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How to prepare for floods and flooding

More properties than ever are at risk of flooding. If your home is among them, it can pay to take steps to protect it and minimise damage.

Kim Jones
Kim Jones
Updated 6 December 2021  | 5 mins read

According to the Environment Agency 5.2 million properties in England - that’s one in six properties - are at risk from flooding from rivers, seas and surface water.

Rising sea levels and more frequent rain storms caused by climate change are only set to exacerbate the problem.

But there’s lots you can do to help protect your property.

Key points

  • You can find out online if you live in an area at-risk from flooding. Knowing the risks for your home can make you better prepared
  • Sign up for flood alerts so you can take action in time if a flood is likely
  • There’s lots you can do to make your home more resilient to flooding, including installing flood boards at doors and windows

Before floods

Find out if you live in an at-risk area

You can find out if the area you live in is at long-term risk of flooding by keying in your postcode at:

gov.uk for England

sepa.org.uk for Scotland

naturalresources.wales for Wales

nidirect.gov.uk for Northern Ireland

You can also check these government sites for live flood warnings, river, sea, groundwater and rainfall levels.

Sign up for flood warnings

Be sure you’re aware of any forthcoming floods by signing up for free to get flood warnings in England, Scotland or Wales.

You’ll need to provide your address, plus how you’d like to be contacted any time of the day or night - whether by phone, text or email.

You can also call Floodline 0345 988 1188 - a 24 hour service for flood warning information and general advice.

Move treasured possessions to a safe place

Photo albums and personal mementoes that can’t be replaced should be moved somewhere safe or upstairs. Don’t wait until a flood is happening to move them as it may be too late or too dangerous.

Write up a personal flood plan

  • Agree a plan as to where you will go in the event of having to leave your home plus who might be able to help you and who may be in need of your help.
  • Check with your council if pets are allowed at evacuation centres - most allow them, but it’s best to be sure.
  • Know where to get hold of sandbags.
  • Make a list of what you’d need to move in the event of a flood (things like your car, furniture and so on) and where you’d move them to.
  • Know in advance how and where you can shut off your electric, water and gas supply.

Prepare a ‘flood kit’ in the event of evacuation

This should be kept in a safe place and can include things like:

  • Contact numbers for your local authority emergency helpline, home insurance company 24-hour number and policy number, neighbours, local police station, gas, electricity and water supplier numbers.
  • Warm, waterproof clothing and blankets, water, food, essential medication, gloves, wellingtons, a torch, baby food and baby care items, pet food and pet carriers.

If a flood is expected in your area:

  • Move furniture and electrical equipment, plus sentimental items and important documents to safety indoors. Move your car away from risk.
  • Take up rugs and carpets if you can. Remove curtains or drape them high up over their rods.
  • Turn off electricity, gas and water supplies.
  • Put sandbags in place and fix flood boards to doors.

How to reduce the impact of floods

If your home is at risk of flooding there’s lots you can put in place to help protect it and make it more resilient to damage.

Flood protection equipment that can help includes:

Flood boards

These can be fixed to your doors and windows when a flood warning is in place.

Plastic covers for air bricks

These will seal air bricks to prevent water from entering your property.

Sandbags

Check if your local authority has these ready to send out at times of flooding and if they charge for this service. Alternatively, buy your own at DIY or building supply stores.

Visit bluepages.co.uk , an independent directory of property flood protection products and services from the National Flood Forum.

Making a few home improvements could mean less damage and an easier, and cheaper, clean-up too:

  • Lay ceramic tiles instead of carpets on floors.
  • Move electrical sockets to at least 1.5 metres up the wall.
  • Fit non-return valves to drains and water inlet pipes.
  • Fit a boiler upstairs or high above ground level.

During floods

In the event of a severe flood warning, there can be danger to life so you’ll need to be prepared to act swiftly and calmly.

  • Keep yourself and your family safe. Your first priority should be safety. Get to a safe place with a means of escape, away from flood water. Be ready to leave your home. Follow the advice of the emergency services.
  • Stay within or leave your home if you're told so. If evacuated, you will be taken to an evacuation centre run by your local council.
  • If in imminent danger, call 999 for the emergency services.

What to do after a flood

When you’re sure it’s safe to return to your home, take care when entering as there may be hidden dangers in floodwater such as sharp objects and sewage pollution.

If your supply hasn’t been switched off at the mains, do not on any account touch sources of electricity when standing in flood water. Get a qualified electrician to come to the property to switch off the power.

Cleaning up after a flood

In many cases, your insurance company can pay for professional help to clean up your property.

The clean up will usually involve:

  • Pumping out water from your home using a generator
  • Cleaning and disinfecting the property. Avid high pressure hoses as they can blast contaminated particles into the air.
  • Drying out the property with dehumidifiers.
  • Local councils can supply skips and advise you on disposal of sandbags as they may need to be treated as contaminated waste.

Home insurance and flooding

According to the Chartered Insurance Institute, the average household flood claim amounts to £50,000.

That’s a staggering amount of money to stump up if you were affected by flooding, so it’s wise to ensure that you take out a home insurance policy to cover your home and contents.

Check how much your policy covers you for flooding, if the policy replaces your items new for old, and if it has a limit on repairs.

Making a claim

You should inform your insurer about flooding as soon as possible.

They’ll let you know whether you should clean the property or if they will send professionals to do that for you.

Many policies also cover the cost of temporary accommodation where you can stay while clean-up and repairs are underway. This could be in a B&B or rented property.

Your insurance provider will send a loss adjuster to your property to inspect the damage and to confirm what repairs and replacements will be covered by your policy.

Keep a record of flood damage for future reference.

  • Mark the height of flood waters on the walls in every room affected.
  • Photograph or video all damage to your home and contents.
  • List all parts of the property and contents damaged and, if your policy covers it, all food spoilt too.

Even if you live in an area at risk of flood or have made a flood claim in the past, it should still be possible to get reasonably priced insurance thanks to the Flood Re scheme. Under the scheme, your insurer pays out if you make a valid claim for flood damage, but it can then claim back a proportion of the money from the Flood Re fund. This reduces the insurer’s financial risk, so it can offer you cheaper cover.

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