Assess your flood risk and plan ahead

Your property may be affected by a flood during a storm or because of surface water flooding when the drains can’t cope with the amount of rainfall. Surface water can affect anywhere, not just areas near rivers or the sea. Urban areas with high-density housing and lots of concrete are the most susceptible to surface water flooding.  These areas generally lack large green areas which are good at absorbing rainwater. In October the UK government reported that over 3 million properties in England are at risk of surface water flooding. That’s higher than those at risk from rivers and the sea which is estimated at 2.7 million.

Check for flood damage using the Environment Agency’s flood risk checker

You need to know what to do to secure your commercial premises and keep all of your staff safe. You should check warnings using the Environment Agency’s flood risk checker and the weather forecast.

You can find out if you’re at immediate risk of flooding – check current warnings and river and sea levels, at risk of flooding in the next 5 days or in an area that’s likely to flood in the future – check your long term risk of flooding and view your area’s flood maps. You can also get the flooding history of a property based on Environment Agency records which is free if it takes less than 18 hours to compile.

Secure your property and turn off gas and electricity supplies

surface water flooding

You must secure your property making sure you lock both and if it is safe to do so, turn off your electricity and gas supplies. You need to pack a bag with insurance documents, passport, medication and emergency supplies including a blanket and your mobile phone and charger. If you or your family or colleagues are in immediate danger, do not hesitate to call 999. Take care to secure your car and put pets upstairs with food before leaving your home or if possible, take them with you.

Wash your hands if they come into contact with surface water or other flood water

Six inches of water can be enough to knock you off your feet so you must wash your hands immediately if they come into contact with the water. Flood water can be contaminated with raw sewage, rat urine and road surface pollution. It’s best to disinfect your hands if they’ve come into contact with surface water flooding to prevent you getting ill or spreading disease.

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Properties need to dry out after surface water flooding so it may be many months before you get back home or back into your office. In the meantime go to a rest centre immediately and then contact your local council and insurer to see if they can arrange temporary accommodation for you. If your office is flooded, arrange for staff to work from home or in temporary offices while the premises are refurbished. Repairs may take many months to complete.

Adverse weather cannot be controlled and take time to pass. Flood damage inside the property or on a building site can be controlled if there is a water leak but a flood caused by a storm needs to run its course. A fire can be extinguished and then the key task is to clean up.

Contact your insurer to check liability after surface water flooding

Afterwards you are left to resolve disputes over liability. You need to establish who is responsible, was it faulty workmanship and check if the work is covered by a guarantee. You will probably need to involve outside agencies such as your insurance company whom you should notify immediately.

While fires can be very destructive, if you live near a river, flooding can recur. According to research carried out by the Environment Agency this time last year, 5.2 million homes are at risk of flooding in England. Of those 5.2 million less than 10% think they are at risk and even fewer have plans about how to respond if their property was flooded. Between 2007 and 2017, 36 people died as a result of flooding in England and Wales. The floods of 2013 left 13 people dead, 44,600 homes flooded and £3bn in damage and the AA reported a staggering 642 rescues on Christmas Eve alone. Many more lives could have been lost without the AA rescue effort.

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