06/26/2013 07:09 EDT | Updated 08/22/2013 05:12 EDT

FLOODIQUETTE: 7 Civil Suggestions for Dealing with the Deluge

Alberta is about to mop up a massive mess. Mother Nature has shown us, in no uncertain terms, who the boss is.

The ferocity of the floods we are facing is mind-boggling. Tens of thousands of people are displaced, countless homes and businesses are damaged, and an infinite number of dreams, plans, and schedules have been washed away. It is devastating.

Even if the flood hasn't directly affected you, no doubt some of your friends, relatives, colleagues, or service providers are living out of a suitcase, walking around in a daze, and wondering how on earth they're ever going to recover.

Dealing with a disaster of this degree is unprecedented for us. And, like with any sudden and scary change, it helps to have guidelines for managing the magnitude of what we're up against.

Here are 7 suggestions to help you wade through this mess with respect, grace, and civility:

1. Follow the leader: When this tragedy began to unfold authorities immediately stepped up, banded together, and calmly shared pertinent information at regular intervals via multiple means. Since then, strong teams of leaders from all levels of government have consistently updated us. The media, both traditional and social, has stood tirelessly by their sides to help spread the word. Collectively they are demonstrating a great deal of respect for us, and we owe it to them to return the favour. Let's agree to honour their instructions and do what they ask us to do. If they say, "Stay away from the river," they mean STAY AWAY FROM THE RIVER!

2. Lend a hand - or an ear: It is heartwarming to see how many individuals and organizations have offered their help from the moment this catastrophe started. Thousands of professionals, volunteers and bystanders have, and will continue to, put their lives in peril to save people, rescue animals and mitigate damage. Some have literally moved mountains. From supporting pop-up and formal fundraisers to simply listening to someone who needs to share their story, there are endless ways to keep up the good work others so selflessly started.

3. Don't be a looky-loo: The astonishing post-flood sights in our cities, towns and municipalities are undeniably eye-catching. They can also be dangerous. Don't risk harming yourself and others by taking unnecessary risks just to get a good look at something or snap the perfect picture. If you see caution tape, roadblocks, or even a hand-scrawled Do Not Enter sign, observe the request.

4. Be patient: It's going to take a long, long time to recover from this. Many people will be simultaneously sorting through paperwork, arranging repairs, comforting loved ones, and reorganizing their entire lives - all while trying to work and tend to their families. As a result, they are bound to be late, distracted and emotional. Businesses of all sizes will need time to regroup, reschedule, and in some cases, relocate. You can show your support by cutting everyone, including yourself, some slack.

5. Ask for help: This experience has been remarkably humbling. It can be hard to seek assistance, especially when you're used to being self-sufficient. Ask for what you need, whether it's physical, emotional, financial, or spiritual support. There are plenty of people and resources to help.

6. Don't take advantage of the situation: As much as a disaster brings out the best in us, it can also bring out the worst. Sadly, there are some individuals who will use this situation to get out of their responsibilities. Don't be one of those people.

7. Learn from it: We hear about the benefits of simplifying our lives all the time. My home rests on the bank of The Mighty Bow. As I was running up and down the stairs, transferring our family treasures from the basement to the top floor, I had no choice but to become selective. It hit me how so many of the things we keep really are superfluous. Most of us can stand to lose a few pounds of extraneous stuff. Think about donating what you don't need to someone who can use it, and try to view this experience as a life lesson in decluttering, camaraderie, and provincial pride.

It is indisputable is that Albertans are resilient. We will recover. Our leadership is strong, our hearts are huge, and our capabilities are endless. Let's join together and show the world, and Mother Nature, just how nicely we clean up.