Prepare Your Home for Flooding

Floods are the most frequent natural hazard in Canada and can cause extensive damage to your home, according to Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA). In Alberta, June is typically when we see the most rainfall and therefore face the possibility of floods. As an Albertan, preparing for summer should include prepping your home and family in case of flooding.

To prepare your home for potential flooding before it happens, consider the following summer home safety tips:

  • Apply weather-protective sealant around basement windows and the baseline of ground-level doors.
  • Ensure your downspouts’ drainage path is a good distance from your home’s foundation.
  • If you don’t already have them, install a sump pump and zero reverse-flow valves in your basement’s drainage system.
  • Safeguard hazardous materials around your house such as natural gas, electrical or propane equipment.
  • Move important documents and items out of the basement to a higher level in the home.
  • Have a plan for your animals or livestock and know evacuation routes.

Develop a Family Flood Emergency Plan

Develop a family emergency plan to ensure your family’s safety in the event of a flood. To prepare your family for potential flooding:

  • Ensure all occupants know how to shut off water, gas and electricity in the house.
  • Teach your kids how and when to call fire, police and emergency services.
  • Have emergency phone numbers programmed into or posted next to all landlines in your home.
  • Have everyone with a mobile device install the Alberta Emergency Alert for alerts and updates in case of an emergency. 
  • Consider your family pet and decide who in your family will be responsible for evacuating it. Make or purchase pet evacuation stickers to place on your windows to let emergency responders know if your pet is still inside.
  • Practice evacuation procedures.

You should also prepare a 72-hour emergency kit in case your family needs to evacuate immediately and may not have access to everyday necessities. Minimally, the kit should include:

  • Four litres of water per person, per day.
  • Non-perishable food items. If you pack canned goods, make sure to include a can opener.
  • Food and water for your family pet.
  • Clothing for all your family members.
  • A first aid kit.
  • Daily medications, if applicable.
  • Toiletries (e.g. toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, wet wipes)
  • A flashlight.
  • A list of emergency phone numbers.
  • An extra set of house and car keys.
  • Cash and/or a spare credit card.
  • Important family, financial and insurance documents.

Safely Restore Your Home after Flooding

After a flood, you’ll need to restore your home as soon as possible to protect your family from water-borne health hazards and prevent further damage to the interior and exterior of your home.

Do not return to your home until authorities allow re-entry. When it’s safe to return, make sure your home is structurally sound, and leave immediately if you see buckles in the walls or floors. Do not use any gas-powered or electrical appliances or drink water from a faucet until you have a professional inspect the premises.

Before moving back in, follow these steps provided by AEMA to prepare and restore your home:

  1. Have an inspector check the regular water supply and declare it officially safe for use.
  2. Have an electrician inspect your electrical system and appliances to confirm they are functioning properly. Your home insurance company may be able to take care of this inspection for you.
  3. Have a gas fitter inspect your gas lines to confirm they are safely intact.
  4. Discard household items that have extensive flood damage.
  5. Thoroughly dry, clean, and disinfect all flood-contaminated rooms or surfaces. Consider hiring a professional cleaner for extensive flood damage.
  6. Disinfect all contaminated dishes and utensils by using boiling water or a sterilizing solution.
  7. Make sure all toilets are functioning properly and consult your local health authority for more information if necessary.

Stay Protected from Hailstorms

 Hailstorms frequently occur in Alberta between the months of May and October. In fact, 66 percent of all Canada’s major hailstorms occur in Alberta, according to the Alberta Motor Association (AMA).

Hail can impact at dangerous speeds—a shocking 130 kilometers per hour—and can be life-threatening and cause severe damage to your home, property and vehicles. If hail is in the summer forecast, follow these emergency tips for preparing and securing your family and home from the storm.

How to Prepare for a Hailstorm

Get ahead of the storm with these summer home safety tips:

  • Be on alert for an upcoming storm. Signs may include dark clouds, thunder, lightning, violent winds and pouring rain.
  • Pay attention to thunderstorm warnings. Consider buying a hand-crank or battery-powered radio to keep up with forecast updates in case the power goes out during a storm. Finally, add the Alberta Emergency Alert app to your mobile device for alerts in your area.
  • Cover your outdoor items. Place vehicles, boats, patio furniture and other large objects in a secure location, such as a shed or garage.
  • Close all windows and doors. Make sure to all the windows and doors in your home are shut. Close curtains tightly to contain any glass that may shatter.
  • Maintain your home. Inspect your roof and property to ensure you have proper protection against strong winds and hailstones.
  • Trim trees and bushes. Reduce potential damage from falling or wind-blown foliage by maintaining your yard.
  • Shelter livestock. If applicable, make sure you’ve provided some type shelter for outdoor animals to take cover under if a hailstorm happens.

