Municipal Flood Coordinator.
  • The identification of priority municipal services and procedures to sustain these during a flood
  • The roles of other levels of government and external partners during flood preparation and response, and a description of the relationships that exist between involved agencies and authorities
  • Procedures to be followed for the development and dissemination of emergency information and public education that is accurate and coordinated with all other agencies.

Authority and Maintenance

[Identify the authority this plan falls under (e.g. by-law)]

[Discuss the review and revision cycle of the annex, who is responsible for it, and how often the task will need to be carried out. It is recommended that this be done annually or after an event related to the hazard (i.e. after an exercise, after an actual emergency)]

Example: This plan is published as Annex _ to the ____________ Emergency Response Plan as authorized by By-law ______; and the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, RSO 1990. The custodian of this plan shall be the __________________________, who is responsible for the annual review, revision, and testing of this plan.”

Description of Hazard and Risk

Characteristics of Hazard

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) defines flooding as an overflow of water associated with a lake, river or stream that threatens the safety, welfare of people and/or damage to public and/or private property. Floods may be caused by natural phenomena (e.g. weather), structural failure (e.g. dams), or human interference (e.g. stream diversion).

How extensive flooding will be in any area of Ontario is determined generally by topography, the amount of water storage capacity, the river channel route (meandering streams), the types of land uses and the amount of inflow to the watershed. High water levels are often the result of extreme watercourse flows, which are produced by extreme rainfall and snowmelt. In many areas floods will occur because of a reduction in the natural channel capacity due to ice and debris jams. Ice and debris “block” the ability of water to move and as a result the water floods the land outside the watercourse. Flooding also occurs on the Great Lakes and large inland lakes, and is often the result of high lake water levels combined with wind and rain.

Characteristics of Risk

In most areas of Ontario, flooding of river and stream systems typically occurs following the spring freshet and may occur again as a result of thunderstorm activity in the summer or increased runoff in the fall. Also, climate change impacts, together with factors such as population expansion and urbanization, have the potential to increase the already high losses from floods.

Due to the fact that many municipalities in Ontario are located along rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water, the potential for flooding should be taken into consideration, along with the potential impacts. Flooding can lead to loss of life and property damage. Buildings affected by water-damage can cause significant health problems to occupants, even several years after the flood has occurred due to mould that has grown within the building walls and contents

The damaging effects of flooding can be reduced through the identification and careful management of areas that are prone to flooding. Municipalities should review the information that is available from all appropriate sources and make a determination of the risk that the threat of a flood reflects within their own communities. This assessment should be made in consultation with Conservation Authorities and/or the Ministry of Natural Resources office. Both of these agencies will be an integral part of the process in developing a flood emergency plan. Conservation Authorities and/or Ministry of Natural Resources can assist with providing floodplain mapping and historical data, which will assist in the identification of vulnerable areas and the potential consequences (i.e. threat to population, property, industry, critical infrastructure, etc).


Implementation of Plan

[Who has the authority to implement the plan (e.g. municipal control group, lead agency)?]

[Who maintains the notification list of external partners?]

[Who notifies those who have responsibilities under this plan and how?]

Functional Roles and Responsibilities

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has been identified by the Order-in-Council (OIC) as the ministry responsible for a provincial response to flood emergencies. The MNR provides flood forecast messages to Conservation Authorities and municipalities to enable them to prepare for, track and manage local flooding. Flood forecast messages are not flood warnings. Conservation Authorities (CA) are responsible for local flood messaging. The Municipality has jurisdiction and is responsible for the welfare of residents, with the province providing assistance in support of emergency actions undertaken by the municipality.

The MNR recognizes the importance of Conservation Authorities as key agencies to stimulate coordinated contingency planning and maintain flood warning systems. Outside Conservation Authorities, the MNR deals directly with municipalities. In territories without municipal organization, the MNR provides the contingency planning, flood forecasting and the delivery of emergency response.

If a provincial emergency has been declared by the Premier, the province will coordinate a provincial response to support municipal action. The Premier may delegate his powers to the Minister of Natural Resources, therefore, designating MNR as the lead ministry.

There may be numerous agencies and authorities involved in any emergency response. This could mean that multiple EOCs and Municipal Emergency Control Groups may be operating within a single area and will require coordination.

Not all municipalities are subject to the same type of flooding, whether it is natural, structural or human-caused. The following table has been developed to provide a sample of emergency management functions and considerations for each type and for floods in general. It is up to the municipality to determine who/which agency is responsible for carrying out these functions.

