What to do in a flood
Advice and guidance for protecting yourself and your home in heavy rain and flooding.
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Forecasting floods depends on the type and nature of the events which trigger them. Short periods of intense rainfall can cause flash flooding, longer periods of widespread heavy rain can cause rivers to overflow and storm surges can cause coastal flooding.
The Met Office works closely with the Environment Agency (EA) in England, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Natural Resources Wales in Wales to forecast areas where floods are likely. In Northern Ireland the Met Office works closely with partners to raise awareness of weather events which may result in flooding impacts on people and property.
The Environment Agency, SEPA and local authorities share responsibility for providing advice and information to the public during flood emergencies and can be contacted 24 hours a day via a dedicated Floodline number.
Floodline (England, Scotland and Wales): 0345 988 1188
Northern Ireland flooding incident line: 0300 2000 100
- prepare a bag that includes medicines and insurance documents
- check for flood warnings and sign up for free alerts
- turn off gas, water and electricity
- move things upstairs or to safety
- move family, pets and car to safety
- call 999 if in immediate danger
- follow advice from emergency services
- keep yourself and your family safe
Save a copy of this simple flood plan (PDF, 139KB) so you’ll know what to do when there’s a flood warning in your area.
The public are advised to stay away from swollen rivers and not to walk or drive through flood water as just 30cm of flowing water is enough to move your car.
Contact your insurance company
If you’ve been flooded, contact your insurance company and follow their advice. If you haven’t got insurance, the National Flood Forum can offer help and support on 01299 403055.
Find your local flood action group or flood warden
If there’s been a serious flood, your local authority may have chosen a place like the town hall as a ‘flood hub’ from which to organise recovery efforts. You may also have a nearby flood warden or flood action group. Contact the National Flood Forum for help in finding local support.
Check if you can return home
If you’ve had to leave your home, check with the emergency services that it’s safe before you return.
Your home or business may also need a safety inspection by the utility companies before you can turn the water, gas and electricity back on.
Cleaning and repairing your home
Take advice from specialists before starting repairs to your property. Most of the repair work after flooding will need to be undertaken by professionals appointed by your insurers.
Flood water may contain harmful substances like sewage, chemicals and animal waste which could make you unwell. If you come into contact with flood water, wash your hands thoroughly.
When cleaning your home after a flood always wear gloves, a face mask and sturdy footwear. Find out how to clean up your home safely after a flood.
Before you start cleaning, take photographs to document damage and record the flood water height. Ask your insurer before discarding items that cannot be cleaned, like mattresses and carpets.
If you use heaters or dehumidifiers to dry out your property, make sure there’s good ventilation. Never use petrol or diesel-powered generators indoors – their exhaust gases are potentially lethal.
If you have any questions about recovering from a flood, such as disposing of used sandbags or damaged furniture, contact your local authority. They should help with collecting large flood-damaged items. They’ll tell you where to put them and when they may be collected.
Protect your property from future floods
To reduce flood damage you could take measure such as laying tiles instead of carpets, moving electrical sockets higher up the walls and fitting non-return valves.
Suppliers of flood products and services can be found on the Bluepages.
Read the National Flood Forum's advice on how to protect your property from flooding in the future.
You can find general advice about staying healthy after a flood at Public Health England.
If you notice a change in the colour, taste or smell of your tap water, stop using it and phone your water company.
You can get support from your local health protection team to prevent and reduce the effect of diseases.
Don’t eat food that’s touched flood water. If your electricity is off, don’t eat fresh food from a fridge after 4 hours or from a freezer after 24 hours.
The Food Standards Agency offers detailed food safety advice for flood victims.
The Environment Agency has specially trained Flood Support Officers across the country who provide information and advice during and after floods. Call Floodline (24-hour service) on 0345 988 1188 or type-talk (for the hard of hearing) on 0345 602 6340 to find out if they’re active in your area.
Get emotional support
Public Health England offers a guide to mental wellbeing after a flood.
Apply for financial aid
You may be able to get financial aid for flood recovery. Apply to your local council.