A Guide to Flooding Prevention and Recovery - Part 3: During a Flood

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Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Before a Flood

Part 3: During a Flood

Part 4: After a Flood

Adapted with the permission of The Regional Municipality of Halton.

During a flood

Flooding can happen quickly. Monitor your local news for weather updates and special announcements from local officials.

Reducing potential damage when there is a threat for flooding

If heavy rains are forecasted for your area, the following actions can help reduce property damage:

  • Clear drains, gutters and downspouts of dead leaves and other debris.
  • Move furniture, electronics and items of sentimental value out of basements and lower levels of the home or raise them off the floor.
  • Roll up rugs, and if possible, store them on higher floors.
  • Ensure sump pumps and backwater valves are working properly. If a sump pump has a battery backup, ensure the batteries are fresh and replace the batteries as required.
  • Make sure basement windows are closed.

If you have been without power, food in your refrigerator and freezer may be at risk. Follow these tips to reduce the risk of food-borne illness:

  • Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer doors.
  • If the door is kept closed, refrigerators will normally keep foods cool for four hours. A full freezer without power will normally keep food frozen for about two days, and a half-full freezer will normally keep food frozen for one day.
  • Add bags of ice or ice packs to help keep the food cooler for a longer period of time.
  • Consider using coolers or ice chests with a supply of ice for food storage.
  • Throw out perishable foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and leftovers that have been at temperatures above 4°C (40°F) for more than two hours.
  • Throw out food items that have come into contact with raw meat juices.

Potential hazards in flooding conditions

Flooding conditions can create hazardous situations both in and around your home:

  • Standing water may be electrically charged by indoor electrical systems and underground or downed power lines. Keep yourself, children and pets away from standing water and downed power lines.
  • Floodwaters can move quickly and pose a risk of drowning. Protect your safety and do not drive or walk through floodwaters.
  • Building structures can be affected and become unsafe. Leave your home if there are any signs of potential foundation and structural damage, including to porch roofs and overhangs.
  • Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car. Do not travel in flood impacted areas.
  • Assume that everything touched by floodwaters is contaminated. Keep yourself, your family and pets away from flooded areas.
  • Flood waters can contain sewage, chemicals and debris like broken glass. Do not enter a flooded space unless you are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and clothing.

flood waters hazards infographic

Avoid Driving Through Flood Waters

Never drive through flood waters. Find another route. There are many things that can harm you and your vehicle:

  • The depth of the water can be much deeper than it looks. Just 15 cm (6 inches) of standing water – sometimes less – can be enough to cause engine stalling.
  • The condition of the road beneath it may not be safe – it may be broken up or washed away,  or there may be no road left under the water.
  • Your engine can suffer serious and expensive damage if it ingests water.
  • You can become stranded.
  • In only about 30 cm (1 foot) of water, a typical car can begin to float and you will lose control of traction and steering.
  • If the water is moving, your vehicle could float away.
  • At 60 cm (two feet) of water, even larger vehicles such as pickup trucks and SUVs are in danger of floating away.
  • Never drive through fast-moving water, such as an overflowing river, as your vehicle could be swept away.
  • As a rule of thumb, don’t drive into water that’s too deep to see the painted markings on the road.


For your protection, you may decide it is necessary for you to evacuate your home or an area impacted by flooding. You may also be officially notified to evacuate. This notification may occur in several ways including:

  • Weather alerts
  • Social media
  • Local media
  • Officials going door-to-door

If you expect you might need to evacuate during an emergency, keep phone lines open for use by emergency workers. Monitor local radio, TV and the Internet for emergency instructions and current information. Travel only on routes specified by officials—a shortcut could take you to a blocked or dangerous area. If you have time and can do so safely:

  • Take your 72-Hour Emergency Kit, medications and needed supplies with you.
  • If it is safe to do so, shut off water, gas and electricity in your home. If not, evacuate your home but do not go back inside until a utility company has confirmed it is safe.
  • Check to see if your neighbours require assistance.

Emergency evacuation centres

In some cases, an emergency evacuation centre may be set up to provide shelter and food to people affected by the flood. If so:

  • If you have time, leave a note at home (near the entrance; for example, in a mailbox) telling others when you left and where you went.
  • If you are evacuated, register with the authorities at the evacuation or reception centre so you can be contacted and reunited with your family and loved ones.
  • If you are going somewhere other than a designated centre, register with the centre, notifying them of your whereabouts. This helps to create an accurate record of those impacted by floods.

If you remain in your home

Remember that flooding can affect your safety and possibly your health. Take precautions to prevent illness and injury before you enter any area that has been flooded. Note the potential hazards mentioned in this guide.

Go to Part 4: After a Flood