Every year we seem to see dozens of stories on the news about homes being flooded across the globe. And it seems to be becoming more and more frequent with climate change marching ever onwards.
Here in the UK, thousands of homes are flooded almost every year, with some people facing having their houses and businesses devastated by water from overflowing rivers and sewers or destructive coastal storms.
Why Does It Happen?
Flooding can occur almost anywhere, even away from water sources such as the sea, rivers or a watercourse.
When there are long periods of heavy rain, drainage systems often cannot cope. Saturated ground cannot absorb more water, so it will not drain away. Drains may become blocked, and the water has nowhere to go.
How Does It Affect People?
In addition to the obvious danger to life and limb, householders face having to replace their beloved possessions. Some are forced to move out of their homes for months on end, while business owners’ livelihoods are put at risk through having to close their shops and warehouses for weeks.
More and more people are being affected, while those most at risk are facing added hardship due to increases in the cost of household insurance. In some cases, they are unable to obtain any form of insurance.
Who Is at Risk?
Anyone, anywhere, can be at risk from flooding. However, there are certain areas which are more at risk than others.
If you are among the five million people in Wales and England who live or work on a floodplain, statistics show that your business or home is more likely to be flooded than it is to be involved in a fire.
In England and Wales, the most likely places to be affected by flooding include Boston and Skegness on the east coast, said to be the place with the greatest danger of flooding in the entire country; the Vale of Clwyd, an area of low-lying ground around the River Clwyd in north-east Wales; Windsor, because of its proximity to the River Thames; the areas of Folkestone and Hythe; and Runnymede and Weybridge, where around 6,500 homes are believed to be in danger of flooding.
If you want to see whether your home or business is in danger, your first port of call should be the Environment Agency, the government body which has responsibilities relating to the protection and enhancement of the environment.
On its website, you can see if there are any flood warnings in place in the immediate future, sign up for warnings for your area, and check if your property is in a flood risk area.
You can even check your home’s flooding history to see if it has ever been flooded before. This can give you a vital warning if flooding is possible and enable you to take steps to prevent it.
Can I Get Insurance?
One of the first pieces of advice to be given to people living in a flood risk area is to make sure that they have adequate insurance.
If you have a mortgage, you will be required to have buildings insurance, but contents insurance to cover the cost of replacing the contents of your house is just as important, particularly if you live in an area prone to flooding
Adequate insurance will cover you for the cost of repairing your property after a flood, in addition to replacing all of your fixtures and fittings. It will probably also pay for the repair or replacement of any furniture and belongings damaged by water, plus the cost of removing any debris left behind by the water.
What If I Can’t Get Insurance?
Some households and businesses which have been repeatedly flooded over the years may find it very expensive or even impossible to obtain adequate insurance.
Thankfully, the government has recently introduced help for people finding it difficult to get insurance because they live in high-risk areas. The new scheme helps insurance companies offer more affordable insurance to those whose homes and businesses are at high risk.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
There are steps that those of us with a high risk of flooding can take to prevent the worst from happening. Signing up to flood warning alerts, so that you are forewarned before flooding strikes, will help you to prepare if the worst is imminent. In addition, stockpiling sandbags and moving valuables from lower floors can all help to mitigate the effect of flooding if it does happen.
For those living in the worst-hit areas, there are other measures you can take. Submersible pumps are invaluable for use in emergencies; they can even be bought as part of emergency flood kits, which contain essential equipment and accessories to help you minimise the damage any flood does. They will help you to remove any excess water as soon as possible, ensuring that it has less potential to damage your property.
Whether you’re in a high-risk area or not, you should make flood prevention and planning as much a part of your routine as fire prevention and escape.