Recent flooding events experienced across the UK, particularly over the last decade, have shown the devastating impact that flooding can have on property, businesses and individuals. While it may not always be possible to eliminate the risk of flooding altogether, many practical steps can be taken to reduce the risk of flood damage and assist with recovery times.
What Can Be Done Pre-Event?
Before considering ways to protect the property, it is important to assess the likelihood of flooding by considering such factors as:
· Prior flooding history
· Proximity to rivers, streams and other similar water channels
· Proximity to open bodies of water such as lakes, reservoirs etc
· Proximity to surface water drainage ditch or stream
· Is the property located in a low lying area?
· Is the property situated in a flood plain?
· Are there any basements, cellars or similar which may be affected by surface water flooding/ingress?
If the answer is “yes” to any of these, consideration should be given to ways in which the risk can be reduced and action taken to prepare in advance.
Actions to Reduce the Risk
· Raising the elevations of critical equipment and stock or relocating particularly vulnerable equipment to other parts of the premises or upper floor
· If it is not possible to elevate, can some component parts such as control panels be protected/elevated?
· Outdoor items should be on purpose made, elevated metal racking secured to the ground
· Fuel storage tanks should be suitable anchored so that they will not become damaged and float away, this causing pollution
· Where a critical plant or flat is located in the basement and cannot be relocated, then the area should be protected from water ingress
· Raising electrical and telecommunications points such as sockets, telephone connections etc to a higher point (e.g. consider raising to one metre or above expected water levels)
· Consider replacing susceptible linings, furniture, fixtures and fittings with more water resistant alternatives; e.g. stone/plastic floorings, tiled or water resistant wall coverings, water retardant plasters and linings, plastic kitchen cupboards etc
· Develop and/or extend existing emergency plans to include actions in the event of flooding
· Make up a flood kit – including critical key documents, torch, battery, wind-up radio, mobile phone, rubber gloves, Wellington boots, waterproof clothing and a first aid kit. Also have the insurer’s emergency helpline number, details of the policy and other useful numbers such as residents, the local council and emergency services
· Consider investment in local property flood protection devices e.g. demountable barriers, air brick covers, non-return valves for drains and sewerage waste pipes. Ensure people are familiar with their deployment
· Where available, subscribe to flood alert warnings such as the Environmental Agency Flood Alert Scheme
· Consider the health and safety of residents and visitors
· Regularly check the building structure for defects, cracks and gaps, through which water could enter the premises, and seal them
· Ensure that routine inspection and maintenance of drainage systems (i.e. guttering, downpipes and drains) is undertaken at least annually
· If the local street drainage system cannot cope in times of rainfall, report it to the controlling authority as it may be that it has become silted up and needs cleaning
Actions If the Threat of Flooding is Imminent
· Where possible turn off gas, electricity and water supplies at the mains. (Ensure that power to any alarm/security system can be maintained during these times)
· Unplug all electrical items and, where possible, store them up high or on upper storeys
· With heavy electrical items consider the possibility of raising them above anticipated water levels
· Close off flow valves on gas tanks, oil tanks etc that supply the building through pipes and fittings
· Consider the need to move furniture and other items to upper storeys
· Deploy any temporary flood protection measures
· Be alert to the risk of flooding caused, not only by rivers, but also surface water building up and overwhelming drains following heavy spell of rainfall leading to localised floods
· Consider relocating any vulnerable outdoor items
Actions During A Flood
· Co-operate with the emergency services if they advise evacuation during flooding
· Br prepared to act quickly to get everybody to safety
· Don’t try and walk through flood waters of more than six inches (15cms) depth that is fast flowing as it can knock you off your feet
· Don’t try and drive through water as just two feet (0.6m) of water will float a car
· Be aware that manhole covers may come off and there may be other hazards that can’t be seen
· Don’t walk on sea defences, river banks or cross bridges as they may collapse or large waves nay sweep them clear
· Avoid contact with flood water as it may be contaminated with sewage
Immediate Actions Following A Flood
· Contact the insurance company and/or insurance broker and advise what has happened. They will then be able to provide best guidance and instigate any specialist services required. Make sure the insurance company knows where and who to contact if the property has been evacuated
· If making a claim, avoid disposing of any items until told to do so
· Don’t use electrical or gas supplies in flooded properties until appropriate checks have been undertaken by a qualified person
· Take photos of the damage to any contents and/or building as this may assist with settlement of your claim
· Covers on air bricks should be removed once the flood has receded to allow air to circulate and any trapped water to escape
· Flood protection devices to be cleaned as soon as possible to avoid potential contamination
Reducing Damage and Disruption in the Future
All properties that have been flooded could benefit form some degree of flood-resilient repair. Some resilience techniques may not cost substantially more than standard repair (like-for-like) and these may be an appropriate way to repair a range of flooded properties.
If the property continues to have a significant risk of flooding, it would be worth repairing it after a flood with a comprehensive set of flood resilient measures. In some instances, some expenditure may be required which are beyond the costs covered by the insurance claim.
Repairing a property that has been flooded offers an opportunity to minimise the damage and disruption that could be caused by flooding in the future. There are two main approaches:
· Flood resilience – reduces damage caused when flood water enters the property
· Flood resistance – reduces the amount of water entering the property
There is a growing range of products and techniques for keeping floodwater out of a property and it is important that only products suitable for the intended end use application are considered. Insurers recommend those products that have been independently tested under the BSI Kitemark scheme and proved fit for the purpose.
It is the property owners’ responsibility to ensure that the products are appropriate for your property and are correctly fitted and maintained.
Key Action Steps
· Consider ways to protect the property pre-event
· Take action if the threat of flood is imminent
· Plan for action to take during a flood
· Immediate actions following a flood
· Reduce damage and disruption in the future