There are three important steps you can take to make sure you are prepared for flooding from rivers or the sea. These are:
Step 1 – Check if you live in a tidal or river flood risk area. You can visit the Environment Agency website to find out if you are at risk of flooding from the sea, tidal river or main rivers:
Environment Agency - flood risk maps (external website)
Step 2 – Sign up to Floodline Warnings Direct. If you live in an area of tidal or river flood risk, you should sign up to receive flood warnings. You can do this by calling Floodline on 0845 988 1188 or registering through the Environment Agency website:
Environment Agency - Register With Floodline Warnings Direct (external website)
Step 3 - Make a flood plan. You should complete a flood plan for your household. The documents below have more information:
Get ready for flooding leaflet (pdf 675kb opens in a new window)
Personal flood plan (pdf 185kb opens in a new window)
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To try and stop water entering your home, here are a few simple measures which can help keep you safe and minimise damage to your property:
- listen to your local radio and TV weather forecasts for advice from the emergency services;
- alert your neighbours, particularly the elderly;
- move your car to higher ground;
- roll up carpets and rugs and move them out of harm’s way;
- empty furniture drawers and cupboards. Place the contents and any furniture you can move upstairs;
- any furniture you can’t move could be raised on bricks and pulled away from the wall. Weigh down any furniture which is too heavy to move, to stop it from floating and damaging walls and windows;
- fasten plastic bags around the legs of wooden furniture to help minimise absorption of water;
- if possible, take the curtains down or wrap them round the curtain pole
- move computer and other electrical equipment upstairs or above the anticipated water level;
- turn off mains gas and electricity;
- put plugs in sinks and weigh them down with something heavy to prevent backflow from the drains. Weigh down the loo seat too;
- disconnect electrical appliances;
- check food and water supplies and take upstairs;
- bring caged outdoor pets inside, and move all pets with food, water, bedding and litter trays upstairs;
- get into the habit of storing valuable or sentimental items and important documents upstairs or in a high place;
- if you have any flood protection equipment, such as floodboards or airbrick covers, put them in place;
- do as much as you can in daylight. Doing anything in the dark will be a lot harder, especially if the electricity fails.
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Long term preparation can help protect your home and possessions against flooding.
Boarding your loft gives you more space to move possessions above the flood water levels. This is especially useful if you live in a bungalow.
You can buy portable flood barrier products, which can be fitted for the duration of the flood risk period. Details of the products available can be found in the National Flood Forum blue pages.
Check that there are no cracks around the sealants on window and door frames.
Keep an eye open for any gaps on the brickwork and cracks around the windows, doors and piping.
Make sure your gutters are cleaned out regularly and do not deposit oil, building materials etc. down gullies.
If you are adding an extension or other building work make sure that you or your builder consult building and planning regulations for advice on flood prevention measures.
New electrical sockets should be installed as high as possible above anticipated water levels, and it is advisable to put new boilers and/or other heating units on the first floor.
Keep any watercourses, such as ditches or culverts, which run across or border your garden, free from blockages and check for bank erosion. Never be tempted to fill them in, to create an extra patch of garden.
Gully and drain cleaning
- Keeping gullies clear is critical to making sure water can drain away.
- Gullies on a public highway will be cleaned by the council. We will also clear those serving council tenants homes, as part of our regular gully cleaning programme.
- If you own your home or rent from a private landlord, the home owner is responsible for keeping these gullies clean - including drains on unadopted roads such as tenfoots.
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If your property has previously flooded or is in a known flood risk area you should certainly consider keeping your own stock of sandbags if you feel these will help. Sandbags can help divert flowing water but have a low success rate in actually keeping water out of homes. If you feel that sandbags may be of use, they can be purchased online and from local DIY stores or builders merchants. Purpose-made, property-level flood protection products are likely to be more suitable in keeping water from entering property via doors, airbricks, etc.
You can find more information and guidance on sandbag use from the following websites:
Gov.uk - using sandbags (external website - opens in new window)
National Flood Forum - sandbags (external website - opens in new window)
Please note: In some instances flooding can occur with little or no warning and it is the home-owner’s or land-owner’s responsibility to consider sandbags or other flood protection products.
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The council does not provide sandbags to members of the public on request. Resources are not available to deliver sandbags to private properties, particularly when a widespread flooding event may be taking place. The council holds a limited supply of sandbags, which will be deployed depending on the potential scale of the flooding and using the following priorities:
- Prevention of loss of life or serious injury
- Work to prevent flooding from watercourses, supporting flood banks, etc
- The maintenance of access for the emergency services
- Protection of the primary highway network and transportation routes
- Protection of vital utilities, electricity, communications networks, pumping stations
- Protection of vital facilities within the community
- Protection of council property including care homes, schools, etc.
