The Complete Guide to Floods
Once called “once in a thousand year” events, flooding in the UK is quickly becoming quite common. While responsibility for what is causing the common occurrence of flooding varies between warmer winters generating higher levels of precipitation and councils not properly considering floodplains when granting planning permission for new builds, the reality in Britain today is that flooding can happen anywhere and at any time of the year.
That’s why almost everyone should have a plan in place for the event of flooding. Flooding can have disastrous consequences for your home, and not being adequately prepared, whether with tools or simple knowledge, can make the consequences all the more dire.
So what should you do in the event of a flood? How can you prevent flood damage? And what are the best tools for cleaning up flood water? Here we list all our advice for flooding along with the essential tools for cleaning up flood damage.
Are you at risk of flooding?
Concerned about the possibility of being at a flood risk? Luckily if you are worried about flooding there are several interactive, government and council alert services that can give you basic information regarding your flood risk.
For immediate flood risk information you can check your location using this government tool here: https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/warnings#flood-alerts
For information regarding your county flood risk over the next 5 days you can check another government service here: https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/5-day-flood-risk
For information regarding your general flood risk you can use another government service here: https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/long-term-flood-risk
For an interactive visualisation you can use Shoothill’s service here: http://www.checkmyfloodrisk.co.uk/
Remember that even if flooding doesn’t directly threaten your location you may still be affected by cuts to transport, power and communication networks. Don’t just check your postcode. Check surrounding postcodes too. Just because your home isn’t directly threatened by floods doesn’t mean that neighbouring homes and streets are unaffected. Flooding to neighbouring streets may restrict your access to basic or emergency services.
What to Do During a Flood?
Unfortunately, even when you’re fully prepared, flooding may just be inevitable. Water rises and even the best flood defences can succumb to the power of nature. So what do you do during a flood? Well, the first thing to remember is that it’s critical you put people before property. Ensure you have co-operated with the emergency services before following this advice. If you are instructed to evacuate your home, evacuate immediately.
If safe to do so, ensure that you turn off gas, electricity and water supplies before flood water enters your home.
- Secure yourself a clean source of water by gathering water in jugs, saucepans and the bathtub.
- Gather torches, waterproofs, a first aid kit and any medication you need and move these items to a safe and high area
- Move family, pets and any essential belongings upstairs or to a high place. It's important you have a plan and a means for escape.
- Remember that water and electricity do not mix. Do not touch any source of electricity while stood in water.
- Keep listening to local radio for updates or call the Environment Agency Floodline on 0845 988 1188
- Call 999 if you are in danger
How to Prevent Flood Damage
With an estimated bill of one billion pounds generated by flooding in the UK each year it's never been more essential to ensure your home is protected from flood damage.
It’s not just the potential costs that make flood protection so important, on the more severe level floods can kill and at the less severe, but still highly important, you have the loss of precious memories.
Nobody, not even Chuck Norris himself, can control the weather so it’s not a foolproof plan to believe you can simply prevent flooding. However, there are precautions you can take to prevent or minimise the damage it can cause.
1. Plan Ahead
In a recent survey of people living in areas with a direct flood threat only 50% were aware that there home was at risk. Out of the 50% who knew they were at risk of a flood threat, only 60% had a plan in place for preventing flood damage. The first step is to be aware of how often you may face a flood risk and set up the necessary alerts to ensure you are aware of possible flooding.
2. Determine the Grading of Your Home
Most homes are built with the purpose of draining water away from the structure. Whether a new or old build, it’s worth checking the water flow of your home. This involves simply watching how water accumulates during an average rainstorm. Does it flow away from your home, towards your home or does it pool and stand easily? If you live in an area where standing water is fairly common you may want to talk to your council. If your house is in particular danger they have a responsibility to minimise danger.
3. Blocking Water Out
It may be impossible to keep all the water out of your home, but you can at least reduce the amount that gets in. Sandbags are a good start but also consider drains and ensure sinks and bathtubs are plugged up to stop water entering through these holes.
4. Move Objects
When flood warnings are raised, move as many of your positions out the flood's path. Electronics, furniture, and anything else that is moveable and may be vulnerable to water damage should be moved upstairs. This may seem like an obvious solution, but when the waters start to rise, it can be difficult to move items quickly; therefore it is essential to be prepared. This is a very simple, easy way to prevent significant and costly damage to your possessions.
5. Invest in a Submersible Pump
Let's say you live in an area at high risk of flooding, one of the best pieces of equipment that you can own is a submersible pump. If floodwater gets into your home, you should try and remove the water as quickly as possible. They can be useful in the event of a clean-up too and if you do flood you may minimise damage by pumping out water when it comes in.
What is a Submersible Pump?
As the name suggest submersible pumps are capable of operating under water. Often used for the drainage of ponds, swimming pools and drainage systems, they can also be used in the event of flooding.
