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Home Flood Protection Program empowering homeowners to take action

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As intense rainfall events continue to increase across Canada, more homeowners should be vigilant about reducing the risk of basement flooding, say University of Waterloo program experts.

The university’s Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation (ICCA) developed a Home Flood Protection Program as a blueprint for taking action against basement flooding, a consequence that is costing homeowners an average of $43,000 per incident, according to records from the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

The centre’s education program has already been successfully piloted in cities such as Toronto and Saskatoon, where homeowners utilized a three-pronged strategy consisting of assessment services, outreach strategies, and tools and tips for taking action at various price points both outside and inside the home.

“Reducing residential basement flood risk at a national scale is a complex challenge that will involve building on the successful work already underway by governments, not-for-profits, academia, retailers, and insurance companies to educate residents and provide financial incentives where possible, to help homeowners take sustained action to reduce flood risk,” states a program report authored by the ICCA’s Cheryl Evans and Dr. Blair Feltmate.

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Cities such as Burlington, Ontario, have seen an increase of severe storms in recent years. In August 2014, for instance, intense rain flooded about 3,500 basements in the community of just over 200,000 residents. Following the creation of the ICCA, city officials looked to engage its flooding experts and attempt a broad-based outreach to educate Burlington homeowners and offer flood-risk assessments.

Similar efforts occurred within Toronto and Saskatoon in 2018.

Part of the program’s intent is for homeowners to empower themselves and take action, some of which can be done without the help of a contractor. Some of the easiest options include removing debris from the nearest storm drain outside and floor drain inside; cleaning eavestroughs; extending downspouts; installing window wells and covers; and storing basement valuables in watertight containers.

Additionally, some basic work that can be very effective yet requires some professional help, could be to correct the grading around the foundation; install and maintain a backwater valve and flood alarm; replace deteriorating pipes; or to test the sump pump and install backup power.

When it comes to some of the top flood risks outside the home, the ICCA points to cracks or gaps in windows or frames; proper sump discharge; clogged drains; poor door seals; and below-grade downspout discharge.

During the pilot projects, the ICCA found that 82% of participating homes with window wells had wells that were not 10-15 cm above the surface of the ground and sealed at the foundation.

Inside the home, the pilot projects revealed that 85% of homes with sump pumps did not have a back-up sump pump and 84% did not have backup power in case of a power outage. Additionally, when it came to homes endangering their furniture and electronics in a flood-risk zone, 71% of participating assessment homes were taking that risk.

During the program’s pilot periods, 60% of participants completed actions that cost under $500 and could be completed by a knowledgeable or “handy” homeowner generally within a day.

Coordination of the flooding protection program has since moved from the university to private service providers.

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