Over recent years, we have seen more and more properties affected by flooding during periods of significant rain.
Flooding can be caused by rivers and watercourses overflowing; it can also be caused by drains and culverts being unable to cope with excess surface water on the roads. Everyone whose home is at risk of flooding should have a plan of what to do if the worst happens.
Please note, the fire and rescue service may not always be able to help in the event of a flood. While your property may be flooded, there has to be a certain level of water before we can pump it away, and we have to be able to pump it somewhere without it having a detrimental effect elsewhere. This often means waiting until the rain has stopped or the river level has fallen.
As such, a fire crew will not automatically be sent; depending on the volume of calls, we may be able to send an officer to assess the situation and, if they feel that we can assist, they will call for a fire crew. The fire service can only help in certain situations, such as if there is risk to life, or water is affecting electrics, leading to a risk of fire. Please only call 999 if these risks exist.
Preparing for a flood
- Keep a list of useful numbers somewhere safe that you’ll remember – for example, your local council, your insurance company, the Environment Agency’s Floodline number.
- Check with Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or visit the Government’s flood warning website to find out whether there are specific flood warnings for your area.
- If you live by a river, make sure you are clear on your rights and responsibilities.
- Get sandbags to block doors and airbricks. You can get these from a builders’ merchants or your local council may be able to provide advice. Alternatively, you can make your own using old pillow cases or carrier bags filled with sand or earth.
- If possible, and if it’s safe to do so, ensure that surface water drains are kept clear to allow water to drain away quicker.
- Make a flood kit – a torch, a battery or wind-up radio, necessary medication, emergency contact numbers, rubber gloves, and your insurance policies – and keep in a safe place, ideally upstairs.
- Make sure you know how to turn off your gas, electricity and water supplies.
- Check with your insurance company that your policy provides adequate cover for a flood – don’t underestimate how much damage can be done.
When flooding starts
- Stay alert – events can change very quickly during a flood. Keep an eye on the weather, and listen out for warnings on local radio.
- If it looks as though your home might be at risk, move everyone (including pets) upstairs or to higher ground. If you have the ability and time, you should also move as many possessions as you can upstairs.
- If floodwater starts to enter your home, turn off your gas, electricity and water supplies.
- If things get really bad, the local authority and emergency services may decide to evacuate an area. Have a bag ready in case this happens, and make sure you have any necessary medication.
- If you have an elderly or vulnerable family member or neighbour who is at risk of flooding, contact them to ensure that they are prepared and know what to do should their home flood.
- Remember that floodwater is likely to be contaminated and could contain sewage. Try not to touch anything that has been in contact with the water. Items that have been affected by floodwater should be thoroughly disinfected and cleaned.
- Only call the emergency services if there is risk to life or you have no way of protecting your property yourself. Remember that, during heavy flooding, all services will be very busy and may not be able to help straight away.
Use the following links to be clear on what support your local council may be able to offer, either before or during a flood:
Travelling in flooded areas
If you are travelling through areas affected by flooding, please follow this advice:
- Don’t drive through standing water – as well as the water damaging your car, there may be hazards under the water you can’t see, or it may be a lot deeper than you realise. If you see a sign to say that the road is closed due to flooding, remember the sign is there for a reason. Don’t try to drive through or you might get stuck.
- If you are driving a larger vehicle, do not go through flood water at speed as this creates a ‘bow wave’ that can then cause flooding to adjacent properties.
- If you do break down in flooding, firefighters can only rescue you and anyone else in the vehicle. It is your responsibility to get the vehicle recovered.
- When driving, if heavy rain is making visibility difficult, pull over if possible.
- Remember that roads will be slippery during wet conditions.
- Don’t try and walk through floodwater that is above knee level, as the force of the water could easily knock you off your feet. There is also a danger of open manholes, trenches or other hazards that you can’t see.
After the flood
- Contact your insurance company and start the process of claiming.
- Contact your gas, electricity and water companies – you’ll need to have your supplies checked before you switch them back on.
- Open your home’s doors and windows to ventilate the property. Remember to remove any sandbags across airbricks.
- Watch out for any broken glass or nails while cleaning up.
Flooding and your electrics
The following advice has been provided by Electrical Safety First for anyone dealing with flood damage to their home:
- Make sure the property is safe before you enter. Use a torch – don’t try to switch on the lights.
- Don’t touch any sources of electricity – such as switches or appliances – when you are standing in floodwater.
- If your electricity supply isn’t already switched off, contact your supplier for help and advice.
- Don’t turn your gas or electricity supplies back on until your provider says it is safe to do so.
- Do not attempt any electrical repairs or connection of temporary supplies yourself – always use a registered electrician after contacting your supplier.
- Get an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) done on your home by a registered electrician. This will check the condition of the electrical wiring in the property. You might also want to ask the electrician to have a look at any electrical equipment or appliances that could have been affected by floodwater.
Environment Agency booklet – What to do before, during and after a flood
Government web page – Floods Destroy
Electrical Safety First – www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk