Protecting yourself from floods if you live in a flood risk area; how to receive early flood warnings

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If your property is flooded there may be only a few hours’ warning and when most properties are flooded the damage is caused by relatively small amounts of flood water — often just a few inches. Many of us will never experience flooding — thankfully — but if you’re at risk of flooding it’s worth making sure you’re prepared.

If you live in a flood risk area

The Environment Agency website has lots of information for England and Wales, including:

Flood warnings: these tell you where flooding is expected and how severe it is predicted to be. You can then call the Environment Agency for more information.

– There’s information on what the flood warning codes mean (some mean you should leave your home immediately, others that a previous flood warning is now all clear)on the site.

– You can register to receive flood warnings to your mobile phone, home or work telephone (or more than one phone) on the Environment Agency website.

SAVVY TIP: You can access all these pages from the Gov.uk website, which has a section called Check flood warnings and river levels.

– Scotland is covered by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. Its website also carries live flood warnings and updates.

– The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency site will also let you sign up to flood warnings.

– In Northern Ireland, the website nidirect.gov.uk has a section on flooding including information on preparing for a flood. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has a flood map (including a mobile friendly version).

Planning ahead
You may never have thought of drawing up a ‘flood plan’ before, but it’s worth doing. It sets out details of who to contact in an emergency (such as the local council, gas and electricity provider) plus where the electricity, gas and water cut-offs are located.

It includes advice such as:

– Put important documents in plastic bags and move them somewhere safe (upstairs if possible).

– Roll up carpets and rugs and hang curtains over the rods unless you have time to take them down.

– Get a flood pack which includes warm and waterproof clothing, medication, food a torch and wellie boots.

You can download a personal flood plan from the Environment Agency website.

Dealing with your insurance company

If your property is flooded, you should get in touch with your insurance company as soon as you can. Some insurers move response teams into areas that have been affected by flooding, others don’t.

– Insurers will normally pay for emergency repairs and can help with getting your home dried out.

– Take photos of the damage as it may help when you come to make your claim.

– Don’t take your carpets up unless you have to, as they may shrink.

– Don’t throw furniture etc away as the insurance company may want to see it before they pay the claim.

SAVVY TIP: When there’s significant flooding, cowboy traders often descend on an area offering their services. Your insurer should be able to advise you on reputable tradesmen to use, otherwise if your policy stipulates that you should sort out repairs yourself and claim afterwards, try the Government-approved Trustmark site or — even better — have a list of electricians and plumbers etc in your flood pack.

If there is a problem
If your insurance company isn’t treating your claim as it should, there are a number of organisations that can help. The National Flood Forum is a charity that provides advice and support to people who’ve experienced flooding.

– The National Flood Forum isn’t designed to help in the immediate aftermath of a flood, but it is definitely worth getting in touch with if you’re having problems with your insurer.

SAVVY TIP: If you’re not satisfied with the way your insurance company has handled your claim, you have the right to take a complaint to the free and independent complaints adjudicator for financial firms called the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Related articles:

Facts and myths about flood insurance

Making a claim if you have a burst water pipe

What are flood resilient measures for your home?

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