What to do if you're in a flood zone — and how to help if you're not

Much of southern Quebec has been affected by flooding. Here's what you need to know.

Your guide to the 2019 floods in Quebec

Rescue workers help evacuees retrieve some belongings from flooded homes on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 in Ste-Marthe-sur-la-Lac, Que. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

We have updated this story as flooding continues to threaten parts of the province. To jump ahead to how to help, click here.

Much of southern Quebec has been affected by flooding.

Here's what you need to know if you are flooded, and how to help if you are not.

How to know if you're at risk

In Montreal, you can subscribe to notices and alerts on the city's website.

In other communities, check your municipal website or Urgence Québec.

How to prepare

Montreal's website has a helpful breakdown of things to do if you're at risk of flooding. One key piece of advice: get an emergency kit ready. It should contain the essentials you would need for up to 72 hours if you need to wait for emergency workers. There's an emergency kit checklist here.

Sandbag your home, if you haven't

In Montreal and elsewhere, officials have been putting up sandbags, dikes and other fortifications at strategic locations, but, in general, residents need to protect their own homes.

In Montreal, you can call 311 to find out where to get them if you haven't. Elsewhere, contact your municipality.

Where to go if there's an evacuation order

Montreal has a complete list of the shelters and community centres open during the flooding on its website. Urgence Québec also has a list of those open in communities across the province.

Who to call if you need help

In Montreal, you can call 311 for any information. People who feel they are in danger can call 911. If you're feeling overwhelmed by stress or anxiety, you can call Info-Santé at 811.

The Canadian Red Cross said depending on the level of damage they sustained, some households in Quebec will be receiving $600 to help meet immediate needs.  

When to cut the power

If your basement is in danger of flooding, cut the power to the entire home to prevent any danger of electrocution or fire. Make sure your feet are on dry ground and that you are not touching a metal object.

If your basement has already flooded, do not try to cut off the power on your own. Contact Hydro-Québec at 1-800-790-2424.

Can I drink the water?

Even if your house is flooded, you can safely drink tap water if your water is provided by the municipal water system. But check with your municipality to make sure their own water system hasn't been affected by the floods.

If your water comes from an artesian well, it is not potable. In this case, bring it to a full, rolling boil for one minute before drinking.

What if I need to run a generator?

Fire officials are reminding anyone running a propane or gas generator not to operate it indoors, to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Keep it outside to ensure proper ventilation.

Tips on returning to a flooded home

Dr. David Kaiser, a Montreal Public Health official, warns that even if flood waters don't look dirty, anything they've touched "needs to be considered as contaminated."

Kaiser said that people working to protect their homes, or re-entering ones that have been flooded, should wear protective gloves, boots and a N95 face mask, which can be bought at any hardware store.

"You might think, 'Well, it's not a sewage backup, it's just water from the river.' But in fact it can have all kinds of stuff in it," he said.

"Perishable foods that have been in contact with flood waters are not edible anymore. The same thing goes for medication."

Gérald Chouinard builds a dike with sandbags around his house in a flooded neighbourhood in Île-Bizard, Que. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

How to volunteer 

Laval residents who want to help can email their first and last name and address to benevoles‐mesures‐, and the city will contact you if they need you.

Volunteer West Island has also set up a special volunteer database. Contact the organization to find out where they need help the most.

Pierrefonds-Roxboro is asking for volunteers to help load sandbags onto trucks. Anyone who wants to help can head to Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School. The school is located on Pierrefonds Boulevard, which is currently closed due to flooding. But you can still get there by taking St-Jean Boulevard, Anselme-Lavigne Avenue and René-Émard Street.

The Red Cross has around 4,000 trained volunteers and says the best way to help is with financial donations. If you want to become a volunteer for future needs, you can sign up on the agency's website.

There are countless other volunteer efforts underway at the local level. Check with your local borough or municipality.

How to donate

The Red Cross and West Island Community Shares, an umbrella organization that supports charities on the West Island, have both set up special funds to help flood victims.

West Island Community Shares advises people to consider a gift card or money rather than food, given the circumstances.


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