LV= Technical Home Claims Controller Colin Horswell shares his tips on how to plan for and cope if a flood hits your home.
- Find out if your home is in a flood risk area
- Planning and being proactive is key – but do ask for help
- Why rooms that haven't been flooded could still be damaged
Are you in a flood risk area?Wet weather and coastal storm surges have caused a series of destructive floods in the UK over the last few years.
There are three region-focused flood maps you can check to see if you're in a high-risk area. They display flood information on a map, with colour-coding to show the levels of severity. You can even sign up to receive flood warnings by phone, text or email.
- The Environment Agency's flood checker has a detailed map and warnings for areas that could soon be affected in England
- The Scottish Environment Protection Agency provides Scotland's residents with up-to-date information
- The Natural Resources Wales website has information for homeowners in Wales
For house hunters, this information could be useful when deciding where to buy a new home. But it's just as important for people who've lived in the same home for a while.
'People who have never been flooded don't expect it and don't prepare for it, but many claims come in from first-timers,' says Colin.
Planning for a floodIf your home is at risk of being flooded, create a flood plan.
'For homeowners who could find themselves flooded, creating a detailed plan is key,' says Colin. 'Upset and disruption is the main impact of a flood – seeing your home wet, dirty and in disarray. A plan helps you get over that initial hit and encourages you to stay proactive.'
Think about where you're going to stay, who you're going to stay with and how you're going to get there. Do you have relatives or friends nearby who could accommodate you at short notice?
'When a flood hits an area, the local B&Bs and hotels will get booked up very quickly,' Colin says.
If you have pets, find out if there are kennels nearby that will stay on dry ground. You'll also need to consider your elderly or less able relatives.
Putting up flood defencesIf there's a flood warning in your neighbourhood, or heavy rains are forecast, is there anything you can do to protect your home?
There are various dam or sandbag-like products on the market to block your doors, but there are other precautions you can take.
'For people who have been affected by floods, it's often personal possessions that they are most upset to lose,' says Colin. 'Don't forget to take any school books or photo albums from beneath coffee tables or lower shelves. It's also worth making digital copies of everything well in advance so that it's backed up.
'Blocked up drains were a common complaint during the recent floods,' he adds. You can install non-return valves on your pipes if you're concerned about blocked and overflowing drains.
It's also worth making sure you have the receipts and manuals for appliances stored somewhere safe – you may need these when you make your insurance claim.
Don't try to move anything that's too heavy for you to do so safely – flood management companies are trained to take all the necessary steps to prevent secondary damage to your home, including moving heavy objects and carpets.
Before you move anything, take photos and make an inventory of everything you take to higher ground. As an extra step, you can find out which local flood management company your insurer uses and make a note of their details.
What to do when a flood strikesFirst of all, contact your insurance company. Have all the information you think might be useful to them, and tell them what's happened as concisely as possible.
The person on the end of the phone will want to know your situation, where you live and what sort of alternative accommodation you need. They'll also need to know the severity of the flood and the extent of the damage. If possible, have your policy number handy when you call.
After the call, your insurer will contact a flood management company who will call you within the hour. When they come over, they'll work to assess and minimise the damage.
The LV= home insurance team set up an emergency hub in Kendal to help locals who were affected by the flooding – your insurer may do something similar.
Preventing further flood damage to your home
'When it comes to flooding, there are two types of damage,' says Colin. 'Primary damage, which is the initial impact when the flood hits, and secondary damage, which is the harm that standing flood water can cause if not dealt with efficiently.'
The moisture and humidity from floodwater can damage previously unaffected rooms, even those upstairs. So when you're at home, you should open all your windows to get air flowing through the house and stop moisture building up. At the same time, close all the doors to unaffected rooms. Take extra precautions before you do this to protect any valuables, such as storing them in a locked drawer or a safe, or even removing them from the house altogether.
As well as your home, your garden is likely to be badly damaged, and may contain debris from the surrounding neighbourhood. Wait until waters have gone down to safe levels before beginning to clear it.
Once water levels are down, remove carpets that have been damaged. But don't dispose of them: your insurer will need them to see the impact of the flood.
Most of all, be patient with the flood management professionals who are getting your home back to the way it was – but don't be afraid to ask for regular updates!
'The drying out process can be long and frustrating, but it needs to be done in order to minimise damage,' says Colin.
Flash floods can turn your whole life around. But by watching out for warnings, preparing for any eventuality and staying proactive if it happens, you can take control over how much a flood impacts your life.
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