Thanks to snowmelt and seasonal rainfall, late spring is the season for flooding in Alberta. Flooding can occur from a body of water (such as a river) overflowing, but it can also be caused by poor drainage when there’s a rapid accumulation of water, too. Sewer backup flooding can also happen from within your home.
Luckily, you can prepare in advance for spring flooding and help reduce or prevent water damage to your home. Here are the steps:
- Evaluate your risk.
- Take preventative measures.
- Develop an emergency response plan.
- Review your insurance.
Evaluating Your Risk for Spring Flooding in Alberta
The Government of Alberta provides a flood hazard map that allows you to check if your home is at risk for flooding. You can also check municipal websites like the City of Calgary for additional flood mapping and flood-related information. Keep in mind that the severity of a flood can vary; you may be at risk for every flood event or only affected by major ones.
Keep in mind that river or lake overflow isn’t the only source of flooding. It can also happen with rapid precipitation and snowmelt in an area with poor drainage. Manmade construction and a lack of maintenance can also contribute to water accumulation. Here are some things to look out for around your home:
- Poor grading around your home (such as the ground sloping downwards towards your foundation).
- Standing water for more than 24 hours after it rains.
- Previous water or moisture damage inside or around your home.
- Debris such as leaves contributing to poor drainage.
- Eavestroughs that aren’t well maintained or drain towards your home.
If you’re buying a home, make sure to check if it’s in a flood area and if they’ve ever had water issues before. Your inspection should also check for signs of water damage, particularly to the basement.
A sewer backup event can occur in any home but a home with poor drainage is more at risk. We discuss a number of prevention measures you can take to help prevent sewer backup damage here.
Take Preventative Measures to Protect Your Home
What can you do to help reduce or eliminate damage during a flood? Thankfully, there’s actually a lot you can do! First, if you identified any problems with drainage make sure you address them either by regrading your property and fixing eavestroughs. You can also help protect your home from spring flooding in Alberta by:
- Cleaning eavestroughs and ensuring they’re draining at least two metres from your home (onto grass is best).
- Regrading your property so that it the slope is away from the house.
- Landscaping your yard with vegetation as native plants can improve drainage.
- Install a sump pump (preferably with a battery or generator as a backup in case the power goes out).
- Install a sewer backup valve.
- Keep toilet and drain plugs on hand.
- If flooding is imminent, sandbag your foundation and any entrances to the home (doors and windows) or keep materials on hand to do so.
- Stay on top of snow removal and always remove it away from your home’s foundation.
- Keep an eye on nearby bodies of water; if you have small creeks or ponds on your property you should look into flood landscaping.
Develop an Emergency Response Plan for Flooding
A key part of flood preparation is creating a plan of what to do in the event of a flood. This includes what to do if you need to evacuate or stay in place – and don’t forget about your pets. Keep in mind that you may not have access to power or essential services. An emergency survival kit is a key part of your emergency response plan. Your kit should include:
- Clean water supply (at least 3L per person per day).
- Non-perishable food.
- A crank or battery-operated radio.
- Blankets and/or sleeping bags.
- Additional essential clothing items.
- A first aid kit.
- Essential medications.
- Food, water, medication and anything else necessary for your pets.
- Phone chargers with external batteries.
Be prepared to evacuate your home – you should take important documents. Be sure to move anything valuable from the basement or lower floors, and store as much as you can in sealed plastic containers to protect what’s inside. If you can, you may want to take your most treasured things with you when you leave.
Once you’ve got a plan make sure the whole family knows what to do. Communication before a flood is key especially since phone lines may be busy.
Review Your Insurance
The last step is to review your insurance coverage with your broker. This should be done at least once a year.
Standard home insurance doesn’t usually cover flood damage. You’ll need to purchase add-on coverage known as an endorsement. Usually, flood protection is sold as a package including overland water and sewer backup protection.
Unfortunately, not all insurers offer flood insurance. Some may not offer it to you or will only offer sewer backup coverage if you live in an area that will likely flood or is close to a body of water.
Sewer backup insurance covers damage caused by the overflow of drainage or sewers into your home. There are different limits to the amount of damage that will be covered and sometimes you’ll pay a separate deductible. Insurance companies also offer incentives for sewer backup prevention measures such as a sewer backup valve.
Overland water insurance covers damage from water entering your home from above ground due to the overflow of bodies of water and/or high levels of precipitation or snowmelt. Some insurers only cover precipitation accumulation and not the overflow of bodies of water.
Where the water comes from matters when it comes to your insurance coverage. For example, if groundwater seeps into your home through a crack in your foundation, you most likely won’t be covered with regular home insurance or the overland water endorsement.
Talk to your broker about your options when it comes to flooding and home insurance. Insurance products are ever-evolving and a different insurer may be a better fit for your needs.