British Columbia

Flood prep 101: how to protect your home and belongings

Sandbagging isn't the only thing you can do.

Being proactive can be the key to minimizing flood damage, say experts

Wall of sandbags protecting a home on Gellatly Road in the City of West Kelowna. (Manjula Dufresne/CBC)

With Kelowna's mayor warning residents to prepare for potentially dramatic flooding, as heavy rain returns to the Southern Interior, local authorities are urging Okanagan residents to be proactive about protecting their properties.

Adrian Nieoczym, an information officer with the Emergency Operations Centre for the Regional District of the Central Okanagan, said local authorities are "doing our best to plan for the worst."

So, what actions can you take to prepare your home as floodwaters continue to rise? 

1. Sandbag, sandbag, sandbag

"The best defence is sandbagging," Nieoczym said. 

It may seem like a no-brainer, but there's actually a specific technique that will make your makeshift dike as watertight as possible.

Emergency B.C. recommends locating your sandbag dike on high ground as close as possible to your home. Sacks should be half-filled with clay, silt or sand, with the unfilled portion overlapping under the next sack.

Trucks are currently replenishing sand piles and sandbags around Kelowna. For a full list of locations where you can pick up sand and sand bags, click here.

City of Kelowna residents help pack sandbags with free sand provided by the City. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

2. Stay informed

Getting the most up to date information as soon as it's made available can help you make key decisions. 

"We're asking people to be as proactive as possible. We don't have specific maps, in terms of the areas that could be affected. The reason for that is, this is a one-in-200 year event. We're not really sure where could be affected," said Nieoczym.

He recommends signing up for alerts on the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations site to have the latest updates sent directly to your phone. 

Real time streamflow data can also be viewed on the River Forecast Centre's website.

3. Keep an emergency kit on hand

An emergency flood kit can play a key role in keeping you safe.

Pack items like a First Aid kit, a three day supply of non-perishable food and water, a battery-powered flashlight and radio, and cash.

Keep appropriate footwear and outdoor wear on hand in case you need to leave your home suddenly. 

4. Prep your home

Actions as small as moving your valuables to high shelves or a second floor can make a huge difference in the aftermath of a flood. 

Raising your fridge and appliances onto platforms, moving a hot water tank upstairs and anchoring fuel sources can also prevent serious damage.

When you have more time to plan, sealing cracks in the foundation and around doors and windows and installing backflow valves on drains can also help flood-proof your home. 

Sandbags at the entrance to the Holiday park resort near Kelowna. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

5. After the flood

Once water levels start to recede, it's still important to remain cautious when moving around. 

Be aware that floodwaters can erode roads, making them less stable and never drive through areas that are still flooded.

Emergency B.C. also recommends avoiding standing in water, as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.

Take photos of any damage to your property, so you're prepared when you speak to your insurance agent.

For more information on preparing for a flood, consult B.C.'s Flood Preparation Guide.