Flood prevention, preparation and recovery

Key information for residents and businesses at risk of flooding including flood preparation advice, recovery and prevention funding, dealing with insurance issues and the national flood forum.

How can I check if flooding is on the way?

There are two important steps you can take to make sure you are prepared for flooding from rivers or the sea. These are:

1. Check if you live in a tidal or river flood risk area

You can visit the Environment Agency website to find out if you are at risk of flooding from the sea, tidal river or main rivers:

GOV.UK - Flood risk maps

2. Sign up to Floodline Warnings Direct

If you live in an area of tidal or river flood risk, you should sign up to receive flood warnings. You can do this by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or registering through the Environment Agency website:

GOV.UK - Sign up for flood warnings

What should I do if there's a flood on the way?

Here are a few simple measures which can help keep you safe and minimise damage to your property.

Stay alert

  • listen to your local radio and TV weather forecasts for advice from the emergency services
  • alert your neighbours, particularly the elderly
  • sign up for flood alerts.

Stay safe

  • turn off mains gas and electricity
  • disconnect electrical appliances in your home
  • check food and water supplies and take upstairs
  • Move all pets upstairs (including caged outdoor pets), along with their food, water, bedding and litter trays.

Prepare your home

  • move your car to higher ground
  • roll up carpets and rugs and move them out of harm’s way
  • empty furniture drawers and cupboards. Bring the contents upstairs, along with any furniture you are safely able to move.
  • any furniture you can’t move could be raised on bricks and pulled away from the wall
  • weigh down any furniture which is too heavy to move, to stop it from floating and damaging walls and windows
  • fasten plastic bags around the legs of wooden furniture to help minimise absorption of water
  • if possible, take curtains down or wrap them around the curtain pole
  • move computers and other items of electrical equipment upstairs, or above the anticipated water level
  • put plugs in sinks and weigh them down with something heavy to prevent backflow from the drains
  • weigh down the toilet seat
  • get into the habit of storing valuable or sentimental items and important documents upstairs or in a high place
  • if you have any flood protection equipment, such as flood boards or airbrick covers, put them in place

Please note Do as much as you can in daylight. Doing anything in the dark will be a lot harder, especially if the electricity fails.

Make a flood plan

You should complete a flood plan for your household. The documents below have more information:

Get ready for flooding leaflet (pdf 675kb)

Personal flood plan (pdf 185kb)

My home has been flooded, what should I do?

Emergency guidelines

Call 999 if anyone is at immediate risk

  • Keep dry and out of floodwater if possible.
  • Stay in your property, if safe to do so, until advised otherwise by the emergency services or the floodwater has receded.
  • Do not walk or drive through flowing floodwater.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater and wash any exposed parts before handling food or attending to wounds. Make sure any cuts are covered with waterproof dressings if you have to make contact with floodwater.
  • Do not allow children to play in floodwater. As well as the risk of disease, grates and covers may have dislodged under the pressure of floodwater which can create a drowning risk.
  • Floodwater conducts electricity. Turn off the electricity at the mains with a wooden stick. Do not attempt to operate any damaged electrical goods until they have been checked by a certified electrical engineer.

Turn your electricity off

You need to find the electricity isolation switch. It may be under the stairs, in a hallway, porch or garage. You’ll normally find it next to your main fuse box or trip switches.

Turn your gas off

Gas pockets, oil and contaminants can build up in and around floodwater. Turn off the gas supply at the mains and do not attempt to operate any gas appliances until a certified gas engineer has checked them. Be careful with naked flames.

First, you need to locate the gas isolation valve. In newer houses, the gas meter and isolation valve are often outside in a meter box. If not, try looking under the stairs, beneath the kitchen sink or in the garage. To turn off the gas supply, simply move the handle a quarter turn. And remember, if you smell gas, open doors and windows and never operate any electrical switches.

