The floods that hit the north of England in the winter of 2015/16 were devastating.

Thousands of domestic and business properties were affected, and many families had to seek out temporary accommodation while extensive repairs were carried out to their homes.

Visiting Cumbria during the worst of the crisis, I was struck by how quickly the owners of a toy shop in Cockermouth managed to be up and running after their premises flooded.

Back in 2009, when more than five feet of water flooded their shop, it took over six months of hard work before the shop could reopen. This time they were back in business just three days after the flood.

Resilience measures

But what was different this time?

Jonty and Fiona Chippendale, the owners, undertook a range of resilience actions following the 2009 floods. It meant they were able to keep trading during the next bout of severe weather, retaining customers and also winning new ones.

Improving their ability to cope with and recover from flooding was clearly a decision that worked for them. 

Prevention tops cure

Research confirms that it is more cost-effective to improve a property’s resilience to flooding than to pay for repairs to the damage caused by a flood.

My understanding of the importance of property resilience has led me to join forces with Dr Peter Bonfield, a leading expert in the field, to help publish his ground-breaking flood resilience action plan.

Last month saw the launch of BRE’s Flood Resilient Repair House, which is being used to test new ways to make a property more robust against flooding (BRE is a research facility dedicated to exploring new ways to make property more robust, efficient and sustainable).

Resilience features

Sited in their innovation park in Watford, the building demonstrates what can be done to stop the problems caused if a home floods.

It is has a range of adaptions such as flood resistant doors and windows, a resilient kitchen and water resistant wallboards and insulation, and yet it still feels very much like a real family home.

Peter sums it up well: “It’s about both stopping the floodwaters getting in, and speeding recovery when it does, so we’re better prepared for future flood events.”

There are many ways to help protect yourself and your family if it does flood. One of the most vital is to stay aware. One in six properties in England is at risk, but many do not know if they are a risk or not.

5 top ways to defend against flooding:

1. Find out whether you are at flood risk
2. Sign up to flood warnings
3. Download a copy of the Homeowners' Guide to Flood Resilience
4. Make a personal flood plan
5. Find flood protection products and services at the National Flood Forum’s Blue Pages.

The country will continue to face growing flood risk in future. I believe that the combined resilience added by national flood schemes, together with more homeowners adding flood protection, can reduce the impact these future events may bring.

We’re delivering a £2.5 billion programme over the next five years to better protect 300,000 properties.

This will be through a combination of engineered fixed flood defences and slowing the flow of water through river networks using techniques such as restoring river bends or reinstating grassland habitat.

We’re also encouraged by the success of Flood Re, the government-backed insurance scheme which is helping make home insurance more affordable to those who live in flood-risk areas.

We are doing all we can do reduce the risk for people and property, but we want to help more people understand how adding some basic flood protection to homes can mean it takes days rather than months to clear up after a flood.

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