Emergency Management Functions and Considerations

Type of flood:

Emergency Management Functions and Considerations


  • Review of the floodplain maps and historical data to determine risk by probability/consequence, geographical area, population, property and critical infrastructure that can be affected.
  • Does the event meet the criteria for application of assistance under the Ontario Disaster Relief Program?


  • A review of the dams, drainage systems (storm sewers), and/or other structures that could cause flooding of a community.
  • Items to review include structural integrity and worse case scenario.
  • Review floodplain mapping for the worst-case scenario noted and determine the impacts on the municipality
  • Determine the risk probability & consequence.

Human Caused:

  • (Re)Directing water flow without Conservation Authority and/or Ministry of Natural Resources approval.


  • Public awareness/education program.
  • The do’s & don’ts of dealing with a flood emergency
  • Coordinating with the PEOC and/or liaison through the Provincial Emergency Response Teams, especially if the response is province-wide or area specific where provincial direction/orders are given.
  • Cancel public events or close facilities
  • Assessing the ongoing impacts on the municipality:
  • Evacuation
  • Road closures and emergency detour routes
  • Placement of equipment and human resources
  • Sandbagging operations if implemented?
  • Impacts on critical infrastructure
  • Impacts on staffing of municipality’s services
  • Newly emerging demands and requests for support/unmet needs
  • Addressing the short term consequences on the municipality, and planning for immediate provision of services and supplies, in consideration of:
  • Likely impact & duration of flood
  • Need for reception and/or evacuation centres;
  • Food and shelter for individuals, families and travelers;
  • Protection of identified critical infrastructure;
  • Support to emergency services, including personnel and equipment;
  • Continuity of government for critical services and functions;
  • Impacts on vulnerable populations
  • Need for volunteers or support agency assistance
  • Addressing the longer term consequences on the municipality, and planning for future services and supplies, such as:
  • Forecasting timelines for the flood
  • Accommodation and social assistance to individuals and families who may be disrupted by evacuation
  • Financial assistance to residents and businesses through Ontario Disaster Relief Program administered by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing
  • Continued operation of identified critical infrastructure
  • Support for emergency services, including personnel and equipment
  • Ongoing continuity of government for critical services and functions, if difficult recovery effort is expected
  • Inspection of damaged buildings, bridges, road
  • Education of the public as to what they can do for/with damaged property
  • Debris removal/disposal – locating dumpsters in areas damaged, waving land fill fees for residents
  • Deciding who/how assistance can be offered to residents or businesses that require basements to be pumped
  • Addressing the management of toxic debris/waste
  • Delivering emergency information through the media for the public, such as:
  • By local spokespersons
  • Messages from local Conservation Authority and/or Ministry of Natural Resources
  • Key messages
  • Development of modified operating procedures for first responders (Police, Fire, EMS & Public Works)
  • Specific Rescue Procedures/Equipment
  • Pre-planned road closures
  • Public Alerting
  • Sandbags – Will it mitigate the event, if so where, by whom?
  • Evacuation Plans
  • Recovery Operations
  • When will they begin & end
  • Review policy & procedures for debris removal/assisting property owner with pumping out basements
  • Public education on the appropriate cleanup of property and belongings
  • Property damage assessments will be carried out by?
  • Identification of vulnerable populations:
  • elderly living alone
  • disabled
  • homeless
  • Volunteer management program:
  • Identification of areas where volunteers can be of assistance
  • Explore use of existing organizations and define potential costs
  • Define registration process for non-affiliated volunteers
  • Develop training agendas

Emergency Management Functions and Considerations

Evacuation and Shelter-In-Place

[What is the protocol for both Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place?

  • Outline shelter-in-place, evacuation procedures, and evacuee hosting, if applicable (e.g. pre-planned evacuation routes, and procedures for determining an evacuation route specific to the emergency).
  • Identify Reception Centres, Evacuation Centres and Responsibilities
  • Plan for pets/livestock
  • Consider hazard impact on evacuation routes]

Arrangements with Neighbouring Communities

[What is the protocol for both Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place?

  • Consider: Is there a need to evacuate or to shelter-in-place specific for this hazard that is different from your existing evacuation and shelter plan?
  • Outline shelter-in-place, evacuation procedures, and evacuee hosting, if applicable (e.g. pre-planned evacuation routes, and procedures for determining an evacuation route specific to the emergency).
  • Identify Reception Centres, Evacuation Centres and Responsibilities
  • Plan for pets/livestock
  • Consider hazard impact on evacuation routes
  • Detail the extent of municipal assistance that would be considered in assisting evacuees (financial, logistics/advice)]

Emergency Information and Communications

Information relating to a flood emergency will generally fall into two categories; that which is made available by a Conservation Authority and/or the Ministry of Natural Resources prior to a flood, and emergency information that is disseminated during an event. All information intended for distribution to the public must be factual and accurate, and should be issued from sources that are authoritative and identifiable, and in which the public has trust and confidence.

  1. Pre-Flood Information (Warning Phase)

Most emergency information to be disseminated during this phase will be drafted and issued to the media by the Conservation Authorities and/or Ministry of Natural Resources. It is a progressive system in that as the event unfolds so does the information to the public and municipalities. The lead contact person between the Conservation Authority and/or the Ministry of Natural Resources at the municipal level is the Municipal Flood Coordinator.

  • High Water Safety Bulletins: are general notices of potential watershed conditions that pose a risk (e.g. high flows, unsafe ice, slippery banks). These bulletins are directed to Flood Coordinators and the public via the media as general public information messages in which awareness is encouraged. These bulletins are usually issued as a general reminder of the potential for high flows and unsafe conditions before over bank flow occurs, before spring breakup, or any other time of year as conditions warrant.
  • Flood Advisory Bulletins: serves to notify Municipal Flood Coordinators and other primary contacts that the potential for flooding exists within specific watercourses and municipalities. These advisories describe watershed conditions, potential impacts, and a hydrometeorology forecast. These bulletins do not require specific action, but having been alerted to the potential of flood conditions, Municipal Flood Coordinators should initiate a check of their municipal flood plans, initiate monitoring of potential problem areas, and may chose to remain on a stand-by alert.
  • Flood Warning Bulletins: notifies that flooding is imminent or occurring within specific watercourses and municipalities. These bulletins will be issued to Municipal Flood Coordinators and other primary contacts, such as police services, whose municipality is affected by flooding and they in turn relay the message to other relevant individuals and departments within their organization. Municipal officials should issue warnings to residents and businesses that may be threatened by the flood.
  1. Emergency Information during a Flood Emergency (Response Phase)

Conservation Authorities and/or the Ministry of Natural Resources issue flood messages to affected municipalities and the media, and then the municipalities are responsible for communicating emergency information messages to the public.

The municipal Emergency Information Officer will coordinate emergency information tools (such as news releases, news conferences, etc.) advising the public of actions that they should or shouldn’t take during the event (as outlined in a municipality’s Emergency Information Plan). These actions would include:

  • Who should evacuate and to where
  • What they should do prior to leaving their residence or place of business
  • What they should take with them.

Updates on the event would be supplied to the public via the media and copies of news releases should be distributed to staff involved in the event as they may be questioned and/or asked for assistance by the public. Updates should be posted in public areas and evacuation centres.

The Emergency Information Officer should work with stakeholders to develop emergency information for residents returning to their homes and/or businesses. The information should outline the precautions people should take prior to entering their building, turning on utilities, assessing the damage, and cleaning and restoring properties.

Emergency information may be required after the event for situations dealing with financial assistance. The Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP) provides guidance and templates to assist with this requirement.

Also note that Public Safety Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation each have information available on their web sites to assist with emergency information specific to floods:;


[Identify resources needed to support the response to this hazard and the process for acquiring them (e.g. contact Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, external suppliers, 24/7 suppliers, Supply Chain Management).]

[Include planning considerations for resources, including equipment and personnel:

  • Staging areas and base camps (e.g. parking lot for trucks, rest areas for personnel)
  • Access routes and transportation
  • Need for specialized skill-set(s)
  • Availability and accessibility of resources (required/source information)
  • Cost and repair
  • Food and shelter
  • Safety and security of personnel
  • Critical Incident Stress Management
  • Succession planning for protracted emergency
  • Re-deployment or demobilization of resources]
  • Reference to Support Plans/Supplemental Plans (annexes)
  • Inventory/location/items]

[Include a contact list of resource suppliers.]

Consider flood specific resources required: For example:

  • Sandbagging - sandbags and sand are not typically stockpiled by Conservation Authorities or the Ministry of Natural Resources. Who will do sandbagging; residents, municipal staff, volunteers?
  • Pumping out basements - will the municipality supply public works staff and/or fire trucks to pump out basements?
  • Debris removal – does the municipality provide removal/dumpsters for debris and/or damaged property?

