Floods - everything you need to know

Published:
20 November 2009
Topic:
News,Insurance,Breakdown,Car,Home

It's a frightening thought that some parts of the country are under eight feet of water and the Cumbrian floods have been described as a once-in-a-thousand-years event. So if you're at risk, what do you need to know?

Flooding damages property and risks lives, so you need to be prepared to keep your family, home and belongings as safe as possible.

In your home

Although it can be tempting to assume your house will be safe from floods, it's important to be ready if you're in an at-risk area.

From preparing your home for extreme weather to coping if flood waters do hit, it's essential to be prepared.

Read our article 'How to protect your home from the winter weather' for tips on preparing your home for winter weather and taking steps to protect your property if your house is at risk.

Don't forget to let your home insurance provider know as quickly as possible if you've been hit by floods - they may have clean-up equipment to offer you and could need to inspect your property before you begin the clean up.

In your car

Of course, your house isn't the only expensive asset at risk if flooding does strike, your car is also at risk and many people have been caught out by rapidly rising water and ended up trapped in their vehicles.

The weather makes it very likely that some people will have to make a claim on their car insurance, but what can you do to limit the risk? Here are some key tips:

  • If you're at risk of flooding, try to move your car to high ground where it will be safe.
  • Check your route before you leave your home - phone work and check the Environment Agency's website to be sure you can reach your destination.
  • Carry a fully-charged mobile phone with you so you can request help if you break down.
  • Do not drive into water - even if it looks shallow, it could be deeper than you think.
  • Avoid leaving your car if you do become trapped, unless you are in direct danger. There will be less damage to the vehicle if you are towed out of the water.
  • Do not try to restart a stalled car if you're in the water - this will suck water into your engine and cause far more damage.

It really is preferable to avoid driving in water as you risk becoming stuck. However, if you have to then avoid driving at speed and avoid other traffic, so you do not swamp other motorists.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists recommends staying in first gear, keeping the revs high and never taking your foot off the accelerator, even slightly. That could allow water to travel up the exhaust pipe.

Once you are clear of the flooding, it suggests drying the brakes by lightly applying them as you drive.

 

At your business

Flooding can devastate businesses, particulary smaller companies that do not have a disaster management strategy.

  • If you're at risk of flooding, make sure your data is backed up.
  • Put arrangements in place to inform staff if the workplace is inaccessible - you could organise a phone chain so that each member of the team phones one other.
  • Follow the advice for protecting your home and move any valuable documents or company possessions as high up as possible.

The Federation of Small Businesses has opened its £500,000 disaster recovery fund for member companies in Scotland, Lancashire, Cumbria and the north-east of England.

Small firms can apply for interest-free loans of up to £5,000 to help them overcome flood-related crises.

Where to check the weather

It's all very well urging you to check the weather situation before travelling if you're in an at-risk area, but where can you find this information?

The Environment Agency is responsible for issuing flood warnings in England and Wales.

In Scotland, you can check the Scottish Environment Protection Agency website.

The Met Office  carries localised information on weather and flood risks.

Your local radio station is also likely to carry regular updates on the developing situation.

Local authorities will be offering relevant advice for your area and setting up centres for evacuees. It may well also be able to offer you emergency supplies, including sandbags.

Essential numbers

Floodline: An advice and support number run by the Environment Agency for England, Wales and Scotland.
0845 988 1188

The National Flood Forum: This charity, which exists to support people and communities being affected by flooding, has a wealth of information and supportive advice.
01299 403055

The Rivers Agency provides advice on flooding for those in Northern Ireland.
0300 2000 100

Keep your insurer's details and your policy number in a safe place.

In an emergency, do not hesitate to contact the emergency services.

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