The UK is crowded place. With increasing pressure on space and rising house prices developers have been building on every available plot. Many of these new build sites have been in areas that have some risk of flooding. After our exceptionally wet year we are realising just how many of our homes are at risk.
Even if flooding only occurs every decade or two the effects can still be devastating. Expensive and irreplaceable items are lost and huge amounts of damage are caused to buildings. In addition alternative accommodation has to be found for homes and businesses while essential repairs are carried out. Repairs can take ages too as everyone in the area is fighting over the same contractors and materials.
The costs involved can be ruinous so it is essential that all of us have a long hard think about the risks to our homes and businesses. What can we do to prevent and reduce the damage should the worst happen and how will we will pay for repairs?
Am I At Risk?
Not all of us are at risk. If you are close to a river or know of floods in the area then you need to urgently consider the possible impact on you. However it is not always easy to tell if you are directly at risk. If your house is on the crest of a hill then even if you are in an area that has experienced a lot of floods you might be safe. Of course your neighbours who live at the bottom of the hill might be in a totally different position.
Luckily the Environment Agency (SEPA in Scotland) publish a series of maps that show, in detail, which areas are at risk of flooding and where they have issued flood warnings. In addition they offer a great free flood warning alert service. You can sign up for free online (https://fwd.environment-agency.gov.uk/app/olr/home) or over the phone (0845 988 1188) and the Environment Agency will send you a warning if your postcode is at risk giving you time to prepare.
If your home is in an area where there is a flood warning don’t just run for the hills or panic. There are a number of practical steps you can take to drastically reduce your losses and the damage to your property. The list below is a useful starting point.
- Move furniture and possessions upstairs, onto tables or move them to another property.
- Park your car well away from rivers and valleys and do not use basement parking.
- Turn off mains water, gas and power.
- Put the plugs in your sinks and baths and weigh them down.
- Block toilets with a sandbag in the bowl – you do not want drain back flow!
- Close washing machine and dishwasher inlet/outlet valves.
- Make sure windows and doors are airtight – use silicone sealant around the edges. Don’t worry you can peal it off when the water has fallen back.
- Use sandbags to block doorways, garages and basement stairs.
- Collect together emergency contact information, important documentation and passports and store it in a secure waterproof area.
- Charge your phones and computers and store these essential items in waterproof bags.
- Keep some essentials safe and close to hand. Make sure you have a way to keep them dry – torches with new batteries, drinking water, none perishable food and blankets.
Normally some flood cover is a normal part of home insurance but given the rapidly escalating costs to insurers cover can be reduced or even be absent entirely. You must check the small print of your documentation to see what is covered, how much you will get and what excesses apply. The sort of things you should be looking for;
- Are buildings and contents covered?
- Do you get the full replacement cost?
- Is there any emergency cover for the costs of finding alternative accommodation should you need it?
- What do I need to do by when if I experience flood damage?
If you know your home is in an area that floods or you have made claims in the past you might need to find a specialist insurer who will look at your circumstances in more detail. For most of us the big names will offer affordable insurance that is suitable for our level of risk. But as each insurer provides different levels of cover and different companies use different data or maps to determine if you are a flood risk its worth shopping around.
Don’t just be guided by price, the cheapest might not give you the cover you need – get the details of the policies on offer to make sure you get the best deal not just the cheapest. After all even if you manage to get an amazingly cheap insurance deal if you can’t actually claim for any damage because the cover is so restricted it is money down the drain.
A couple of seconds on the Churchill site and you can find policy summaries for their building and contents insurance which list flood damage as covered in their standard policy. The Direct Line website is not so easy to use and its easy to find yourself on the apply for a quote page before you have found any documentation – but it is there. Its not helped by the fact they do not have drop down menus on their main navigation.