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Flood risk advice: the three stages of flooding

Over five million people* in England and Wales live and work in properties that have some flood risk from nearby rivers or the sea, according to figures from the Environment Agency. However, surface water is also a source of flooding and can affect any property.

The 2012 floods in England demonstrate that floods can be surprisingly quick to develop. Many people had less than half an hour’s warning of a river or stream bursting its banks. While it’s not possible to completely flood-proof a property, it’s important to have flood defences in place to help reduce the damage flooding can cause.

1. Flood risk assessments

If you live in a flood risk area carrying out a flood risk assessment will help you to decide what practical action to take before and during a flood. It can also help reduce the damage flooding can cause.

  • After you’ve carried out your flood risk assessment, prepare a flood kit of essentials. Items such as: a broom, spade, mop and bucket, domestic detergent and disinfectant, rubber gloves and wellingtons.

  • Make sure you know how to turn off your gas electricity and water if you need to evacuate your home.
    If you know your home is at risk, consider investing in flood defences, flood prevention devices, to stop water coming in.

  • You could also consider fitting non-return valves to drains and water inlet and outlet pipes to stop water and sewage backing up in to the house.

  • There are things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of flood water getting in to your property such as fitting flood boards. However, in the case of bigger floods the water actually needs to get in to the property because otherwise the weight of the water outside can cause the building to collapse.

2. Advice during a flood

The key piece of flood advice is ‘safety comes first’. Think about evacuation before it is too late to move.
If flood water is about to enter your home, turn off the gas, electricity and water and never touch sources of electricity when there is standing flood water.

Move your valuable possessions, sentimental and irreplaceable items to safety. Take as much furniture as you can to the upper floors of your home. If you can’t move them lift them on to blocks or bricks to minimise the damage caused by the flood water.

If you know you live in a flood risk area, or if you want to find out, the Environment Agency has a free floodline warning system. It gives advance notice of flooding which can give you valuable time to prepare yourself and your home against the flood. To find out more or to register go to: Floodline.

Flash flooding, especially from a build up of surface water is also a real threat as the recent floods in England have demonstrated. Even homes not in flood risk areas can be affected. Properties with basement rooms are particularly at risk because the water can pour in off the street quickly, inundating the room.

3. Flood restoration – after the flood

Call your insurer as soon as possible after the flood to report your claim. Your insurer will have access to a wide range of specialists to help with the drying out, cleaning up and restoring your property after a flood.

Take photographs of any damage to the building and your belongings. Don’t throw anything away until you have spoken to your insurance company and you have been told it is ok to do so.

If there is any chance that electric sockets have come in to contact with the flood water, and you did not switch off the electricity before the water entered your home, turn it off at the mains.

Always have a qualified electrician check the electrics before you switch it back on. If you have turned off your gas supply make sure a GasSafe registered tradesperson checks that too before it is turned back on.

Due to the amount and scale of damage a flood can cause it is important to think about just how much you have in your home and the cost of replacing it all if you are not insured, or are under insured.

Baptist Insurance’s buildings and contents insurance has flood cover as standard. If you are not sure how well your home insurance covers the effects of flooding then it is well worth contacting your insurer for advice.


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