In a survey, the agency found that 61% of households in flood-risk areas did not believe their property could be affected, and 30% of people in these areas have done nothing to plan for it, meaning as many as 1.5 million homes are totally unprepared.
So, what should you be doing to ensure your home is protected? We asked experts for their advice on what to do now, and in the case of an emergency.
Check your risk
The first step you should take is to check whether your home is in an area that’s at risk of flooding. Visit the flooding information section on gov.uk, where you can also sign up for flood warning alerts by call, text or email. In Ireland, go to Floodinfo.ie and in Wales sign up for warnings via Natural Resources Wales.
Assess your insurance
“People should check with their insurer that they have the right buildings and contents cover in place,” says Andrew Nevitt, head of products at Co-op Insurance.
“If your home is damaged by bad weather, contact your insurer as soon as possible so that they can assess the level of damage and make the necessary arrangements to deal with your claim, as they may also need to help you arrange alternative accommodation.”
Move valuables upstairs
“It is most likely that the water will enter the bottom floors of your home first, making valuable items on the ground floor most susceptible to water damage,” says Rachel Fernie, spokesperson for home interior experts Hillarys. “Therefore, it is wise to try and move all of these items upstairs and out of harm’s way.”
She advises prioritising “the items that have more sentimental value and are irreplaceable through a claim made via your home and contents insurance – including photos, memorabilia and family heirlooms.”
Prepare an emergency flood kit
“Should you decide to stay in your home or have to evacuate quickly, being prepared and assembling the kit beforehand will make things a lot easier,” says John Alexander, managing director of flood protection solutions provider Aquobex.
“A flood emergency kit is a collection of basic items that you may need in the event of a disaster and should be available in a safe area of the house, preferably at first floor level. Store your first aid kit, documents, and a radio in a sealed package and have an immersion motor pump to help ground floor drainage after a flood event. It’s likely that you will have to survive on your own after a flooding event so you should have enough food, water and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours.”
Know what to do if a flood hits
In the event of a flood warning, there are steps you can take to minimise damage before water starts to rise.
First and foremost, if you believe your home is about to flood, turn off your electricity supply at the source,” says Fernie.
Suzy Tiffany, home claims director at More Than, says: “Park your car somewhere safe on higher ground if you can, in case water levels rise. You could put sandbags in front of your doors to prevent water from entering the house.”
Consider longer-term planning
“If your home is liable to flooding again and your intention is to remain in your home for many years to come, it’s certainly worth looking into how best to protect your home and its contents from the potential effects of future climate change,” Fernie says.
This might involve external changes to reduce to chances of severe flood damage, such as “door and gate barriers, brick covers, sewage non-return valves and waterproof plasterboard”.