Where can I find facts about flooding and advice on how to drive on flooded roads?
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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What should I do if there’s a flood on the way?
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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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.
What should I do if I've been advised to evacuate?
Stay calm and do not panic.
Officials will try to visit all properties at risk to advise on the requirement to evacuate.
If road conditions permit, move vehicles to unaffected areas and ask friends / family if you can share their parking facilities.
You will hear about your evacuation point for transport and the location of the reception centre either verbally or by a leaflet.
Try to check that any elderly / vulnerable family members or neighbours know about the evacuation.
Listen to the advice of the authorities and follow any instructions to leave a property.
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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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How can I deal with insurance issues after flooding?
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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