Even the best of plans by your local government can only do so much. It is up to you to follow three steps to Emergency Preparedness at home or at work:
PreparedBC (Province of British Columbia)
Get Prepared (Government of Canada)
Take away the stress by preparing now for wildfires, floods, and other emergencies (Public Service Announcment)
We’re in this together. Wildfire prevention can happen at home, in the backcountry, and through larger-scale fire and fuel management planning. Learn what you can do to help. Click here for more information.
Wildland-Urban Interface Fire
Research has shown that a house with both a fire resistant roof and a FireSmart zone surrounding it is 85 percent more likely to survive a wildfire than one that is not so prepared.
Flood Preparation and Response
What is the responsibility of property owners in flood preparation and response?
In British Columbia, property owners are responsible for taking the necessary steps on their property to protect their home and property from flooding, while government emergency programs focus on broader flood response measures. The RDOS will provide sand and sandbags for property owners as needed, in addition to information about sandbag placement. During a flooding emergency, Emergency Management BC (EMBC) may assist with funding for response works such as tiger dams, sandbags and other emergency resources.
Flooding on private property will typically occur as a result of high stream flow, pooling or slow rising water from a body of water. The following should be considered for protecting your property from flooding:
Assess - Determine potential sources of flooding that may impact your property
Act early - Preparing flood protection takes time and requires manual labour
Focus your efforts – Work on the most effective methods to protect your property for the type of flood risk; to protect the most important areas such as your home or areas where the greatest damage may occur
Be Safe – Avoid working alone around flowing water, use proper safety equipment and techniques to avoid injury
Get Help – Sandbagging is labour intensive and physically demanding work
Communicate - Work with your neighbours; coordinating work with adjacent properties may provide more effective flood defenses
Invest – Properties with routine flooding may wish to invest in improved flood defences that can be quickly deployed and are less labour intensive to put in place than sandbags
Streams and flowing water - Create sandbag walls or other barrier type flood defences alongside the stream; contain the stream or re-direct the flow away from your home and other critical areas of your property; be aware that backing up of flow may cause water to rise or back flow into unprotected areas
Pooling or slow rising water from a body of water - Create sandbag walls with heavy duty poly or plastic sheeting incorporated to completely surround a structure; have pumps on hand to remove seepage of water from within the protected area; be aware that power may be out or disconnected – Have a generator on hand if needed
Property owners are responsible for preparing for emergencies by developing family emergency plans, building emergency kits, and obtaining insurance for unforeseen emergencies such as flooding.
Residents who have previously been impacted by the spring run-off should prepare their properties with flood protection methods.
Emergency Management in BC is supported by a well-practiced and highly regarded structure that involves your local communities developing Emergency Plans. During major incidents or emergencies, these local plans are supported by responders and staff at the local level, supported in turn by the Province through Emergency Management BC.
In our region, these local programs are developed in a collaborative manner and a single plan for the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen ensures the highest level of support to residents. This plan has been used many times over the years in times of wildfire, flooding and other major incidents.
Roles and Responsibilites
The RDOS actively works with the province through Emergency Management BC (EMBC) to prepare for and respond to emergencies that occur within the region. During flooding, the RDOS coordinates response efforts including provision of sand and sandbags, tiger dams, and other flood response assets for impacted areas. The RDOS works to keep residents informed about Emergency Support Services (ESS) available to evacuees and information about best practices such sand sandbag placement or re-entering homes after flooding has occurred.
- The RDOS does not have jurisdiction over roads, roadside ditches, streams or water bodies outside of an emergency situation. The RDOS works with provincial ministries during emergencies to address response measures in these areas.
- The RDOS has no jurisdiction to commence any preparedness, emergency response, or undertake mitigation ‘works’ on private property until a State of Local Emergency (SOLE) is declared. A declaration is only made during an event of a magnitude that poses an imminent risk to life, or widespread damage to public infrastructure or homes.
Frequently Asked Questions
+ What is freshet?
Freshet can become a problem when winter snow packs melt rapidly, overwhelming stream channels and creating floods. Freshet flooding can usually be forecast by monitoring snow packs and weather, and examining stream capacity data.
Spring freshet can also destabilize soil and rock, causing mudslides, landslides and rock slides.
+ What is the difference between freshet and groundwater?
- The difference is overland flow versus seepage.
- Water will overtop stream banks when flows are greater than the stream's capacity to convey the volume of water from rain events and spring snow melt.
- Groundwater damage will occur from seepage that occurs below the surface and finds its way through cracks and porous areas of a structure’s foundation.
- Groundwater can be unpredictable. If property owners have historically experienced wet basements or seepage, they should prepare accordingly. Suggestions include installing a sump pump inside, below floor, or outside the structure, below basement level, at the location of seeping and/or making sure foundation drains (if present) are working.
+ What if I am worried my property will flood?
- Private property owners are responsible for protecting their structures from possible flood damage and anyone who has historically experienced flooding should prepare accordingly. Equipping yourself with a flood plan and the tools needed in case of a flood can help prepare you.
- Suggestions include making sure the ground is sloped away from your structures and water is directed away from your house by ditching or piping.
- Do not to pump water into the sanitary sewer system.
- Prepare a 72-hour kit for your family that includes food, water, a first-aid kit, identification and medications. For more information, visit the resources page.
72-hour kit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery
- Know where the power and water shut-off is in your house.
- Place your important documents and identification on an upper floor in a sealed plastic bag.
- Have an evacuation plan, including for your pets or livestock.
- Review insurance available for your property – some coverage is available for overland flow (groundwater damage is typically not covered).
- Emergency Management BC expects property owners to obtain flood insurance, when and where available. Property owners who choose not to obtain flood insurance, where available, may not be eligible for Disaster Financial Assistance.
+ I live on the lake – what should I do?
- Residents who live in low-lying waterfront areas, or were impacted by 2017 rising lake levels are encouraged to take similar precautions and use sandbags or other measures to protect their private property.
- Other small area lakes may fluctuate more and monitoring is an on-going process.
- Residents are encouraged to secure docks and boats. Residents undertaking repairs to docks and/or retaining walls are required to apply for a permit from the Province (FrontCounter BC) 1-877-855-3222;
- You can monitor Okanagan Lake Levels at wateroffice.ec.gc.ca. (hyperlink below) Okanagan Lake reaches full pool at 342.48; however, full pool does not indicate flooding.
- The Province has set a target of having the lake reach full pool in the spring to try and ensure adequate water supply through the summer.
+ What if I need to build a sandbag wall or dike?
In the event a property owner needs to construct a sandbag wall or dike to protect their property, please review the tips and information below.
For sandbag pick-up locations, access the RDOS Emergency Map.
Sandbagging Video: Click Here
Landslides are one of the top 10 emergency hazards in British Columbia. Recognize the danger signs, including falling rocks or boulders, abnormally dirty water, a faint rumbling sound or unusual sounds such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together. Learn how to protect your home and property.
- If you live on a hillside, near the bottom of a slope, at the bottom of a drainage, or other similar locations you should review your risk for slope instability and landslides.
If a landslide has occurred, stay away from the area as there may still be a danger of further slide activity or some flooding may occur in the aftermath.