Flood Help

If you, like thousands of other property owners, have been affected by the recent floods you’re probably facing the daunting task of evaluating the extent of the damage. Insurance companies are being (literally) flooded by claims. If you live in a flood-prone area and need to obtain home insurance or would like to know how to protect your property against future flooding follow these steps.

Before the flood

If you are forewarned about the flood, prepare yourself by:

  • Anticipating the loss of electricity, gas and water supplies – fill containers with drinking water while you still have a water supply.
  • Having warm clothes, blankets and wellies at the ready.
  • Storing some non-perishable food supplies and drinks upstairs and/or in a container which cannot be contaminated by flood water.

Imminent flood

Your first priority is the safety of yourself and your family, so you should:

  • Heed the advice of the emergency services and your local authority.
  • Move your family upstairs if possible – don’t forget to move pets too.
  • Help elderly, disabled or vulnerable neighbours if it is safe to do so.
  • Ensure you keep any essential medication (e.g. Insulin) with you.
  • Evacuate your home if advised to do so, but stay put otherwise.

If there is no immediate danger, reduce the impact of the flood on your home:

  • Move valuable and portable electrical items upstairs.
  • Switch off gas, electricity and water supplies.
  • Block plugholes and weigh plugs down with heavy objects.
  • Place a sandbag in the toilet to prevent backflow.
  • Block low-level openings such as airbricks, cat flaps and low windows.
  • Raise furniture off the floor using bricks or boxes.

During the flood

  • Avoid contact with floodwater as far as possible – it could be contaminated with sewage.
  • Do not attempt to walk or wade through deep floodwater – you risk being knocked off your feet and will not be able to identify hazards like open manholes.
  • Dial 999 only if lives are endangered

How can I protect my property from flood damage?

Awareness

Check whether you are in a flood risk zone on the Environment Agency website. A postcode search brings up a map, showing the likelihood of flooding in your area. If you live in a high risk area, you can receive early flood warnings by telephone – call 0845 988 1188 to check your eligibility and sign up for Floodline Warnings Direct.

Be prepared

If you believe that you could be at risk from flooding, check current flood warnings online or contact Floodline on 0845 988 1188. The service is available 24 hours a day.
Physical barriers

  • Seal openings with silicone – apply a layer of sealant around the frame, then firmly shut the door or window.
  • Block large openings with plywood, metal sheeting or sandbags.

Damage limitation

  • Move small items of furniture upstairs and raise larger items at least half a foot off the floor using sturdy materials.
  • Move items into the middle of the room – this aids drying after the flood.
  • Roll up carpets, rugs and removable flooring and store upstairs.
  • Place soft furnishings upstairs, and/or tie up curtains etc above head height.
  • If possible, take doors off their hinges and store upstairs.

Don’t forget about your garden and outdoor areas – items could float away in a flood, so store them in a garage or shed – again, as high as possible.

Insurance

The Association of British Insurers uses Environment Agency data to categorise your home’s flood risk as Low, Moderate or Significant. Low and moderate categories rarely affect insurance terms, but homes in the significant category may be assessed before insurance is offered. Depending on the specific risk to your property, insurers may decline to insure you. Check your policy to make sure you are covered for flood damage.

No insurance?

Industry research indicates that, for a modern semi, just 50cm of floodwater can cause £15,000 of property damage, with a further £9,000 needed to replace contents. If you do not have home insurance, don’t panic – contact your local authority to see what emergency financial help is available. You may qualify for help from The Department for Work and Pensions. The DWP Social Fund provides:

  • Crisis Loans, and
  • Community Care Grants

The loans are administered through Job Centres – see the Jobcentre Plus website, contact your nearest Jobcentre, or call 0800 055 6688 for further details.

What should I do in the aftermath of a flood?

Do not carry out any major work or commence a clean-up until you:

  • Have been given the all-clear by the emergency services and/or local authority.
  • Know your property is safe to enter.
  • Have consulted your insurance provider and/or loss adjuster (this is a representative of your insurer, who may be appointed to verify the circumstances of a claim, and to agree the value of the claim with you).

Once you have the go-ahead:

  • Remove mud and other debris
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces
  • Maximise ventilation to promote rapid drying

It is useful to keep a record of the flood damage – either by writing it down or, better still, using a camera or video camera.

Repairs

Don’t carry out repairs until you have contacted your insurer, and checked that there is no imminent chance of further flooding.
Preventing future damage

Think about incorporating flood resilience and resistance into your repair.

Flood resilience minimises the damage caused by floodwater which enters your home. For example, replacing gypsum plaster with a more water-resistant lime plaster.

Flood resistance reduces the volume of water that enters your home in the first place. Examples might include installing water-resistant doors and window-frames, or one-way valves to prevent sewage backing up into water pipes.

These measures will limit flood damage in future and cost you less in the long run.
The Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters estimates that flood-resilient properties might only need to claim £5,000 – £30,000 in the event of a flood – 30-60% less than a “normal” home.

You can download a free, 10-page guide to a post-flood clean-up from the Environment Agency.