If supplies are made available to the public they will only be issued where officers have assessed the situation and feel that there is an immediate flood risk and that sandbags would help prevent flooding. The council will assess the situation following reports of flooding or potential flooding or when the Environment Agency has issued a flood warning or severe flood warning for an area. Sandbags will not be issued for flood alerts.
If sandbags are issued they will most likely be placed at strategic points in areas known to be sensitive to flooding, for example on street corners, for collection and placement by the property owner.
However, with little warning of some types of flooding occurring it is often difficult to get supplies to communities in time to be of any benefit to prevent flooding of property. Residents are encouraged to think about how they could protect their own property, particularly if it is in a known flood risk area. Advice on property protection and known flood risk areas is available from the National Flood Forum and the Environment Agency. Advice on actions to take if you think your home is at risk of flooding can be found here:
Gov.uk - using sandbags (external website)
National Flood Forum - sandbags (external website)
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Call 999 if anyone is at immediate risk
- Keep dry and out of floodwater if possible
- Stay in your property, if safe to do so, until advised otherwise by the emergency services or the floodwater has receded.
- Do not walk or drive through flowing floodwater.
- Avoid contact with floodwater and wash any exposed parts before handling food or attending to wounds. Make sure any cuts are covered with waterproof dressings if you have to make contact with floodwater.
- DO NOT allow children to play in floodwater, as well as the risk of disease manhole covers may have dislodged under the pressure of floodwater creating a drowning risk.
- Floodwater conducts electricity. Turn off the electricity at the mains with a wooden stick, do not attempt to operate any damaged electrical goods until they have been checked by a certified electrical engineer
How do I turn off my electricity supply?
You need to find the electricity isolation switch. It may be under the stairs, in a hallway, porch or garage. You’ll normally find it next to your main fuse box or trip switches.
How do I turn off my gas supply?
Gas pockets, oil and contaminants can build up in and around floodwater. Turn off the gas supply at the mains and do not attempt to operate any gas appliances until a certified gas engineer has checked them. Be careful with naked flames. First you need to locate the gas isolation valve. In newer houses, the gas meter and isolation valve are often outside in a meter box. If not, try looking under the stairs, beneath the kitchen sink or in the garage. To turn off the gas supply, simply move the handle a quarter turn. And remember, if you smell gas, open doors and windows and never operate any electrical switches.
- Floodwater contains sewage and other contaminants. Do not eat food that has come into contact with the water. Wash your hands with disinfectant if you come into contact with the water directly. "Ready-to -eat" foods which have or may be contaminated with flood water should be discarded into black bin liners, or equivalent. Sealed tinned foods are likely to be safe to eat if washed down thoroughly with detergent and clean water before opening.
- Do not drink, clean your teeth or cook with your water supply until either Yorkshire Water or an Environmental Health Officer has pronounced it fit for human consumption again. Your full system needs to be flushed through to remove any possible contamination.
- Drink only bottled, boiled or treated water until you know your supply is safe. By boiling water for one minute you will kill harmful bacteria and parasites.
- Do you have a septic tank? If yes:-Septic Tanks will need to be emptied when the water level has dropped enough to allow the normal drainage system to function. Paying to empty the septic tank too soon will only mean it acts as a sump for the local area.
- Floodwater can be fast moving. If water is still around your home do not walk through fast flowing water in the home or outside – 6 inches of water can knock you off your feet. Be careful of holes and dips when moving around. Use a stick to gauge depth.
- Phone your insurance company’s 24 hour Emergency Helpline as soon as possible. They will be able to provide information on dealing with your claim, and assistance in getting things back to normal.
- Continue to listen to situation updates on your local radio and via Floodline 0845 988 1188.
What should I do if I've been advised to evacuate?
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It is recommended that you only fully reoccupy your home once it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and allowed to dry out. Remember your power supplies may have been affected. Turn off the power and get advice from your supplier/s before use.
Some basic precautions are all that is necessary to protect your health - infection problems arising from floods in the UK are rare. If you follow the advice in this leaflet, you should be able to avoid any additional health problems for you and your family as a result of clearing up. Always wear gloves Ring NHS Direct if any concerns 0845 4647
General advice on protecting against infection
The floodwater affecting your home or other property may have been contaminated with sewage, animal waste and other contaminants. However infection problems arising from floods in the UK are actually rare. Although harmful micro-organisms in flood water are very diluted and present a low risk there are a few precautions to be aware of when dealing with flooding which should prevent unnecessary additional health problems. If you follow the basic advice below you should not experience any additional health problems. Always wash your hands.
Gardens and play areas
Do not let young children or pets play on affected grassed or paved areas until they
have been cleaned down and restored to their normal condition.
