How To Prepare For a Flood

Sandbags by a pink door

Having to deal with a flood is likely to be one of the most stressful experiences to have in your home.
Although properties that are built on flood plains or close to streams, rivers, lakes, or the sea would have a higher risk of flooding, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your home isn’t at risk. There are a number of other situations that could result in your home being flooded, which could cause thousands of pounds of damage and months of upheaval while the problems it causes are rectified.

However, there are actions you can take to either avoid or reduce damage caused by flood.

Why might a property flood

1. Live near a watercourse or body of water

If you live near any type of flowing water or body of water e.g a lake no matter how big of small, if there is persistent rain fall these can become full and burst their banks potentially putting local properties at risk.

2. Storm surges

If you are in a coastal region then you could be at risk of flooding during storms, when strong winds push the sea water above the natural tide levels & into the areas beyond the beach into residential districts.

3. Blocked drains

If you notice that the drains in your area often have large puddles around them this could indicate that they are blocked. If a heavy downpour occurs, they may not be able to cope, resulting in the water being pushed into the local streets and homes.

4. Groundwater

This is when the water from water table in permeable rocks rises to ground level. It is likely to affect basements and cellars in the first instance, then the ground floor as it rises further, this can occur without rain or snow being present.
It usually occurs in early spring and early autumn, if this is an issue in your area you can ask for it to be investigated, search for the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) for your region.

5.Property Position

If your home is in a low-lying area, at the base of a hill, in a valley, at the end of a street with a slight incline, then any large increase in rainfall could be channelled into your area or property

6. Drainage issues

Does your garden regularly have puddles that don’t disperse during periods of rain? This could signify that you have a problem with drainage.

7. Melting snow

If there has been a large volume of snow that has settled which then thaws quickly without the ground underneath defrosting it could cause the subsequently created water to come into your home.

8. A burst water main

There are times when the rain or snow isn’t the reason for your property to flood. The numerous freshwater pipes in our streets which supply our homes can also be the cause of a property flooding.

9. Downpipe and gutter problems

A downpipe is the pipe that comes from your roofs gutting system to the ground or into a drain to help disperse the water away from the property.
If these or the gutters become blocked with silt, leaves, moss, bits of tile or masonry or are damaged, then the water is not directed into a drain, a water butt or a run off, this could lead to water coming out of the gutter at the wrong points, hitting the ground and entering your home if near an access point.

What to do if your property is at risk or does flood?

If the worst does happen and water finds its way into your home, then follow the tips below to help reduce the impact on you and your property.

  • Make sure you’re safe and keep calm
    If you feel unsafe, find safe shelter by moving to an upper floor in your home or higher ground. Do not walk, swim or drive through flood water as it’s very unpredictable. Flood water can be deceptively deep (water levels can rise quickly) and fast-moving. Plus, you never know what’s below the surface. If you or others in your home are in danger, call the emergency services.
  • Move things upstairs if you can
    Be very careful if you carry anything up to the next floor, if they’re too big or heavy to shift upstairs, try to raise them off the floor using bricks, wooden blocks or if possible onto a sturdy table.
  • Don’t forget about sentimental things
    Valuable items that would be impossible to replace – like family photos and old letters – should be put in a waterproof bag and stored upstairs if possible. If you live in a flat or bungalow then perhaps putting them on the upper shelves of high kitchen cupboards.
  • Keep important documents and paperwork together
    Those things that will be hard or inconvenient to replace if they get water-damaged or lost. So, gather up passports, birth certificates and insurance documents and put them with your other valuables.
  • Prepare a flood kit
    This should include warm and waterproof clothing, blankets, wellies, a torch (and spare batteries), drinking water, a first aid kit, rubber gloves, essential medication and a mobile phone. And if you happen to have one, a portable charger or power bank would be handy in case your mobile runs out of charge.
  • Get clean drinking water ready
    If you suspect a flood is imminent, fill up plenty of large bottles, jugs, pans and containers to store clean drinking water in.
  • Move your car to higher ground
    If you’ve got time and it’s safe to drive, move your car to higher ground away from areas that will potentially flood.
  • Check neighbours know what’s going on
    See if your neighbours know there’s been a flood warning and ask them if you can do anything to help them prepare. Why not tell them what you’re doing, for example?
  • Turn off your gas, electricity and water supplies
    If you didn’t do this before the flooding started (and water’s now coming into your home), shut off supplies at the mains if it’s safe to do so.
  • Don’t risk electric shocks
    Whatever you do, don’t touch any sources of electricity (even if the electricity’s been turned off) while you’re standing in water.
  • Try not to touch flood water
    Flood water can be contaminated with all kinds of things so try not to get it on your hands. If you do (and you’re able to), wash them thoroughly. And if you need to handle things wear rubber gloves.
A box of home items

What can you do to help prevent or reduce the damage caused by your property flooding?

