The debate about the potential impact of global warming on our climate continues. There is a growing consensus amongst weather experts that over the next century the weather patterns in the UK will become milder and wetter with stormier conditions.
All of the indications are that, due to changing weather patterns, we must be prepared for increasing water damage due to violent storms and flooding. This can cause large-scale damage to property resulting in the emergency services being overwhelmed.
Flooding can be a very traumatic time for anyone and the priority should be the personal safety of residents. Special attention should be given to the elderly and infirm who are at particular risk.
To improve the management of this increasing risk, the various organisations with an interest need to work in partnership.
Flood control measures and the defence of coastal regions is a matter of long term planning and funding by local authorities, the Environment Agency and other bodies. However, there are selected measures that residential property owners can take to minimise the risk and the repercussions of water damage to their building and contents.
Information and Control Measures
The Environment Agency has taken a leading role in advising householders and businesses in the UK of the potential threat of flooding and what action should be considered to minimise the loss.
On a postcode basis they can provide details of the likely flooding risk in an area.
Individuals who are considering purchasing a property can use this information to assist them in making an informed judgement.
The Environment Agency’s Floodline provides easy to follow guidance and is available free to everyone. Its purpose is to provide information before, during and after flooding occurs with the emphasis being on prevention.
The Floodline has introduced a series of factsheets that provide guidance, including how to prepare flood plans, what action to take when flood warnings are issued and how to cope after an incident.
The flood warning codes “Flood Watch”, “Flooding Warning”, “Severe Flood Warning” and “All Clear” are increasingly included in television and radio weather forecasts and should be followed with care.
The Floodline factsheet entitled “Flood Plan Checklists” provides straightforward advice on a range of simple measures, including making up a flood kit.
Our weather forecasts increasingly mention the likelihood of gale force winds leading to the possibility of structural damage. Whilst in many cases such damage is difficult to prevent, there is no doubt that the overall losses are increased as the result of inadequate building design, defects in workmanship or poor maintenance.
To reduce the overall number of losses that occur each year, action is required and this involves planning and budgeting.
Sub-zero temperatures will still occur from time to time and precautions against this threat must also be implemented.
Key Action Steps
- The Environment Agency is the primary source of information and advice
- If there has been flood damage in the past or the property is in a vulnerable area, prepare a Flood Plan and take measured action
- Prepare a simple guide of the “dos and do nots” if flooding does occur
- If in a vulnerable area, it should be possible to demonstrate to the insurance company that all reasonable measures have been taken to prevent losses resulting from flood
- The important measure is the good maintenance of the property
- Minor roof defects can result in major damage
- Protect the property if left empty; leaving the heating in use
- Isolate the domestic water supply if left unattended for an extended period
- Make sure the water pipes and tanks are fully lagged but do not insulate underneath any tank as warm air will not rise from the rooms below and keep it warm
- Find the stopcock and make sure it can be turned on and off easily
- Repair leaking taps
- If a pipe does freeze, always isolate the pipe by closing the stopcock on the feed from the tank or mains and use a not water bottle/hairdryer to thaw it. NEVER use a naked flame to thaw a frozen pipe.