Stay safe

  • Floodwater contains sewage and other contaminants. Do not eat food that has come into contact with the water. Wash your hands with disinfectant if you come into contact with the water directly. "Ready-to-eat" foods which have or may be contaminated with floodwater should be discarded into black bin liners or equivalent. Sealed tinned foods are likely to be safe to eat if washed down thoroughly with detergent and clean water before opening.

  • Do not drink, clean your teeth or cook with your water supply until either Yorkshire Water or an Environmental Health Officer has pronounced it fit for human consumption again. Your full system needs to be flushed through to remove any possible contamination.

  • Drink only bottled, boiled or treated water until you know your supply is safe. By boiling water for one minute you will kill harmful bacteria and parasites.

  • Septic tanks will need to be emptied when the water level has dropped enough to allow the normal drainage system to function. Paying to empty the septic tank too soon will only mean it acts as a sump for the local area.

  • Floodwater can be fast-moving. If water is still around your home, do not walk through fast-flowing water in the home or outside – 6 inches of water can knock you off your feet. Be careful of holes and dips when moving around. Use a stick to gauge the depth.

  • Phone your insurance company’s 24-hour Emergency Helpline as soon as possible. They will be able to provide information on dealing with your claim and give assistance in getting things back to normal.

  • Continue to listen to situation updates on your local radio and via Floodline 0345 988 1188.

Find out how your landlord should help if you rent.

What should I do if I've been advised to evacuate?

  • Stay calm and do not panic.
  • Officials will try to visit all properties at risk to advise on the requirement to evacuate.
  • If road conditions permit, move vehicles to unaffected areas and ask friends or family if you can share their parking facilities.
  • You will hear about your evacuation point for transport and the location of the reception centre either verbally or by a leaflet.
  • Try to check that any elderly or vulnerable family members or neighbours know about the evacuation.
  • Listen to the advice of the authorities and follow any instructions to leave a property.

How can I safeguard my home against flooding?

Long-term preparation can help protect your home and possessions against flooding.

  • Boarding your loft gives you more space to move possessions above the floodwater levels. This is especially useful if you live in a bungalow.

  • You can buy portable flood barrier products, which can be fitted for the duration of the flood risk period. Details of the products available can be found on the National Flood Forum blue pages - external website.

  • Check that there are no cracks around the sealants on window and door frames.

  • Keep an eye open for any gaps in the brickwork and cracks around the windows, doors and piping.

  • Make sure your gutters are cleaned out regularly and do not deposit oil, building materials etc. down gullies.

  • If you are adding an extension or other building work make sure that you or your builder consult building and planning regulations for advice on flood prevention measures.

  • New electrical sockets should be installed as high as possible above anticipated water levels, and it is advisable to put new boilers and/or other heating units on the first floor.

  • Keep any watercourses, such as ditches or culverts, which run across or border your garden, free from blockages and check for bank erosion. Never be tempted to fill them in, to create an extra patch of garden.

Gully and drain cleaning

  • Keeping gullies clear is critical to making sure water can drain away.
  • Gullies on a public highway will be cleaned by the council. We will also clear those serving council tenants homes, as part of our regular gully cleaning programme.
  • If you own your home or rent from a private landlord, the homeowner is responsible for keeping these gullies clean - including drains on unadopted roads such as tenfoots.

Flood prevention products and services

You can find suppliers of flood prevention products and services on the Blue Pages website:

Blue Pages website - Find suppliers of flood prevention products and services

Should I buy sandbags?

Using sandbags

If your property has previously flooded or is in a known flood risk area you should certainly consider keeping your own stock of sandbags if you feel these will help. Sandbags can help divert flowing water but have a low success rate in actually keeping water out of homes.

Purpose-made, property-level flood protection products are likely to be more suitable in keeping water from entering the property via doors, airbricks, etc.

You can find more information and guidance on sandbag use from the following websites:

GOV.UK - Using sandbags

National Flood Forum - Sandbags

Please note: in some instances, flooding can occur with little or no warning and it is the homeowner’s or landowner's responsibility to consider sandbags or other flood protection products.

Buying sandbags

If you feel that sandbags may be of use, they can be purchased online and from local DIY stores or builders merchants.