1. Early warnings
Being proactive could make all the difference when it comes to protecting your property from flooding, as the saying goes being forewarned is to be forearmed. So, how could you do this?
  • Use the government website to check for any local flood alerts and warnings
  • Alternatively, you can sign up to receive Government flood warnings via their website, you will need an email address and a way to be contacted at any point day or night.
  • Listen to local tv and radio stations weather forecasts for information on heavy rain, snow or flooding issues
  • Install a weather app on your smart phone, enter your postcode to give details of weather in your region and set it to give forecast notifications
  • There are dedicated flood alert apps that you can download to your smartphone that give specific details on flood monitoring
  • Look out for signs in your area that a flood might be on the way, a local brook, river, or stream close to the top of its banks, neighbours preparing their properties or temporary flood defences being installed etc.

2. Ways of protecting your property
If you believe your home is at risk of being flooded there are several different options you can look at to help protect your property at various price points. Although there could be some initial outlay it might save you from thousands of pounds worth of damage & clean up fees.

  • Sandbags
    These are probably the most used items when it comes to trying to stop flood water entering your home, they are generally cheap to purchase or in some cases local council may supply the bags for free. Filling with sharp sand is usually the best option but you could also fill with soil from your garden
  • Water filled barriers
    These can be interlocking ridged plastic barriers that when filled with water, sand or ballast become a solid wall. You can also get flexible plastic pipes that are filled with air manoeuvred into position then filled with water creating a barrier to help protect your property.
  • Water absorbent barriers
    These are flat material tubes that have gel beads or crystals inside them which will initially soak up water and when full creates a barrier stopping further water seeping into the protected area
  • Flood doors
    There are a couple of options for flood doors, but these can be pricier than other options. You can opt for a watertight aluminium frame to be fixed in front of your doors with a removable panel that can be inserted if there is the risk of a flood.
    Alternatively, you could replace your property doors with specially designed ones that look like a standard door. They have built in flood defence protection, which are generally sealed and reinforced to stop the door being breached under the pressure of the build-up in water
  • Anti-flood airbricks
    It isn’t just your doors that can be the entry point for water into your home, it can also enter via low level airbricks in your property’s walls. There are temporary covers which you can place over them which would need to be removed after the event. Alternatively you can replace the airbricks with a smart version that seal automatically when rising water occurs
  • Water pumps for cellars & basements (groundwater)
    If you have a problem with groundwater flooding your cellar or basement you may want to install a water pump that removes the water away from the affected area.
  • Non-return valves
    These help prevent sewage from flowing back into your property through pipes from the toilet and sink. If sewers become overwhelmed by flood water this can cause the wastewater to come back up into your home. This could also be an issue for those in upper floor flats/apartments that may not generally be affected by local flooding
  • Last minute options
    If you find yourself in a flash flood situation and haven’t any other protection options you could fill pillowcases, carrier bags or bin bags with soil from your garden to act as makeshift sandbags

If any of the items listed above, do come in contact with flood water ensure that they are thoroughly cleaned after the event as the water is likely to have been contaminated with waste products.

3. Longer term prevention measures

  • Keep drains clean
    Make sure that all drains on your property are cleared of any debris on the grate and look for slow flow rate, as this might signify that there is an obstruction in the drain.
    Keep an eye on the public drains outside your property to ensure that they are being cleaned regularly. You can report a blocked drain using this website or by contacting your local council
  • Clean gutters
    To ensure your guttering system and downpipes work efficiently have them cleaned regularly to remove any debris that may cause blockages
  • Extra drainage (Groundwater)
    You may want to add extra drainage to your property if you are regularly having issues with groundwater, diverting the excess away from your property
  • Join a community flood action group
    If you would like to be more involved in long term permanent flood prevention in your region then you might want to consider joining a community flood action group. The groups are involved in a number of flood related scenarios, including: spreading flood risk awareness, lobbying government and influencing the development of future flood schemes.

We have our fingers crossed that you never have to experience flooding in your home but if at any point you are at risk, we hope that our guide will be helpful in your preparations to deal with the situation.