Suffering a flood can be devastating not only to your property but to your physical and emotional wellbeing. So if you are one of the estimated 5 million people who live within a high flood risk area then making preparations makes sense. Listen out for warnings on TV and radio and you can also sign up with the Environmental Agency Floodline Warning Direct facility ( This free service provides flood warnings by phone, text or email.

Floods can give little or no warning so why not try to be as prepared as possible in advance. Here are some ideas.

  • Keep your important documents (like your home insurance) in a water-proof container and keep them upstairs or as high up as possible.
  • You may like to move sentimental items upstairs permanently, so you do not forget to move them in a panic.
  • Find out where and how to turn off your gas, electric and water mains.
  • You could also consider preparing a Flood Kit that can be kept securely should your home be flooded. Items that your kit could include are waterproofs, including rubber gloves, bottled water (change this for fresh water frequently), a first-aid kit, including any essential medication, a list of useful telephone numbers including essential helplines and your local authority, blankets and warm clothing, a stock of non-perishable food items, a portable radio, supply of assorted batteries, and a torch. Don't forget a copy of your home insurance policy. If you have a pet then include a portable pet carrier and pet food, litter and a litter tray, leads and any other items specific to your type of pet.
  • If you live in a high risk flood area then you may think about installing your own flood defences. There are a number of products that can be installed in advance or which can be attached only when needed. These can include 'flood boards' or air brick covers. You can even get plastic skirts that surround your whole property. Should you have like-minded neighbours there are temporary free-standing barriers which can protect a group of properties. These types of defence cannot guarantee to protect your property flooding in every circumstance but they may help to reduce the damage. Do your homework and always investigate what is right for your property and look out for the markings on the product to ensure they have been adequately tested.
  • If you are having any electrical work done you may like to think about having the plug sockets moved from just about floor level to half way up the walls to try to avoid flood water levels.
  • Obtain a supply of sandbags – these may be available from your local DIY store. You can always use old pillowcases if you are unable to get sandbags. Alternatively your local authority may be able to supply you with sandbags.

But if the worst happens and you find yourself in imminent risk you could take the following action:

  • Place sandbags or flood boards in place. Make sure you can still ventilate your property.
  • Put plugs in sinks/baths and weigh them down with something heavy. Put a sandbag in the toilet bowl to prevent backflow.
  • Turn off gas, electricity and main water supplies at the mains (get help if needed).
  • Unplug electrical items and those that are portable move them upstairs or as high up as possible.
  • If you can, move as much furniture as you can upstairs, always bear in mind your health and safety. Alternatively raise them up on bricks or blocks - this may be very helpful for large appliances such as fridge/freezers. For larger pieces of furniture try to move these away from walls, as this may help when drying your property later. If you are able to, roll up carpets and rugs and put them upstairs. If you have limited time and are unable to remove curtains, then roll them up and hang them up over the rail in the hope that they will be above the flood water.
  • If you have time you can try to help to reduce flood water getting into your home by using a silicone sealant - open doors and windows and smear a thick layer around the frame, then simply shut and lock the door/window. Alternatively you can cover doors, windows and airbricks with sandbags, plywood or metal sheeting.
  • Don't forget the outside you home. Try to move anything not fixed down to a safer location, e.g. wheelie bins, dustbins, garden ornaments and furniture, chemicals, car oil and similar. If you can, move your car to higher ground to avoid damage. If you have a manhole cover outside your property, then weigh it down to prevent it floating away and leaving a safety hazardous.

If possible always try to do as much as you can in daylight as doing anything in the dark will be a lot harder, especially if the electricity fails.

Always co-operate with emergency services and your local authorities.

  • Always try to avoid walking through floodwater. Just a few inches of fast flowing water can knock you off your feet and 2 feet can float cars. There are also a number of hidden dangers for instance manhole covers can be moved by the flow of water leaving an open hazard. Objects under the waterline can cause injury or ensnare you.
  • Keep clear of river banks as these may collapse due to soil erosion.
  • Where possible avoid contact with floodwater as this is very likely to be contaminated with sewage, waste products, chemicals, oil and petrol.

In the immediate aftermath of a flood you should call your insurance company's Emergency Helpline as soon as possible. They will be able to provide information on what to do next and will get started on dealing with your claim. Always follow their advice on how to proceed, in some instances they will need to send out a loss adjuster so you may be required to leave the damage as it is until they have visited. You may like to keep a record of the flood damage including photos or video footage.

Don't forget that your insurance company may require you to leave the damage until a loss adjuster has visited.

  • After the initial removal of water, damaged fixtures and fittings as well as personal property, check with your local authority or health authority or look under 'Flood Damage' in Yellow Pages for suppliers of equipment to dry out your property. You will need to be patient as it can take a standard house brick about a month per inch to dry out.
  • Always have your power supplies checked by a qualified person before you turn them back on to make sure they have dried out and are safe.
  • Any food stuffs that have been contaminated by water should be thrown away as it may be contaminated. You could contact your local authority Environmental Health department for advice.
  • Don't forget floodwater can be contaminated with sewage and other health hazards so always try to avoid contact.

Whatever you do don't think it can't happen again. So think about re-stocking your supplies and think about how you can defend your property from flooding in the future.

The Environmental Agency can also provide help and advice


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