You may also find local suppliers on the Blue Pages website:

Blue Pages website - Find suppliers of flood prevention products and services

Will the council provide me with sandbags if I request them?

The council does not provide sandbags to members of the public on request. Resources are not available to deliver sandbags to private properties, particularly when a widespread flooding event may be taking place. The council holds a limited supply of sandbags, which will be deployed depending on the potential scale of the flooding and using the following priorities:

  • Prevention of loss of life or serious injury

  • Work to prevent flooding from watercourses, supporting flood banks, etc

  • The maintenance of access for emergency services

  • Protection of the primary highway network and transportation routes

  • Protection of vital utilities, electricity, communications networks, pumping stations

  • Protection of vital facilities within the community

  • Protection of council property including care homes, schools, etc.

If supplies are made available to the public they will only be issued where officers have assessed the situation and feel that there is an immediate flood risk and that sandbags would help prevent flooding. The council will assess the situation following reports of flooding or potential flooding or when the Environment Agency has issued a flood warning or severe flood warning for an area. Sandbags will not be issued for flood alerts.

If sandbags are issued they will most likely be placed at strategic points in areas known to be sensitive to flooding, for example on street corners, for collection and placement by the property owner.

However, with little warning of some types of flooding occurring it is often difficult to get supplies to communities in time to be of any benefit to prevent flooding of property. Residents are encouraged to think about how they could protect their own property, particularly if it is in a known flood risk area. Advice on property protection and known flood risk areas is available from the National Flood Forum and the Environment Agency. Advice on actions to take if you think your home is at risk of flooding can be found here:

GOV.UK - Using sandbags (external website)

National Flood Forum - sandbags (external website)

What should I do when I return home after being flooded?

It is recommended that you only fully reoccupy your home once it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and allowed to dry out. Be aware that your power supplies may have been affected. Turn off the power and get advice from your supplier/s before use.

Some basic precautions are all that is necessary to protect your health - infection problems arising from floods in the UK are rare. The following advice should help you to avoid any additional health problems for you and your family as a result of clearing up.

General advice on protecting against infection

The floodwater affecting your home or other property may have been contaminated with sewage, animal waste and other contaminants. However, infection problems arising from floods in the UK are uncommon. Although harmful micro-organisms in flood water are very diluted and present a low risk, there are a few precautions to be aware of.

• Wherever possible, try to avoid coming into direct contact with floodwater. If you have to go into the water, wear waterproof gloves and rubber boots and remember to be careful of potentially concealed hazards.

• Wash your hands – this is the most important way to get rid of harmful bugs.

•Use warm, clean water and soap, then rinse and dry your hands after going to the toilet, before eating or preparing food, or after being in contact with floodwater, sewage or with items that have been in the water. Use cold water if there is no warm water, or wet wipes if there is no water at all.

• Keep any open cuts or sores clean and prevent them being exposed to floodwater.

•Wear waterproof plasters.

Gardens and play areas

Do not let young children or pets play on affected areas until they have been cleaned down and restored to their normal condition.

Other hazards

Be aware of potential chemical hazards you may encounter during flood recovery.

In general, you should avoid contact with contaminated water and materials, but if it becomes necessary to do so, you should wear protective clothing and gloves. You should also avoid enclosed areas that may be chemically contaminated, such as garages and cellars, where hazardous fumes may build up.

Be aware that floodwaters may have soaked into containers of chemicals, solvents and other industrial items or moved them from their normal storage place. In general, avoid contact with floodwater and wear waterproof gloves whilst cleaning up.

Following potential chemical contamination, residents should not return home without seeking advice from your Local Authority.

Water and mud may enter gas systems during a flood. Even if appliances appear to be working normally, the flue or ventilation systems may be affected. For safety reasons it is most important to have appliances inspected by a CORGI registered engineer before they are used for the first time after flooding.

Reducing the risk of mould

Flooding can contribute to the growth of mould in homes, which can present a health risk, especially to people with asthma, allergies, other breathing conditions and those with a suppressed immune system. Always ventilate.

