Floods occur every year in Québec. They are caused by, for example, thawing that swells rivers, or weather conditions, such as heavy rains, that directly affect the level and flow of watercourses. In the case of the St. Lawrence River, storm surges can also occur along its shores.
You can take certain steps to limit danger in the event of a flood or storm surge:
Always have an emergency kit on hand.
When the flood hazard is high, consult your municipality’s website, or contact your municipality, for information on the measures in place or the steps to take.
If your home is near a water body or a watercourse, monitor the level and flow of watercourses (in French only).
If your home is on the shores of the St. Lawrence River, consult the tide table for your region.
Follow prevention tips
Protect your home
Protect your home by taking the following precautions:
- Move your valuables to an upper floor, as well as any items that can be removed from the basement or ground floor.
- Put chemicals or harmful products, such as insecticides and waste oil, in a safe place. When putting them back, make sure that they are out of children’s reach.
- Block sewers in the basement to avoid backflow, in the absence of an anti-backflow valve (device that prevents the sewage from an overloaded main sewer line from backing up into the basement).
- Plug the floor drain in the basement to reduce the amount of water that may come up through the drainpipe.
- Use a backup sump pump (an emergency pump) to pump out the water if your backwater valve or primary sump pump are defective or not up to the task of removing all the water from your home. Backup sump pumps can be run on three emergency power sources: battery, generator and a water system. These pumps are sold at most big-box stores. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the type of pump and power source you are using.
- Place bags of sand and membranes (PDF, 70 kB) in front of each entrance and opening (doors, garage and coping) if the municipality advises you to do so.
- Remove from your yard all objects that can be easily moved, to ensure that they are not tossed about or swept away by the waves or current. Secure all bulky objects outdoors that could be carried away by the water, posing a threat to others.
- Protect the windows facing the St. Lawrence River with plywood.
You may be eligible to be reimbursed for certain expenses incurred to protect your home. Keep your receipts for materials and labour.
Electricity and natural gas
If water is threatening to flood your home:
- Shut off the power to prevent electrocution or fire hazards. However if water is beginning to flood your home, do not shut off the power. Immediately contact Hydro-Québec at 1 800 790-2424.
- Turn off the main gas inlet, keeping in mind that it will need to be turned back on by a specialist, and turn off the valves on propane bottles and tanks.
- Turn off the outlet valve of the fuel oil tank, keeping in mind that the integrity of the tank will have to be verified by a specialist before it is turned back on.
During a flood or any other emergency situation, keep some basic guidelines in mind. If you are evacuated, be sure to inform your municipality of where you will be staying. If the media asks for an interview, remember that you are always free to decide whether or not you wish to participate. Determining basic guidelines will help you adapt more easily during a difficult time.
Take action during a flood or breaking waves
Take the following steps:
Electricity and natural gas
- If water is beginning to flood your home, do not shut off the power. Do not touch anything! Immediately contact Hydro-Québec at 1 800 790-2424 to have the power shut off at the meter or pole.
- Be careful when using temporary electrical installations or backup heating (for example, camping equipment). Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Non-electrical backup appliances designed for outdoor use (such as gas barbecues and camping equipment) should never be used indoors because carbon monoxide poisoning can be serious and even fatal.
- Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- If you smell natural gas or if you notice that the gas equipment is damaged, leave the room immediately. Contact your gas distributor’s emergency services.
- If you have a generator, follow the instructions for its installation and use.
- Make sure that food is safe (in French only) before eating it. Many kinds of food spoil quickly when not kept cool in a refrigerator. Discard any food that shows signs of deterioration.
- Do not use medication that must be kept refrigerated if it has not been properly stored. Take it to the pharmacy. They will properly dispose of it.
- During the winter, monitor signs of hypothermia.
- Water from private wells should be considered unsafe and unfit for consumption, even if it seems clear and odourless. Drink bottled water until you know the well water is safe. If you are unable to obtain bottled water, you can drink the well water provided you boil it at a rolling boil for at least 1 minute.
- Water from local waterworks should be considered safe and fit for consumption unless the municipal waterworks authorities inform you otherwise. In case of uncertainty (odd taste, smell or colour), call the municipal authorities before using it.
- Before setting out, check road conditions at www.quebec511.info, or by calling 511.
- Avoid walking or driving on flooded roads. Abandon your vehicle if the water level causes the engine to stall, to avoid being swept away.
- Flood-damaged road vehicles must never be put back into operation. This includes motorcycles and recreational vehicles (motor homes, camping trailers).
- Do not try to retrieve objects swept away by the waves or current, as you could be swept away as well.
- If you have a septic system, make sure it is in proper condition.
- Inform the authorities of any hazardous situation, such as downed power lines on the road or heavy objects swept away by the current.
- Consult the media in your area to obtain a status report and find out about the procedures to be followed.
- Consult your municipality’s website and the government website Urgence Québec, as well as their corresponding social media accounts, to obtain up-to-date information.
Evacuate your home
If the authorities require it or you believe your safety is in jeopardy, evacuate your home. Inform your family or the municipality of the place where you plan to stay temporarily.
Return to your home
If the authorities allow it and your safety is not jeopardized, return to your home, preferably during the day, when problems and hazards are easier to see. When you arrive, take pictures to document the damage to your home.
Know what to do after a disaster
Consult the After a disaster section to learn instructions and recommendations for getting back to normal in a safe manner.
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