Understanding flood risk is key to protecting your family and property
The UK climate is changing and bringing more extreme weather events to our communities, including flooding. And with the Environment Agency warning intense bouts of flooding are set to become more frequent it makes sense to understand the risks you face and practical steps you can take to protect your home.
Is your home at risk of future flooding?
If you live in England, you can check the risk of flooding in your area by searching the Environment Agency Flood Map. You can also request the flooding history of a property from the Environment Agency. This is usually free but more details are available on its Find out if you’re at risk of flooding in England webpage.
Make your home flood resistant and resilient
There are two categories that flood protection falls into and ideally buildings at risk should be fitted with both.
While it is impossible to completely flood-proof a property, flood resistance measures can help prevent water getting into buildings. Examples include:
- removable barriers on doors and windows
- temporary seals for doors and air bricks
- one-way valves on toilets and drainage pipes to decrease the risk of sewage backing up into a building during a flood
- pump and sump systems which drain water from below floor level faster than it rises.
If the flood water on the outside of your property becomes deeper than 1m, it is recommended that the water is allowed to come into your home as this depth of water can create sufficient pressure on your outer walls, causing them to move and collapse and resulting in serious structural damage. At this point, or if water has already found its way in, flood resilience measures will come into effect.
Flood resilience measures ensure minimal damage is done if water does get in. Examples include:
- using ceramic or stone tiles instead of laminate or wood flooring
- raising electrical sockets to above 1.5m
- fitting stainless steel or solid wood kitchens instead of chipboard
- replacing wooden window frames with UPVC.
Flood protection for older and period properties
For people living in listed buildings and other historic properties, there may be additional issues to consider when it comes to making your home flood resistant and resilient.
An extensive guide produced by Historic England offers advice for homeowners before, during and after flooding. Before making any flood protection changes to a historic building or homes in conservation areas you should:
- consider appointing an architect or building surveyor with experience in repairing and adapting historic buildings to advise on flood resistance measures suitable for your home
- find out whether statutory consent is required for any permanent measures (your local authority or conservation officer will be able to advise)
- don’t use products which create an impermeable barrier to the external wall of the property, these can trap damp within the building and increase long term damage
- ensure some floorboards can be lifted when floodwater subsides as it will assist drying and allow water to be pumped out of the sub-floor void
- use traditional materials such as solid wood, lime plaster and tiled floors and surfaces which are easier to recover than many modern materials.
Making a flood plan and preparing a flood floor kit
You shouldn’t wait for the risk of a flood before you start planning how you would respond. Planning ahead means you can act swiftly to ensure everyone is safe should flooding occur.
Creating a written flood plan can act as a helpful reference to help you to think clearly and act responsibly at a time when panic could easily set in.
A flood plan should include a list of useful numbers and references, including:
- Environment Agency Floodline 0345 988 1188
- local authority emergency helpline
- insurance company 24-hour number and policy number
- local radio station frequency for news alerts and weather updates
- family and neighbours
- work phone numbers
- doctor’s surgery
- local police station
- local hotel or B&B
- gas, electricity and water suppliers and meter numbers
A checklist will also be useful to remind you about what to do and what order should your home be at risk of flooding. A typical list might include:
- move furniture and electrical items to safety
- put flood boards, polythene and sandbags in place
- turn off electricity, water and gas supplies
- roll up carpets and rugs
- move sentimental items to safety
- put important documents in polythene bags and move to safety.
Having a bag filled with items you would need in the event of a flood is also a good idea as it will save time should you be caught unaware. A flood kit might include a torch, warm and waterproof clothing, water, food, medication, toys for children and pets, rubber gloves and wellingtons.