Remember to stay safe

It is recommended that you only fully reoccupy your home once it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and allowed to dry out. Be careful walking through floodwater, there may be debris, open covers, open grates or other hazards you cannot see and sediments may be slippery. Always move slowly and carefully.

Never enter flooded areas or touch wet electrical equipment, unless you are certain that the power is off. Do not assume that any part of a flooded electrical installation/appliance is safe.

Do not turn the power back on or use electrical equipment unless advised to do so or if checked by a qualified electrician. Items may work and appear safe but once they have been underwater, they could cause a fire.

The main health hazard following flooding comes from the stress and strain of the event, not from infections. Take some time to consider your mental health and approach the clean up without overexerting yourself and in this way, you will avoid additional physical stress.

The safe use of emergency generators

Remember that petrol or diesel generators, dehumidifiers and pressure washers should never be used indoors without adequate ventilation. The exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide which can quickly build up to poisonous levels without proper ventilation.

More advice

Flood Recovery Booklet (pdf 1.7mb)

Guide to resistant and resilient repair after a flood (pdf 190kb)

Health Protection Agency - General advice following floods (pdf 98kb)

Health Protection Agency - How to clean up safety following floods (pdf 104kb)

How can I deal with insurance issues after flooding?

Following flood damage to your home, insurers will only carry out repairs once they are sure the property has fully dried out. Depending on the type of construction and extent of flooding it can take many months before the work can be carried out. If it is done too quickly then it is likely that further problems with damp can occur months later.

Some insurance policies offer cover for the cost of renting alternative accommodation during this period if your home is not habitable following an insured event such as a flood. If you need to use this cover make sure you know the maximum amount the insurer will pay.

Most policies restrict this to a maximum amount and for a maximum time period. You may also be able to claim for other extra costs such as travelling to and from work or school if your alternative home is further away or cost in electricity to power dehumidifiers.

If you suffer serious damage or make a high-value claim then it is likely that your insurers will appoint a loss adjuster to manage the claim for them.

They should organise repairs and replacement items for you. If there is a major incident affecting numerous properties, there can be delays as items such as dehumidifiers will be in short supply.

Sandbags are relatively ineffective when compared to purpose-designed flood protection products.

The Environment Agency strongly encourages people to use purpose-made flood production products.

Environment Agency- flood protection products (external website)

What to expect from your insurer (pdf 77kb)

Where can I find facts about flooding and advice on how to drive on flooded roads?

Floods happen quickly and often without warning. There is nothing you can do to prevent a flood, and scientists warn that an effect of climate change will be more frequent flash flooding in the future.

Flooding facts

  • Just 150mm (six inches) of fast-flowing water can knock an adult off their feet
  • Electric current can pass along downed power lines in floodwaters
  • A car can float in just 600mm (two feet) of water
  • Flash floods can cause walls of water 10 to 20 feet high
  • Around five million people in the UK live in areas at risk of flooding.

Important flood safety advice

  • Remember flood water will probably contain sewage, which can cause disease. Always wash your hands/arms/ legs after coming into contact with floodwater with hot water and soap. Keep contaminated footwear and clothing away from children
  • Do not allow children to play in floodwater. As well as the risk of disease, grates and covers may have dislodged under the pressure of floodwater which can create a drowning risk. If you need to walk through floodwater consider using a pole (brush handle) to test the ground in front of you.

Driving on flooded roads

  • Stay in first gear and drive slowly as the wash from your car could flood properties
  • Slip the clutch to keep the engine speed higher than normal avoiding a stall
  • Where possible drive towards the middle of the road to avoid the deeper water.

What is the National Flood Forum?

The National Flood Forum (NFF) (registered charity no. 1121642) provides support and advice to communities and individuals that have been flooded or are at risk of flooding. The NFF produce the blue pages directory which contains information about flood protection products, the document can be found on their website:

National flood forum - blue pages directory (external website)

Alternatively, you may wish to request a copy to be posted to you by calling (01299) 403055.

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