With the first of the winter storms already behind us, do you have a plan in place for what to do if you’re affected by a weather-related flood? If you live in one of the estimated one in six homes prone to flooding in the UK, it’s wise to know what to do should the worst happen.
Prevention is better than cure
Being prepared for potential flooding means you may be able to prevent water from entering your house in the first place. Keep a good supply of sandbags in the garden in readiness, and go around the outside of your house to see where else the water could get in. Ventilation bricks are a prime target; you can buy removable covers that you can fit to these in advance of the water rising.
Another way floodwater can get in is through your plumbing system, but fitting non-return valves to your pipes and drains will prevent this. What’s more, you can buy flood guards for external doors, which can be removed when they’re not needed. If you have the money to invest in more extensive flood prevention measures, you could have the damp-proof coursing raised and floors sealed inside your home. Landscaping your garden can also help divert the water away from the house.
In the house, ensure that important electrical equipment – your boiler, fuse box and so on – is raised above the water level; televisions should ideally be wall-mounted at least 1.5 metres up. If you can, replace ground floor carpets or wood floors with tiles, and use water-resistant materials where possible – lime plaster, stainless steel kitchen units and plastic furniture, for example.
When the water starts to rise
Make sure you’re on the mailing list for flood warnings (or here if you’re in Scotland). If your area is on high alert, get your sandbags and other temporary flood precautions in place. Move valuables, including important documents, upstairs, and if you can, turn off your water, electricity and gas supplies. Also turn off appliances that use water, such as your dishwasher and washing machine.
Be prepared to evacuate immediately if you’re asked to – including your pets. Don’t risk leaving too late and becoming trapped upstairs with no means of escape, and only return when you’re told it’s safe to do so.
If you’re in immediate danger, call 999. Otherwise, if you’re flooded, the dedicated Floodline number to phone for advice is 0345 988 1188 (0300 2000 100 in Northern Ireland), and it’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You may be able to get temporary accommodation by contacting your local council, and in Northern Ireland, you could even be entitled to an emergency payment of £1,000 from your local council if you’ve been flooded as a result of heavy rain; they’ll come to inspect your home and assess whether you’re eligible.
You’ll need to call your insurance company before you begin the clean-up operation, and they’ll advise on what to do next, including whether you’re able to make a claim. Finally, you’ll find official government advice on what to do in a flood here, and on clearing up after a flood here.