Protect your home from flooding

Preparing for a flood could save your family, possessions and livelihood.

Flood waters can rise very quickly and force their way into your house or office, especially if you don't have flood barriers in place. Flood waters often push under doors and through window seals and may even come up through floorboards, toilets, baths and drainage pipes.

Flood waters can come from the river, sea, reservoirs or underground drains. Flood waters are usually dirty, and may contain sewage. Any part of your house or furniture covered by flood waters can take weeks, sometimes months, to dry out.

Items like furniture, electrical equipment, kitchen units, bathrooms, flooring and plasterwork often have to be replaced altogether after a flood, especially if they have been contaminated with sewage. Things like photographs and personal documents are often completely destroyed by flood waters.

Serious flooding could also cause damage to the structure and foundations of your property. This kind of damage can be difficult and expensive to repair.

Floods destroy, be prepared

There are some ways in which you can reduce the impact of flooding on your home.

To plan for a flood, first check your risk from:

You can get the flooding history of the land around a property. This is a free service unless it's for a business or takes more than 18 hours to complete.

You can also sign up for flood warnings from the Environment Agency.

Weather alerts straight to your phone

Stay weather aware this winter by following the Met Office on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube for the latest weather information. You can also sign up for severe weather alerts from us through the Twitter Alerts programme, providing critical information directly to your phone. Find out more about how to sign up for Met Office Twitter alerts

Plan in advance:

Inside your home, you can limit flood damage by:

  • Keeping valuable or irreplaceable items upstairs or on high shelves (this includes important documents)
  • Fixing TVs and audio equipment to the wall (at least 1.5 metres up)
  • Raising sockets and wiring at least 1.5 m above floor level
  • Using water resistant materials like stainless steel, plastic or solid wood for kitchen and bathroom fittings and furniture
  • Installing concrete/tiled floors and using rugs, instead of carpets, on ground floors and using water-resistant lime-based plaster on your walls
  • Ensuring you have adequate and up-to-date insurance, to cover your home and possessions

If you have no other flood protection in place and you think your home is about to be flooded, you could use sandbags, which are cheap, easy to fill and fit and readily available from local builders' merchants.  In an emergency some local authorities may be able to provide sandbags, although many authorities will only have a limited supply and will not be able to supply them to residents. There are also a number of 'sand-less' sandbags on the market, which you can easily store until needed. But remember that sandbags alone are unlikely to be able to hold back flood waters, especially when flooding occurs for an extended period of time.

If flooding has been forecast

If flooding has been forecast where you live, listen to local radio or check online for updates and news. Phone Floodline (0345 988 1188 or 0845 988 1188) or your local council if you have questions.

Pack a "flood kit" in case you need to leave your home. This should include:

  • Phone numbers, insurance documents, bank cards and money;
  • Medicines and medical devices, hearing aid batteries, glasses and contact lenses;
  • Clothing, toothbrush and personal items; and
  • If you have a baby, pack nappies, clothing and baby food.

Know how to turn off your gas, electricity and water before flood water enters your home. Phone your local suppliers if you are unsure how to do this.

It can be an unsettling time for adults, but also children, so Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service have created a resource with books for children about preparing for and reacting to flooding.

Responding during a flood

  • Accidents happen in fast flowing flood water. Avoid walking or driving in or near flood water. Driving in flood water significantly increases risk of drowning. Do not let children play in flood water.
  • Be careful not to hurt yourself when preparing your home and moving important things to a higher place with a means of escape. Stay safe, listen to the advice of the emergency services and evacuate when told to do so.
  • Don't touch sources of electricity if you are standing in water.
  • Report property flooding or river blockages to the Environment Agency incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 (Freephone 24 hour service).
  • Remember that flooding is stressful. It is normal to feel anxious or upset. Take care of yourself and your family and check on elderly and vulnerable friends and neighbours. Public Health England offers advice and guidance on the mental health effects of flooding.
  • Avoid contact with flood water and wash your hands regularly. Swallowing flood water or mud can cause diarrhoea, fever or abdominal pain. Mention the flood if you see your GP within 10 days for abdominal complaints.

After a flood

  • Take care if you must go into flood water. There could be hidden dangers like sharp objects, raised manhole covers and pollution. Flood water may have caused structural damage to buildings.
  • Ensure good ventilation if using portable indoor heating appliances to dry out indoor spaces. Do not use petrol or diesel generators or other similar fuel-driven equipment indoors: the exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide, which can kill. More information on the dangers of carbon monoxide can be found here.
  • Do not turn on gas or electrics if they may have got wet. Only turn them on when they have been checked by a qualified technician.
  • Feeling tired, anxious and having difficulty sleeping is normal after you have been flooded. Contact friends and family for support as it can take a long time for life to return to normal. Public Health England offers advice and guidance on the  effects of flooding on mental health and other topics related to flood recovery and health
  • If you notice a change in water quality, such as the water becoming discoloured or a change in taste or smell, or if you are unsure, ring your local water company.
  • For food safety advice after flooding, including how to make baby food without mains water, contact the Food Standards Agency.
  • Do not eat food that has touched flood water. If your power has been cut off and your fridge has not been working for up to four hours and has remained unopened, the food inside will be safe. If your fridge has not been working for more than four hours it is advisable to throw away the food inside.
  • Wash your hands regularly and clean work surfaces before and after preparing food. Using warm, clean water and soap, rinsing and drying hands is the most effective way of preventing infection. Use cold water to wash if warm is not available. If there is no clean water, use disposable soapy, wet wipes or sanitising gel to carefully clean all parts of your hands and dry them. Cover wounds with waterproof plasters.
  • Make sure your family take their medicines and attend scheduled medical appointments. Dial '111' if you have non-urgent health concerns.
  • Stay with friends or family, or ask your local authority to help you find alternative accommodation if your home has been damaged by flood water. Only return to your home when essential repairs and cleaning have been completed.
  • Your local authority may help provide skips for cleaning flood-damaged household items.

Cleaning up after a flood

  • Call your insurance company as soon as possible and follow its advice. Take photographs before you start cleaning and ask your insurer before discarding items that cannot be cleaned (eg mattresses and carpets).
  • Wear rubber boots, gloves and masks to clean up. Wash clothes used for cleaning on a separate cycle from your other clothes.
  • Clean all hard surfaces (eg walls, floors) with hot water and detergent. Wash soft items (eg clothing, bedding and children's toys) on a 60°C cycle with detergent.
  • Place rubbish in hard bins or in rubbish bags. Dispose of dead rodents and pests in a plastic bag, wearing rubber gloves.
  • Heating, dehumidifiers and good ventilation can help dry out your home. You may notice mould growing on damp walls, this will stop growing as your home dries out but if it persists, contact a specialist cleaner.

Preparing For A Flood - the Lostwithiel Story

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