Natural disasters can happen at any time and to anyone or thing. Recent examples like the flooding in both the South-African province of KwaZulu-Natal and British Columbia, and the forest fires seen in Los Angeles have, once again, reiterated the importance of being prepared for when things simply go wrong. Between 2000 and 2019, there has been an average of 361 disasters annually. In 2019, approximately 91 million people worldwide were affected by natural disasters. It is also reported that four billion people experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year, according to a study done by Science.org.
Understanding your area
There’s no telling when something can happen, and it’s better to be prepared than unprepared. This means taking preventive measures to ensure a home or office’s safety. To start, “Having situational awareness of your surroundings is so important in the conversation around protecting your home. You need to know where your risks are and if your home could be in danger,” said George Edward Van Giesen, RainCycle national sales manager at Watts.
Knowing where your potential risks are is critical in the building process. As Toby Messier, director of commercialization and climate solutions at Sustainalytics, explains, “Our company’s goal is to enable different players in the real estate market to develop awareness about what climate change means and also the impact of climate risks to their properties, investments, loans. This allows them to factor in climate risks into their decision making.” Sustainalytics is a data company that assesses how resilient a property is to different types of climate hazards. The company collects data regarding the property itself and also climate information. Then they will develop models that allow them to estimate how a property can be affected in the future.
“For every property, our model will output a score. For example, 100 being disastrous and zero being no risk at all. The model will tell us where the property stands in terms of risk and also how the property stands relative to nearby properties. It will also tell us what the expected losses could be over the next 10 years in the event of a climate disaster,” said Messier.
Understanding the potential risks is essential in the building process as it allows engineers and developers to make crucial decisions in developing and protecting their properties. As Messier explains, “It’s important to understand how climate change will affect us in the future. What will an area look like in the next five to 10 years and how do we prepare this property?”
Natural disasters or emergencies don’t just affect individuals but rather the whole community. As a result, communities and local governments need to work together on providing solutions for said disasters, explains Dave Dunbar, national sales manager at General Pipe Cleaners. “The US Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that the private sewage lines going from your house or your street to the mainline leak. These pipes leak, and the connection between your pipes, the main drain leaks, and they leak so much, every time there’s rain, freshwater gets into the sewage treatment system.”
When it comes to protecting your plumbing system in an emergency, there are many things homeowners and business owners should know. An essential first step is “ensuring your family, tenants, or employees know how or where to locate the gas, electric, and water shutdown controls and how to deactivate them in the event of an emergency,” said Dunbar.
Arguably one of the most critical prevention methods, backflow prevention is vital to providing safe and clean water. Backflow can occur in various scenarios, whether it’s a broken washing machine hose, floods, or sudden changes in water pressure. One such product is a Floor-Guard made by General Pipe Cleaners, which protects homes and businesses protection from high water levels. The Floor-Guard “floats on a pin, and when the water level rises underneath it, it floats up, and that will keep water from coming up the pipe in someone’s basement,” explained Dunbar.
It’s always better to do the work earlier rather than later, Dunbar explains. Homeowners must do the work early to protect their houses. As Dunbar explains, “We’ve always noticed that there’s a real need to use our equipment after a climate emergency. Suddenly, we’re selling thousands of pieces of equipment because people just went through it. It’s fresh in their minds.”
Another critical step in preparing for an emergency is ensuring a home or office has a supply of safe water. This can be accomplished by incorporating a rainwater harvesting system into the home or building design as it allows for the collection of water to be used in the event of an emergency.
As Van Giesen explains, “The RainCycle rainwater harvesting system consists of three primary elements: inlet pre-filtration, storage, and filtration/treatment/distribution. If you don’t have all three of these items, you really do NOT have a rainwater harvesting system.”
Collected rainwater can be used for potable and non-potable uses. Rainwater can also be used to supplement a wastewater treatment system, such as a grey water or as a black water reuse system. As Van Giesen explains, “Waste water can come from showers, toilets, washing machines, and we’re beginning to see how we can tap into recycling wastewater and using it as an additional water source for non-potable applications.”
Rainwater harvesting systems are more commonly seen on residential projects but have been in increasing demand in the commercial sector. “The cost of these systems depends on the storage volume and the system’s daily processing capacity. It also depends on how much of the roof’s surface will be directing water to the storage tank,” said Van Giesen. Depending on the project, a rainwater harvesting system could have water storage tanks placed above or below ground. The collected rainwater can be used year-round or seasonally.
Canada still has some work to be done regarding flood preparedness. This is evident in a recent report conducted by the University of Waterloo titled “Climate Change and the Preparedness of the 16 Major Canadian Cities to Limit Flood Risk.”
This report showed the findings showed that the average grade for Canadian cities was a C-plus, which was the same score back in the 2015 edition. One of the ways the City of Toronto has prepared its residents is through its “Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program.” Owners of a single-family, duplex, or triplex residential home could be eligible for a subsidy of up to $3,400 per property to install flood protection devices. Eligible work through the program includes installing a backwater valve, a sump pump, severance and capping of a home’s storm sewer or external weeping tile connection.