Be aware of potential chemical hazards you may encounter during flood recovery.
In general you should avoid contact with contaminated water and materials, but if it becomes necessary to do so, you should wear protective clothing and gloves. You should also avoid enclosed areas that may be chemically contaminated, such as garages and cellars, where hazardous fumes may build up.
Be aware that flood waters may have soaked into containers of chemicals, solvents and other industrial items or moved them from their normal storage place.. In general avoid contact with flood water and wear waterproof gloves whilst cleaning up.
Following potential chemical contamination, residents should not return home without seeking advice from your Local Authority.
Water and mud may enter gas systems during a flood. Even if appliances appear to be working normally, the flue or ventilation systems may be affected. For safety reasons it is most important to have appliances inspected by a CORGI registered engineer before they are used for the first time after flooding.
Reducing the risk of mould
Flooding can contribute to the growth of mould in homes, which can present a health risk, especially to people with asthma, allergies, other breathing conditions and those with a suppressed immune system. Always ventilate.
Remember to stay safe
It is recommended that you only fully reoccupy your home once it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and allowed to dry out. Be careful walking through floodwater, there may be debris, open manholes or other hazards you cannot see and sediments may be slippery. Always move slowly and carefully.
Never enter flooded areas or touch wet electrical equipment, unless you are certain that the power is off. Do not assume that any part of a flooded electrical installation/appliance is safe.
Do not turn the power back on or use electrical equipment unless advised to do so or if checked by a qualified electrician. Items may work and appear safe but once they have been under water, they could cause fire.
The main health hazard following flooding comes from the stress and strain of the event, not from infections. Take some time to consider your mental health and approach the clean up without overexerting yourself and in this way you will avoid additional physical stress.
The safe use of emergency generators Remember that petrol or diesel generators, dehumidifiers and pressure washers should never be used indoors without adequate ventilation. The exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide which can quickly build up to poisonous levels without proper ventilation.
Guide to resistant and resilient repair after a flood (word doc 621kb opens in new window)
Health Protection Agency - General advice following floods (pdf 98kb opens in new window)
Health Protection Agency - How to clean up safety following floods (pdf 104kb opens in new window)
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Following flood damage to your home, insurers will only carry out repairs once they are sure the property has fully dried out. Depending on the type of construction and extent of flooding it can take many months before the work can be carried out. If it is done too quickly then it is likely that further problems with damp can occur months later. Some insurance policies offer cover for the cost of renting alternative accommodation during this period if your home is not habitable following an insured event such as flood. If you need to use this cover make sure you know the maximum amount the insurer will pay. Most policies restrict this to a maximum amount and for a maximum time period. You may also be able to claim for other extra costs such as travelling to and from work or school if your alternative home is further away or cost in electricity to power dehumidifiers.
If you suffer serious damage or make a high value claim then it is likely that your insurers will appoint a loss adjuster to manage the claim for them.
They should organise repairs and replacement items for you. If there is a major incident affecting numerous properties, there can be delays as items such as dehumidifiers will be in short supply.
Sandbags are relatively ineffective when compared to purpose-designed flood protection products.
The Environment Agency strongly encourages people to use purpose made flood production products.
Environment Agency- flood protection products (external website)
What to expect from your insurer (pdf 77kb opens in new window)
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Floods happen quickly and often without warning. There is nothing you can do to prevent a flood, and scientists warn that an effect of climate change will be more frequent flash flooding in the future.
- Just 150mm (six inches) of fast flowing water can knock an adult off their feet.
- Electric current can pass along downed power lines in flood waters.
- A car can float in just 600mm (two feet) of water.
- Flash floods can cause walls of water 10 to 20 feet high.
- Around five million people in the UK live in areas at risk of flooding.
Important flood safety advice
- Remember flood water will probably contain sewage, which can cause disease. Always wash your hands / arms / legs after coming into contact with floodwater with hot water and soap. Keep contaminated footwear and clothing away from children.
- Do not allow children to play in floodwater, as well as the risk of disease manhole covers may have dislodged under the pressure of floodwater creating a drowning risk. If you need to walk through floodwater consider using a pole (brush handle) to test the ground in front of you.
Driving on flooded roads
- Stay in first gear and drive slowly as the wash from your car could flood properties.
- Slip the clutch to keep the engine speed higher than normal avoiding a stall.
- Where possible drive towards the middle of the road to avoid the deeper water.
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The National Flood Forum (NFF) (registered charity no. 1121642) provides support and advice to communities and individuals that have been flooded or are at risk of flooding. The NFF produce the blue pages directory which contains information about flood protection products, the document can be found on their website:
National flood forum - blue pages directory (external website)
Alternatively you may wish to request a copy to be posted to you by calling (01299) 403055.
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