Just in case you were wondering, yes, the device is hermetically sealed and the motor is close coupled to the body of the pump. This ensures that water cannot enter the internals of the pump and come into contact with electrical components. As I’m sure you aware, electricity and water should not be mixed and only an approved submersible pump from a quality pump dealer should be under water.
How Does a Submersible Work?
While this explanation is on the technical side, it’s worth knowing. Simply a submersible pump pushes water to the surface by pulling water into the pump through the intake, when inside the rotation of the impeller pushes the water through a diffuser. The water is then pumped to the surface.
The great thing about submersible pumps is that there is a variety of pumps designed for different uses. For example, a pump used to drain water from a basement will come with a float switch. This ensures that the pump comes into operation when the water reaches a certain level and stops working before the water runs dry.
If you like further information on submersible pumps, read our complete guide here.
Using a Submersible Pump for Flood Clearance
If you need a portable pump to clear flood water other factors come into play. It needs to have a filter to prevent it being blocked by debris; in addition, you need to take into account the length of hose so that you can safely discharge water away from the property and the length of the power cable to ensure you can safely run the pump from a dry electrical supply. Ensure the supply is protected by an ECB for safety.
To avoid confusion when purchasing a submersible pump for a flooding event, we advise that you purchase a purpose built flood kit. Grundfos Unilift B-CC7 Multi-Box Submersible Drainage Set for example is the ideal pump for a flooding event as you get the a suitable pump type, a multi-functional filter box, a 15 m discharge hose and an additional CC connector that fits several sizes of hoses.
It is important to note that flooding is severe and affects house electricity. In the event that power is cut during a flood, you will need to ensure you have a petrol driven generator to hand. With this in mind, particularly in badly flooded areas, there is no where to pump the water too and it will just come back into the property as drains are usually blocked. Consider carefully how you pump the water and where you pump it too.
How to Clean Up Flood water
Water in your home can range from minor inconvenience to complete disaster. Where you land on this spectrum will depend entirely on how much water gets into your home and how long it remains in your home. If time is on your side, the best case scenario is a few damaged possessions, and the worst you’re looking at structural damage. Remember, the longer you leave water in your home the more chance you create the perfect breeding ground for mold. It’s important to remove mold quickly as it can lead to respiratory problems including asthma and potentially severe illness.
If water does enter your home here is your checklist to minimise damage and remove water quickly and safely.
1. Disconnect the Power
Electricity and water do not mix. Do stand in water or attempt to clear water with the power connected. After the power is connected then remove electrical items. Salvage electrical equipment first. You may still be able to dry and save water damaged electrical items if you remove them from water as soon as possible. Follow these tips for drying out technological items by Intel here.
2. Removing the Water
If you’ve followed the above advice you should have disconnected your electricity and removed easy to move items. The next step is getting the water out of your home. The manual method using a bucket is effective but also energy sapping and time consuming. As mentioned earlier in this article, it is critical that you remove water as soon as possible to prevent extensive damage.
The quickest way to remove flood water from your home is to invest in a submersible pump. The pumps quickly intake water and eject it using an impeller system. If you purchase a dedicated flood kit you will also be prepared to remove flooding in the quickest time frame. These pumps also come with an electric and manual option.
Getting Rid of Contaminated Items
If you have contaminated furniture or other items polluted by chemicals or sewage during a flood you can contact the environmental health department to have them removed. Contact them here.
3. Dry, Dry, Dry
Just because the water is finally out of your home doesn’t mean its job done. First, open all your windows and allow air to circulate your home. Mop dry as much of the left over water as possible and then use hand towels to hand dry floors and walls. You may have to cut way drywall that was affected by water as it will eventually crumble and you will also want to remove wall paper as it can become the perfect growth area for mold.
Flood waters can easily mix with sewage waters from drainage systems or toilets. This unfortunately means that all sorts of nasty bacteria could be lurking in your home. Disinfect all areas affected by flood waters. This will include walls, floors, furniture and any items that sat in flood water.
5. Consider Mold Growth
Your home is finally dry and you may have already moved back in, but you’re not quite finished yet. It’s important to stay vigilant of mold. There are some supermarket products that purposely stop mold and may be worth the investment.
Essential Contact in a Flood
In the event of a flood it’s important that you have all the correct contact information. You may have limited access to the internet during a flood and it’s essential you have access to the correct services at hand. Print out this list and stick it to the back of a cupboard in a safe to access area. As usual, in the event that you or someone you know is in life threatening danger dial 999.
If you are likely to experience flooding then it helps to be warned if flooding is imminent. You can register for flood warnings online here.
If you’d like to speak to an adviser then you can contact floodline on 0345 988 1188. The service is available 24 hour.
Report a Flooding
In the event of flood via the river or sea you can report the incident via the environment agency hotline on 0800 80 70 60. The service is available 24 hour.
If you need temporary accommodation you can contact your local council here.
Electrical or Gas Problem
In the event that you face an electrical hazard you can contact your local electricity company by calling 105
In the event of a gas leak you can contact the National Grid on 0800 111 999
If you need to remove contaminated items from your home you can contact the environmental health department here.