What to Do During a Hailstorm

Follow these guidelines provided by Calgary.ca and the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) for protecting your family and home during a hail storm:

  • Take cover. Immediately move your family and pets inside the home. Stay away from windows that could potentially shatter.
  • Stay in the know. Listen for alerts, updates and instructions from local emergency responders and services.
  • Pull off the road. If you are driving, find a safe spot to pull over and face away from windows to avoid broken glass.
  • Look out for flooded areas. Excessive hail and rain can plug storm drains and create flooding areas. Keep an eye out for flooded areas on the road and on your property.
  • Watch out for lightning. Stay away from trees, towers, metal fences or poles that may attract lightning and do not touch any metal objects in your home (e.g. stove, sinks, radiator).
  • Shield yourself outdoors. If you are unable to find shelter, crouch down, protect your head and neck with your hands and face away from the wind until the storm subsides.

Limit Appliance and Light Use

When it comes to summer home tips, your family’s safety and comfort are the two biggest priorities. While Alberta summers generally aren’t scorching hot, the temperatures can get high enough to warrant caution. Make sure your family stays cool by taking steps to regulate your home’s indoor temperatures.

To maintain lower indoor temperatures, keep your daytime appliance use to a minimum. Try to fire up the barbeque and enjoy some extra outdoor cooking with your family this summer. If you need to use the oven or range in your kitchen, try to wait until the sun is lower in the sky and temperatures are cooler before cranking the heat on those appliances. Similarly, you should try to use your dishwasher and clothes dryer when outdoor temperatures are at their lowest. When it comes to lighting throughout your home, reduce heat and energy use by replacing high-wattage light bulbs with LEDs.

Use Exhaust Fans and Dehumidifiers

This summer home safety tip could help your family avoid mould’s health risks. Warmer temperatures and excess moisture create ideal conditions for mould to grow in your home. To make your home more breathable and less susceptible to mould growth during the summer season, use exhaust fans and dehumidifiers to reduce the effects of excess humidity.

Make sure to turn on the bathroom exhaust fan after bathing or showering. When using the stove, turn on a fan to vent warm air out of your home and keep the temperatures down. Finally, you can reduce the humidity in your basement by ensuring your gutters are in position to move rain and water away from your home. If moisture problems persist, consider hiring a contractor to landscape your lawn to slope water away from your home.

Maintain Your Air Conditioning Unit 

Air conditioner maintenance  is of crucial importance when preparing your home for the summer. According to Natural Resources Canada, you should clean your air conditioner filter at least once each season. In addition to helping your unit run efficiently, a clean air filter will ensure the air your family breathes is as clean as possible.

Check your air conditioner’s coils, connectors and other components on a regular basis to increase your system's performance and keep your home safe. Without regular maintenance, your unit may malfunction and even become a fire hazard. Overworked and overheated air conditioners can cause electrical issues and catch nearby flammable items on fire.

Invest in Central Air Conditioning

For optimal comfort and safety, consider investing in central air conditioning. Although the initial investment might be higher, you could potentially save on your monthly electric bill by opting for an ENERGY STAR®-verified model. According to Natural Resources Canada, central air conditioners with ENERGY STAR® ratings use up to 20 percent less energy than units without the rating.

In addition, portable A/C units may pose a greater fire risk than central air conditioning units. Portable units are typically smaller and have more difficulty keeping up with cooling demands. Air conditioners that are portable may be more dangerous than central air because they have a greater chance of overheating and short-circuiting, which can potentially cause house fires.

Open the Windows at Night

Open the windows in the evenings to bring in the cool air at night. Airing out the house can improve air quality and reduce humidity in your home. Don't forget to turn off your air conditioner when you open the windows at night. In the morning, shut the windows and close drapes or blinds to keep in the cool temperatures and block sunlight.

Upgrade Your Windows

Consider installing high-efficiency windows with low-e (low-emission) glass coatings, which reduce the amount of radiant infrared energy and heat entering your home. This filtering can decrease the demands on your air conditioning and protect your home and family from harmful ultraviolet rays. You can also install window coverings to keep sunlight from further heating your home.

For added protection against the summer heat, consider planting trees and shrubs near windows to shade your home from the sun. In the summer, leafy foliage can shield sunlight from your windows, ultimately keeping your family cooler and reducing stress on your air conditioning unit. Plant trees and shrubs around your house in areas that provide the best coverage, but make sure to keep them away from drainage areas and gutters.

Keep Hot Air from Leaking into Your Home

Check windows and doors for gaps and cracks when preparing your home for the summer. Seal any openings with caulk or weather stripping to prevent warm air from coming into your home and air-conditioned air from leaving your home. Weather-protectant sealants and caulking around windows and doors can also help safeguard your home and family from potential flooding and heavy rainfall.

Check Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Our final summer home safety tip is one you can and should perform every season. Grab a pack of batteries and check all the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home. You should have working natural gas and carbon monoxide detectors near the kitchen and near gas-powered appliances like furnaces and water heaters. Your home should have functional smoke alarms on every level, inside and leading into bedrooms, common areas and the kitchen, at the very least.

As your Alberta energy provider and neighbour, we hope our guidance helps your home run efficiently and safely. Whether you’re looking for summer home safety tips, Alberta electricity rates or current natural gas prices, we're here to help! Contact us anytime at 866.420.3174 for more information.