Are you prepared for a flood?
First things first, check if your home is at risk
If you live in an area with a high risk of flooding, there's actually a lot you can do to minimise the chances of further disruption and inconvenience.
- On the Environment Agency website, you can enter your postcode to check if your home is at risk of flooding from nearby rivers, the sea, surface water, or even reservoirs. The site also gives your home a flood risk rating of high, medium, low or very low. (Similar information is available from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and National Resources Wales for homeowners in Scotland and Wales.)
How to avoid flood damage
Prepare in advance:
- Locate your main stopcock - the large tap normally found under or near your sink - make sure it’s easy to get to, and that it works.
- Consider using tiles rather than carpets, or wooden flooring in ground-floor or basement rooms.
- Consider installing waterproof linings in basements to prevent water getting in.
- Speak to your local authority for advice on what flood prevention methods they’d recommend to reduce the specific risks affecting your area.
- Save receipts or photographs of receipts for any valuable items, if possible. If you ever need to make an insurance claim, these will make the process much easier. Storing your receipts digitally is also a good idea.
- Keep a copy of your insurance policy documents digitally or with a friend or neighbour - they may not be accessible if filed away at home when a flood hits.
- Have a stock of sandbags ready.
- Put your insurer’s number in your phone.
- Keep a marker pen handy to mark where the flood water comes up to.
If water starts entering your home, or you live in a high-risk area and imminent floods are predicted:
- Move valuable possessions, and especially electrical items, upstairs or to higher areas of your home.
- Do the same with furniture wherever possible.
- Use sandbags to block potential water entry points, like doors on the ground floor and garden gates. Speak to your local authority in advance to find out where you can get access to sandbags. There may be a charge for this service.
- Take down any low-hanging curtains, or fold them over the rail to keep them away from the water.
- During flooding, drains can stop flowing which means sewage could make its way back up into your sinks, toilets and bath, so put plugs in where you can and use something weighty to keep them in place.
- Try to stay away from flood water itself as it may be contaminated with sewage, animal waste, harmful bacteria or chemicals, and be potentially damaging to your health. If you do come into contact with it, thoroughly wash your hands with clean water as soon as possible, especially before preparing food.
- Be aware that flood water can also sometimes contaminate drinking water, so avoid using it until you’re advised it’s safe.
Did You Know...? Around one in six properties, or 5.2 million homes, are currently at risk of flooding in England, and every year flood damage costs in the region of £1.1 billion to put right.
Flood insurance - getting covered
Floods can be hugely damaging to your home and its contents, and the clean up afterwards can be very expensive if you don’t have the most appropriate insurance policy for your needs, so it pays to make some simple checks.
When protecting your home, there are two types of insurance policy to take out:
- Buildings insurance: Covers the bricks and mortar, as well as any permanent fixtures in your home such as kitchen and bathroom fittings.
- Contents insurance: Covers your possessions inside (including carpets, furniture, electrical goods, clothes, toys and food).
Flood insurance is usually included as part of your buildings insurance as standard, but it won’t cover your possessions unless you also have a home contents insurance policy. Make sure that you double check all the details in both your buildings and contents insurance policies, to make sure you have enough cover to protect you in a flood.
Types of policy
A new-for-old policy will pay to replace any damaged items with brand new ones, while ‘indemnity’ cover - which only covers you for the cash value of your possessions at the time they are damaged - might mean you can only claim a much smaller amount.
Don’t forget you may also need alternative accommodation while repairs are made to your home. Always ask your insurer about what exactly you’re entitled to - they’re there to help you.
If you live in a flood risk area, or are considering moving to one, it can be tough to find affordable insurance cover, so it’s a good idea to speak to a broker with specialist knowledge of the market.
If a flood hits, you may not be able to get to your documentation or get online, so it’s worth keeping these emergency numbers stored in your phone:
- Your local authority
- Your insurer’s 24-hour emergency phone line
- Your insurer’s normal customer services number