If you live in or you’re thinking of moving to an area that is at risk of flooding you’ll find our comprehensive guide may help you decide what measures to take.
Understand how the government classifies flood risk, what type of insurance covers you against flooding and the different defences that are available to protect your property.
What is considered flooding?
Flooding happens as a result of excessive rainfall. This is called surface-water flooding, for example when a canal or river floods its banks, or when tidal waters affect your property.
It also happens as a result of groundwater flooding, when an underground water source escapes and floods your home.
Not when a mains pipe bursts and causes water damage – that’s essentially a leak – called escape of water. The good news is that should your house suffer damage from flooding then you’ll be covered by both your contents insurance and your buildings insurance.
Is your property at risk of flooding?
The area that you live in will have a flood risk category assigned to it, and there are four different levels to be aware of.
If there’s a one in thirty chance of your area flooding then you live in a high risk zone.
If there’s somewhere between a 1 in 30 and a one in one hundred chance of your home being flooded then you live in a medium risk area.
If there’s somewhere between a 1 in 100 and a one in one thousand chance of your property suffering flood damage then your area is considered to be low risk.
Very low risk
If, during any given year, there’s a less than a 1 in 1,000 chance of being flooded, then you live in a very low risk area.
To see if your own home is at risk from flooding or if you’re thinking of buying a house you suspect might be you can request the Environment Agency’s flood maps for England and Wales.
Scotland and Northern Ireland have similar information on the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development websites.
Checking for flood risk when buying a house
According to the Environment Agency 5.2 million properties in the UK are at risk of flooding.
That’s one in six homes.
What does flood insurance cover?
Flood insurance is included under your regular buildings insurance and should cover damage to walls, ceilings, floors or windows.
Personal items or valuables will be covered under your contents insurance. However, double check what will and won’t be covered in the event of a flood. Some more valuable items may require separate insurance policies or even a ‘high risk’ policy.
If required, your insurance policy may cover the costs of drying out and repairing your home, replacing damaged possessions, the fees for professional services (builders, architects, solicitors etc.), and even alternative accommodation if you are unable to live at home. It all depends on the type of policy you have. So please check.
Your buildings insurance will take into account how much your property is at risk of being flooded.
Taking steps towards flood prevention might work towards lowering your home’s category.
How to prepare your home for a flood
Prepare your home well in advance of a flood. Don’t wait until adverse weather strikes. If you know you live in a flood risk area stock up on sandbags and emergencies supplies. You’ll learn more about this below, and your local council may also have sandbags you can use.
Prepare flood defences
There are many different types of flood defences that you can stock up on if you live in an area that suffers from flooding. Each will serve a different function.
- Airbrick protection: Air brick covers can be screwed into place across any 9x3 inch air brick
- Sandbags: Sandbags can be an effective first defence barrier against flooding and especially when used with plastic sheeting.
- Hydro sacks: This alternative to sandbags is filled with a lightweight polymer that becomes an effective barrier after more than 20 litres of water has been absorbed.
- Flood barriers: These temporary dams come in different shapes and sizes and are made of interlocking steel or plastic barriers.
- Doorway flood shields: Water tight flood boards are sealed at either side of your door to prevent water getting through.
- Toilet pan seals: A vacuum sealed rubber-edged stopper that creates a secure seal to prevent the unwanted effects of back flow.
- Sump pump: It could be worth the expense to buy a sump pump to deal with large amounts of groundwater flooding.
Flood survival pack
Put together a ‘Flood Pack’ and store it in a place which is secure but easily accessible. The items to include are:
- A durable, powerful and handy torch (make sure it’s weather proof)
- A battery or crank-operated radio (with spare batteries)
- A powerful battery pack to charge mobile devices
- A powerful whistle
- Moist tissues for use when it’s not safe to wash with water
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to erect a temporary shelter from rainwater)
- Cordage is a slender yet strong rope which always comes in handy
- Canned food supplies (with ring pulls)
- A comprehensive kit containing any medicines you might need as well as bandages, insulin, Ventolin, rubber gloves, gauzes, antiseptic cream, etc.)
- Warm and water resistant clothes
- Bottles of clean drinking water
- Cash (stored in a plastic zip lock bag)
What to do during a flood
When water levels rise, it can rise very quickly. You’ll need to be alert and prepared to immediately increase the flood defences of your home. Damage limitation is important.
You may be fully insured, but if you can move quickly to safely store those items that money can’t buy out of harm’s reach, do so. But never place yourself in danger.
Put your insurance documents in a water-tight bag in a safe place. Keep your insurer’s contact numbers handy.
Be prepared to move furniture and valuable items upstairs or to a safe place. Remember to include items like photos and valuable paperwork.
Park your car on higher ground. If the situation becomes life-threatening and it’s safer to stay than leave, then make sure you’re in touch with the outside world.
Keep your mobile phone safe and fully charged and listen to your local TV and radio stations for news.
Be ready to switch off gas and electricity supplies if water starts to enter your home.
Should you absolutely have to wade through even ankle deep water, then take extreme care. There may be debris above and below the water line.
How to keep children and pets safe
Here are 5 tips that will help to keep your children and pets safe from flooding.
- Pack ready-made formula milk for babies and toddlers as opposed to the powder form that needs clean drinking water.
- If it’s unsafe don’t use water from your tap, either to drink or wash with. Use moist tissues to clean with where necessary and only drink water from a safe source.
- Floodwater contains sewerage. Do not let children play or swim in it. Always wash hands and particularly before meals.
- Cordon off areas including basements or garages that are not safe.
- Do not allow children or animals to play on lawns or other areas that suffered flooding until the risk of disease is reduced.
What to do after a flood
Should a flood occur, as well as stopping the water, you want to help your home dry out again as quickly as possible.
Contact your insurer immediately. Take photos of any damage. The insurer will advise you on how to proceed and may involve specialists or tradesmen to dry out the building. They will carry out repair work to ensure you can get back to normal as quickly as possible.
Make sure you speak with your insurer before commencing any repair work. It is likely they will want to use their approved tradespeople.
Things to be aware of after a flood:
- Watch out for any dangerous material or loose items.
- Don’t turn electricity or gas back on
- Don’t eat any food that could be contaminated
- Try and ventilate the property where possible
Flooding help and claims
When you need to make a claim if at all possible try you have your policy schedule and as many details of the damage as possible to hand. This information will help to speed up your claim.