These and other questions can be best answered in consultation with partners prior to an event such as a flood emergency.


[Outline financial procedures and obligations, such as:

  • Pre-existing contracts with 24/7 suppliers
  • Extra-ordinary expenditures
  • Expenditure authorities (e.g. who can sign a purchase order?)
  • Human resources considerations (e.g. tracking of over-time, volunteers, collective agreements)
  • Potential cost recovery (e.g. third party liability)
  • Location and procedure for accessing emergency petty cash
  • Donations Management
  • If applicable, contact Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (see ODRAP Guidelines at]

Support/Supplement Plans:

[EOC open/activation, EOC operations, public works agreements, fire services agreement.]


Reduces the likelihood of the event.

[List prevention actions taken to date for the hazard - such as land use planning]

Consider what other owner/operators are doing to prevent the risk in your area (e.g. locks – federal; dams – Ontario Hydro, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), or Conservations Authorities)


Reduces the impact of the event.

Consider what other owner/operators are doing to mitigate the risk in your area (e.g. locks – federal; dams – Ontario Hydro, OPG, or Conservations Authorities; diversion flows/flood-ways/catch basins; residential backflows; pumping station)


A municipality will normally have a warning of an impending natural flood. Unfortunately, this may not be the case for structural failure of a dam or drainage system (storm sewer). Consultation with the owners/operators of water control structures is needed to determine the worst-case scenario, public alerting systems, as well as probability and consequence.

Public education should include the risk posed by these structures. Pre-planning and public alerting systems are instrumental to managing this hazard.

As with all other types of plans, once a model has been developed an exercise should be conducted to test the arrangements and procedures. The exercise can also be used to increase staff and public awareness of the initiative, and promote personal preparedness.

Continuity of Operations Planning

[Based on recommended practices, consider including Continuity of Operations (COOP) as part of the risk management process. Consider locations of municipal services, facilities and infrastructure as they may be affected by a hazard.]

The following table lists some of the key considerations for municipalities for developing continuity of operations arrangements. Each municipality will have its own approaches and priorities, but most will have to consider these elements in their planning process:



Mitigation/Preparedness Strategies

Prioritization of essential services

  • Comprehensive review (all departments)
  • Critical Infrastructure maintenance
  • Explore alternative service delivery models (e.g. technology)
  • Achieve consensus
  • Senior management to define process
  • Engage all staff

Identify Risks

  • Staffing shortages
  • Supply Shortages
  • Dependencies on external agencies
  • Vulnerable populations

Develop Contingency Plans

  • Staffing
  • Staff education programs
  • Cross-training
  • Alternative transportation plan for employees
  • Explore alternative sources of skills/labour
  • Flexible worksites (work-at-home)
  • Supply Shortages
  • Expand vendor list
  • Stockpile
  • Human Resources/Legal Issues
  • Enhanced employee support mechanism
  • CBA issues (work refusals, contracting out)
  • Development of mutual assistance agreements
  • Develop policies for service delivery reductions or building closures
  • Communications
  • Internal system for staff
  • External procedures for public
  • Linguistic diversity where appropriate
  • Management
  • Head of Council prerogatives during declared emergency
  • Designation of alternates for management and supervisory positions
  • Special training for management staff in emergency arrangements and policy adjustments


A recovery plan will lay the groundwork for the following recovery functions:

  • Medical rehabilitation of casualties
  • Debris management – consider waiving tipping fees
  • Psycho-Social needs
  • Emergency worker safety
  • Compensation and financial management
  • Donations management
  • Emergency information and public education - How to clean flood damaged structures
  • Coordination of municipal, provincial and federal activities such as the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program administration
  • Recording and analysis of data for accountability and post recovery analysis which could lead to some suggestions for mitigation
  • Request for a temporary waiver of environmental legislation
  • Structural damage assessment processes
  • Health unit with buildings department – wells and septic contamination
  • Coordination of utility restoration

Post-Event Activities


[Consider post-event reporting procedures, such as:

  • Quick tactical de-briefing (hot-wash)
  • More detailed operational de-briefing
  • Questionnaire (to volunteers, contractors, media, owners of facilities used, etc.) in order to identify gaps and future considerations for improvement
  • Development of an After Action Report, a financial report, and a report to program committee/council]

[Discuss who generates the above, when they will be created, to whom they will be presented, and how the lessons learned will be incorporated into the hazard plan.]