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How to Protect Your Farm from Flooding

Farm Insurance

By Samantha Lemna | March 17, 2021

Flooding can damage farm property, delay and/or reduce harvests, interrupt supplies and utilities, and cost the lives of livestock and even people. In this article, we’ll explain how to protect your farm from flooding.  

Natural Flood Management on the Farm 

There are many ways to reduce the impact of flooding on your farm through natural means. This includes: 

  • Building dikes, ditches, barriers, embankment notches, and irrigation channels  
  • Run-off areas 
  • Planting trees and other plants 
  • Keeping existing wetlands 
  • Clearing debris and sediment 
  • Grading 

Building Dikes, Ditches, Barriers, Embankment Notches and Irrigation Channels 

Creating dikes, ditches, barriers, embankment notches and irrigation channels help you manage the water. Ditches and irrigation channels help direct where the water should go, while barriers keep water out. These structures can be made of earth, stones, or even tree trunks; they can also be man-made from concrete or other materials. 

You can also use temporary barriers on top of existing structures for greater protection. 

Embankment notches are cut to allow water to channel out into a run off area or pond. 

Run Off Areas 

A run off area is a portion of land sacrificed to flood water in order to prevent it from flooding elsewhere. It can also be a storage pond where excess water can flow. 

Planting Trees and Other Plants 

Plants help reduce soil erosion, soak up moisture, and provide an obstacle to water. A single tree won’t really cut it though – reforestation is needed to make a real difference. We recommend planting trees and plants where you can, especially alongside waterways and upland from any crops 

If you’re a crop farmer, consider leaving your crop residue or planting a cover or year-round crop. You can also plant flood-tolerant crops in areas more susceptible to flooding. Timing your planting can also help reduce crop losses due to flooding. 

Keeping Existing Wetlands 

Wetlands are nature’s natural flood mitigation. If possible, try to keep existing wetland areas. They will be a natural collection ground for flood water.  

Clearing Debris and Sediment 

Keep culverts and watercourses clear of debris. You may need to dredge to remove sediment, but this can often be difficult and expensive. 

Grading 

Properly grading the land around structures encourages proper drainage and helps protect the buildings.  

Protecting Your Farm’s Buildings from Flooding 

In addition to grading the land to encourage water to flow away from buildings, you can do the following to protect your farm’s buildings from flooding: 

  • Install eavestroughs and have downspouts drain at least 3m away from the building, preferably to open ground 
  • Regularly clean and clear eavestroughs 
  • Install a sump pump with a battery or generator backup 
  • Install sewer backup valves 
  • Install a water alarm 
  • Sandbag the perimeter of the building, particularly doors and windows 
  • If a flood is imminent, shut off utilities to the potentially affected buildings 
  • Move any loose items to higher ground and secure them 
  • Seal your well cap with plastic and duct tape 
  • Use plywood to board up windows 
  • Seal cracks and holes 

If you’re planning to add structures to your farm, ensure they’re built on higher ground and have proper drainage.  

Protecting Your Farm Property from Flood Damage 

Your farm’s property can include machinery, equipment, tools, feed, harvested crops, furniture, and many more items. Here are some ways to protect this property from flooding: 

  • Store or move electrical equipment, machinery, feed, chemicals, and fuel off the ground or off site if at all possible (the second story, ideally, or use wood or cement blocks) 
  • Store harvest crops on higher ground or on wood or cement blocks to lift them up
  • Anchor anything you can’t move and erect a flood barrier (sand bags, wrapping tarps around all sides) 
  • Store items in sealable plastic bins 
  • Have digital backups of all documents 

Protecting Livestock from Flooding 

Protecting life – including that of your livestock – is the highest priority in the event of a flood. Here are our tips to hopefully keep your animals safe: 

  • Get livestock to the highest ground possible, preferably before there is any risk 
  • If animals are in low lying areas and you cannot safely move them, leave gates open, clear obstacles and place food and water at the highest point possible 
  • You can create mounds for animals to stand on for lower lying areas 
  • Deny livestock the opportunity to move to more dangerous areas (close gates, ensure fences are strong, et cetera) 
  • Ensure you have adequate feed and water for the animals (move it to high ground or wherever the animals are) or prepare contingency plans for food and clean water 
  • Have vaccinations up to date (tetanus and disease are often found after flood events) 
  • If feeding hay isn’t possible, feed grain in small amounts frequently – and remember to not feed anything that’s been touched by flood water 
  • Have visible identification on all animals, if possible 

Be Prepared for a Flood 

It’s important to be prepared ahead of time for a flood. This can help you respond faster and more effectively protect your farm. Here’s what you should do: 

  • Develop an emergency response plan 
  • Create a phone list 
  • Gather emergency supplies 
  • Create an inventory 
  • Get flood insurance 

Develop an Emergency Response Plan 

This plan should outline escape routes, responsibilities, and timelines in the event of a flood. Exactly what’s included will depend on your flood risk, type of farm, number of employees, and resources accessible to you.  

Include a farm site map as this is a valuable tool for planning and for authorities if you should need help. 

Create a Phone List 

You should have a list of the phone numbers for employees, neighbours, veterinarians, transportation resources, feedstock providers, and any emergency resources in your area. 

Gather Emergency Supplies 

Pack your emergency kit ahead of time. It should include: 

  • Food (dry, canned, non-perishables) 
  • Clean water (at least a few litres per day, per person) 
  • Any required medications 
  • A basic med kit 
  • Basic cooking and eating utensils 
  • Hand-crank radio 
  • Fuel 
  • Extra clothing 
  • Blankets and/or sleeping bags 

Additional supplies for your farm can include: 

  • Basic tools 
  • Plywood and lumber 
  • Wire and rope 
  • Sandbags and a supply of sand/dirt 
  • Plastic sheeting 
  • Fire extinguishers 
  • Gas-powered generators 
  • Clean water for livestock 
  • Feed for livestock 
  • Med kit for livestock 

Create an Inventory 

Create an inventory list of everything you have and where it is located. This can help you identify risks, help figure out what was lost, and is useful for insurance. The inventory should include everything possible including livestock, equipment, furniture, crops, feed, and more.  

Flood Insurance for Farms 

Flood insurance is generally known as overland water coverage in the insurance industry. It helps covers repair or replacement of damaged property and additional living expenses if your property is damaged by the overflow of a body of fresh water or rapid accumulation of water due to rainfall or snowmelt. 

Flood insurance is not available everywhere or offered by all insurance companies.  Talk to your broker for more details.

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