The floods of 2013/14 are fresh in the memory of those affected. In the first week of February 2014 alone, 1,135 homes were flooded and 200,000 properties were issued with a flood warning. January saw all records being broken with the amount of rainfall; 151% more than the usual average. It was a very sad New Year for those mopping up rather than celebrating.
One sixth of all buildings in the UK are at risk of flooding at any time of the year and the clear-up costs for those affected topped £1 billion.
A flood hitting your home is an incredibly distressing and a potentially frightening experience. It is possible to safeguard your property in a number of ways though to minimise the risk altogether or to at least reduce the amount of damage caused.
A well maintained property will protect against the elements whether it’s snow, ice, frost or heavy rainfall.
With regards to flood protection, carrying out regular inspections and repairs to certain aspects of the building will help to keep it water tight and secure. Even if you don’t live by the sea or near a river, the risk of urban flashflooding is on the increase so no homeowner should ever be complacent and think a flood will never affect them. Carry out the following to help in the event of the issuing of a flood threat.
- Immediately fix any leaks
A leaking roof combined with even small cracks to the foundations can mean that water can get into your home. This in turn will slowly weaken the structure of your home. If you see a wet patch anywhere on the roof or any cracks in the foundations, fix immediately.
- Keep drains and gutters clear
Leaves and debris quickly build up in the guttering and with heavy rain can lead to overspill and then increase the flow of surface water. If you have any storm drains on or near your property, check they are kept clear as water will quickly gather if there are any blockages.
- Look at installing French drains
If you live in a house on a slope or you have an almost permanently wet lawn, look to install a French drain. Simply a trench dug on a gradient and filled with aggregate, they allow surface water to flow away from your home, the garden or driveway. They are an excellent way to stop water gathering.
Your Flood plan
Have a flood plan in place. This is a document which lists all the emergency contacts such as utility companies should you need to evacuate. You’ll need to keep a hard copy to hand kept in a safe place – ensure everyone in the family knows where it is kept though and don’t rely on one purely stored on a computer as no power or a flat battery will mean it can’t be accessed.
Alongside the flood plan, compile a catalogue of all your possessions. This should be for insurance purposes should you need to make a claim. If you own any items are of value such as antique furniture or paintings, speak to your insurer to see if they require you to detail them on the policy. Whilst you may think you know what you own, it will be difficult to recollect everything should you suffer a flood.
The flood plan and possessions catalogue should be stored along with a number of vital ‘must have’ documents. These include passports, birth certificates and insurance policy details.
There are excellent information services in place to warn the public of the risk of flood. You can register to access the details by email or text or you can call a hotline. There are also apps which can be downloaded and the data is updated every couple of minutes.
Using services such as Floodline in England, Wales and Scotland will inform you on the current levels of flood risk as well as:
- Flood risk forecasts for the next 3 days
- Sea and river levels
- Maps of affected areas
If you live in an area which is prone to flooding or you want to be prepared should there be an unexpected flood where you live, having protection is vital.
Your local authority is responsible for taking the lead in protecting your community. They will manage the incident and the risk of flooding whether it is for surface water, ground water or ordinary water courses. If a flood is imminent, they will coordinate the action which will include making sandbags available.
Whilst your council will have some sandbags you can use, they do not have an inexhaustible supply. Their role is to keep the whole community safe rather than individual houses and the priority will be to use them to block roads or vulnerable areas first and then allow homeowners to use any others to protect their dwelling. Whilst sandbags can certainly help, they are slow to fill, heavy to transport and don’t keep water out for a long period of time.
With this in mind, having your own flood barrier system such as Floodblock ready to deploy means you can stop water within minutes as well as freeing up sandbags to keep water away from your town or village generally. The task of putting your barrier in place should be designated to someone in the family and this should be noted on the flood plan. If they aren’t at home at the time, a second named person should be detailed but as long as it is utilised quickly then this is the most important aspect.
When the sun is shining and the days are forecast to be dry, thinking about the dangers of flooding may be the last thing on your mind. The British weather can change very quickly though and even in summer, heavy downpours have commonly been reported to cause flash flooding. Those caught out without a plan are left clearing up after the waters have receded and wishing they had been more prepared.
Having your home ready for the possibility of a flood isn’t a huge job or one which is onerous. It’s about being vigilant, organised and prepared and then knowing that you can get on with the rest of your life not worrying what you will do should the worst happen.