Person with dark coloured rubber boots walking on puddles of water
5 minute read

The effects of heavy rainfall have spread nationwide this year; and it won’t stop this year—the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) estimates that storms, hurricanes and floods linked to climate change will cost the federal disaster fund $900 million annually over the coming five years.

94% of Canadians living in high-risk areas for flooding are unaware they are at risk.

Unfortunately, the lack of awareness and preparedness for flood damage can sometimes be more harmful than the floods themselves. One study found that 94% of Canadians living in areas with a high risk of flooding were unaware they were even at risk. While there are definitely things you can do as a small business owner to help prevent flooding and water damage, it is just as important to be prepared in the event that you experience a flood despite your best efforts. Here are some tips on what to do after a flood.

The average cost of a basement flood in a major urban city in Canada is $42,000.

Tips on what to do after a flood

Conduct an inspection

Discovering a flood at your business property can be an unpleasant experience, but taking the time to prepare in case of a flood can help take a little bit of the stress off. Flooding can shift, damage and move parts of your building’s structure, which can make entering the facility dangerous. Ensure that an expert, such as your friendly neighbourhood TruShield representative, has done a thorough examination of the premises before you re-enter the building. Below are some points to keep in mind:

  • Check for structural damage and don’t go inside if you suspect that the building or parts of it may collapse. If you see significant damage, have a qualified individual check the building before you enter.
  • Err on the side of caution. Assume that all stairs, floors, roofs and overhangs are unsafe until they’ve been inspected.
  • Shut off the water supply to the property if you haven’t already done so.
  • If you haven’t already done so, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the building’s service panel. If you’re unable to do this without stepping in water, have your utility company disconnect the power for you.
  • Don’t turn the power back on until all the electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
  • Take your time entering the building, and do so carefully. Turn right back around if you hear any unusual noises that could signal a possible collapse.
  • Check the ceiling for any signs of sagging. Water damage can saturate plaster or wallboard and cause it to become very heavy, which can be dangerous if it falls.
  • If you smell or hear anything that indicates a gas leak, open a window and leave the premises immediately. Once outside, call your gas company from a safe location to report the possible leak.
  • Keep in constant contact with your employees and instruct them not to return to the premises until you know it’s completely safe.

Always check for signs of structural damage, and don’t go inside if you suspect parts of the building may collapse.

 Watch out for hazardous materials

Depending on the type of business you operate, the flood waters can have different effects. If your business deals with any sort of hazardous materials, keep these points in mind:

  • If your business stores any sort of hazardous materials such as pesticides, chemicals or fuels, the flood waters can sometimes release them from their secure storage area. Don’t attempt to move any unidentified dislodged containers without first contacting your local fire department or hazardous materials team.
  • If you’re entering a potentially contaminated area, wear the appropriate protective clothing and respirators. Afterwards, thoroughly wash all clothing and any parts of your body that may have come in contact with the hazardous materials.

Beware of contaminated floodwaters

Even if your business doesn’t deal with hazardous materials, you may still be at risk for contamination.

  • Floodwaters can be contaminated by things such as sewage, medical waste, animal waste, fuels, asbestos or chemicals. After a flood, water-damaged buildings can often develop moulds, mildews and other unpleasant organisms.
  • You’re better safe than sorry—assume anything that’s been touched by floodwater is contaminated, and use the appropriate personal protective equipment to protect yourself.
  • If you have employees who will be entering the flood-damaged premises, make sure they’re all up-to-date on their tetanus shots.

Floodwaters can be contaminated by things such a sewage, medical waste, animal waste, fuels, asbestos or chemicals.

Document the damage

You’ll likely want to file a claim for the water damage with your insurance company, so it’s important to make sure you’re taking notes and documenting everything properly. Here are some tips to help:

  • Once it’s safe to re-enter your business property, conduct a preliminary tour of any area that was affected while wearing protective clothing.
  • Don’t move things around before you’ve documented their original location and condition.
  • Use your camera or video camera to take photographs or videos of the building’s structure, equipment, furnishing and any damaged inventory. It’s a good idea to make notes or take voice recordings during this step, as well.
  • Ensure all those involved in the incident have also taken notes. Ask any of your employees to document and keep written records of any contact they have with insurance agents and other investigators.

Keep your property secure

It’s likely that you won’t be able to get back to business right away, so it’s important to keep your business property safe and secure in the meantime.

  • Depending on the type of property you own and its location, you may want to hire temporary security guards to monitor the premises since alarm or security systems may not be working for a while.
  • If you do hire temporary security, provide them with a detailed list of individuals, such as employees or contractors, who have permission to be on the site.

We really hope you never experience a flood at your business, but there’s no guarantee. It’s best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best when it comes to flood damage. If you’re a TruShield customer with more questions on how to properly protect yourself from this risk, try our Risk Management Assist program. You have unlimited access to our team of Risk Services Specialists who can help guide you in areas such as flood prevention.

Flood damage isn’t just messy, it’s also expensive. Make sure you have the right insurance coverage to mitigate these costs if you ever experience a flood.

This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information.