Staying Safe During a Flood

If a flood is about to happen, the most important thing you can do is heed all evacuation alerts and orders and follow all instructions from your band office, municipality, regional district or local authority. Trust in your preparedness work and your emergency plan.

In this section:

 Other sections: Getting ready before a flood | Recovering after a flood

Flood Advisories & Warnings

The River Forecast Centre issues advisories and warnings about current or expected flood risks. There are three stages of notification. These advisories and warnings can be found on the River Forecast Centre website. You can also follow @EmergencyInfoBC on Twitter to get notifications for Flood Watches and Flood Warnings.

High Streamflow Advisory

River levels are rising or expected to rise rapidly, but no major flooding is expected. Minor flooding in low-lying areas is possible.

Flood Watch

River levels are rising and will approach or may exceed the river bank. Flooding of areas adjacent to affected rivers may occur.

Flood Warning

River levels have exceeded the river bank or will exceed the river bank imminently, and flooding of areas adjacent to affected rivers will result.

Know the Evacuation Stages

Depending on the severity of flooding, local authorities may issue an evacuation alert or order. It's important to understand the difference.

  • Evacuation Alert: Be ready to leave on short notice
  • Evacuation Order: You are at risk. Leave the area immediately
  • Evacuation Rescinded: All is currently safe and you can return home

What to do while waiting for evacuation instructions

If flooding is imminent but you have not yet been instructed to evacuate, follow these tips:

  • Monitor local radio stations, television news and social media for the latest information from your local authorities on sandbagging stations, possible evacuation procedures and routes
  • Only use tap water if it has been tested and deemed safe by your local authority. Use bottled or boiled water for drinking, brushing your teeth, dish washing and cooking
  • If a flood warning is in effect, shut off electricity to areas that are at risk of flooding and move small appliances, electronics and smaller furniture to upper floors or areas not likely to be affected

What to do during an Evacuation Alert

If an Evacuation Alert is in place, be ready to leave on short notice. Take the following steps:

  • Gather your grab-and-go bags, emergency plan, copies of important documents and cherished mementos. Have them at the front door or already packed in your vehicle
  • Ensure your vehicle has fuel. The tank should always be at least half-full
  • Make sure vehicles are parked away from streams and waterways
  • Remove toxic substances such as pesticides and insecticides from the flood area to prevent pollution
  • Do NOT attempt to shut off electricity if any water is present
  • Use sandbags to block floor drains and toilets to prevent sewage back-up

What to do during an Evacuation Order

If an Evacuation Order is in place, you are at risk and must leave immediately. Follow all directions from officials and evacuate using the route(s) they’ve identified. Heed the following advice as you evacuate:

  • Do not attempt to cross rivers or flowing streams.
  • Do not drive or walk across flooded roads – 6 inches of rushing water can knock an adult off their feet; 2 feet of water can carry away most vehicles – including trucks and SUVs.
  • If your car begins to flood, abandon it quickly and head to higher ground.
  • An Emergency Support Services (ESS) reception centre may be opened for evacuated residents who are without access to other supports, such as insurance coverage or friends and family who can help. Services may include: food, lodging, clothing, emotional support, information about the crisis and family reunification.

What to do when an Evacuation is rescinded

Once officials determine the situation is safe, the evacuation order will be rescinded and you can return home. Continue to stay tuned for other possible evacuation alerts or orders.

How to Build a Sandbag Dike

You can prevent or reduce flood damage to your home by building a sandbag dike. It takes two people about one hour to fill and place 100 sandbags, giving you a 1-x-20-foot wall. Contact your local government for information on obtaining sandbags.

Bags required per 100 linear feet of dike:

Height above dike Bags required
1/3 metre 600
2/3 metre 2,000
1 metre 3,400

  • Locate the sandbag dike on high ground as close as possible to your home.
  • Dig a bonding trench, one sack deep by two sacks wide.
  • Alternate the direction of sacks (e.g. bottom layer length-wise with dike, next layer crosswise).
  • Sacks should be approximately half-filled with clay, silt or sand.
  • Tying or sewing of sacks is not necessary.
  • Lap unfilled portion under next sack.
  • Press firmly in place.

Coping with Stress

Alerts, evacuations, loss and worry – floods can affect us all. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, you are not alone. Here are some things you can do to manage.

Take Care

Stress takes a toll on your physical and mental health. Eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep lowers stress and helps us cope.

Reach Out

Talking helps, whether it’s with family, friends, a doctor or counsellor. Crisis lines are available to listen and help any time. You can contact:

  • BC Mental Health Support Line, available 24 hours a day at 310-6789 (no area code).
  • KUU-US Indigenous Crisis Line at 1-800-588-8717.

Help Others

Take care of the vulnerable. Assisting others can help you regain a sense of purpose and community as you confront the challenges together.