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According to the Government of Canada's Get Prepared campaign, which encourages Canadians to be prepared to cope on their own for at least the first 72 hours of an emergency, floods are the most frequent natural hazard in Canada. They can occur at any time of the year and are most often caused by heavy rainfall, rapid melting of a thick snow pack, ice jams, or more rarely, the failure of a natural or man-made dam.
Alberta recently experienced its worst flooding in decades - which displaced tens of thousands of people and forced the evacuation of the province's largest city of downtown Calgary - and there have simultaneously been flood warnings and evacuation alerts in place in British Columbia. Please note the following safety tips to keep in mind before, during and after a flood, to help you prepare in case of such an event.
Before a flood:
Seal your basement windows and ground-level doors.
Install a zero reverse flow valve in basement drains.
Keep important documents on higher floors to protect from flood damage.
Turn basement furnaces and gas valve off.
Safeguard heating equipment.
Move furniture and electrical appliances above ground level.
Get toxic substances away from flood area to prevent pollution.
Plug toilet connections with a wooden stopper.
During a flood:
Stay aware of what roads are safe, where to go and what to do if the local emergency team asks you to evacuate.
Do NOT attempt to shut off electricity if any water is present. Water and live electrical wires can be lethal. Leave your home immediately and do not return until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.
Try to avoid walking through moving water and, wherever possible, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
Try to avoid driving into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
Keep your emergency kit close at hand, in a portable container such as a duffel bag, backpack or suitcase with wheels.
Water - two litres of water per person per day (Include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order)
Food - that won't spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (remember to replace the food and water once a year)
Manual can opener
Flashlight and batteries
Battery-powered or wind-up radio (and extra batteries)
First aid kit
Special needs items - prescription medications, infant formula or equipment for people with disabilities
Extra keys - for your car and house
Cash - include smaller bills, such as $10 bills (traveller's cheques are also useful) and change for payphones
Pre-arrange a family rendezvous point to ensure that no-one is lost or to establish some system of communication in case of separation
After a flood:
Minimize contact with floodwater - water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
Make sure the building is structurally safe - look for buckled walls or floors.
Have an electrician clean, dry and test the main electrical panel.
Keep children away from contaminated areas while cleaning.
Each province and territory responds to floods in cooperation with local authorities and, in some cases, the federal government may be asked to assist. The majority of provinces and territories have information online on the flood situation in their area, as well as practical information for dealing with floods. Go to www.getprepared.gc.ca for more information.
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