It’s becoming clear that around the UK there are more danger zones for flooding than ever before. Last week we detailed the destruction that Storm Desmond inflicted on the UK, and we’ve since had a lot of people reaching out to us for more advice. We hope to never see flooding like this again, however forecasts suggest it may only get worse, so we’ve put together this definitive flood survival guide to help you stay safe in the event of flooding.
The guide is split up in to 5 parts, each detailing the best course of action during a flood:
- What should your emergency flood kit contain?
- Defending your home from flooding.
- What to do if you have to leave your home.
- The aftermath: returning to your home after a flood.
- Don’t get left in the dark: how to combat power cuts.
WHAT SHOULD YOUR FLOOD KIT CONTAIN?
By the time a flood has hit your area, it’s usually too late to properly prepare. If you know you’re in a danger zone, you should always have an emergency flood kit at hand which you can grab in a moment’s notice.
When putting together your emergency flood kit, try to think about all of the essential items which will help keep you and your family safe. You want to have something for every possible scenario, but also keep it lightweight and compact so it’s easy to take with you on the move. This can be challenging, but if you’re smart it’s quite doable.
Your first priority should be items which will help keep you fit and healthy, which includes:
- Food (non-perishable and healthy!)
- First aid kit
Next, think about what situations you might encounter in the case of a flood and what equipment you would need to overcome them. Such as:
- A torch (flooding at night is extremely dangerous)
- Small tool kit
- Spare phone battery
- Battery powered radio
- Extra batteries
- A laminated list of emergency contact numbers, such as your local emergency services and family.
Finally, what clothing would you have at hand? It needs to be water proof and keep your warm, and also quick to change into out of your pyjamas. Always keep next to your flood kit:
- Wellington boots
- Waterproof trousers and jacket
It never hurts to have a spare change of clothes in your emergency kit itself, since even the best waterproof clothing can be ripped or torn. You also want to make sure that if you have small children their emergency clothing is still the right size as they continue to grow. You don’t want to try and squeeze an 8 year old into clothing designed for a 5 year old!
If you can spread your emergency flood kit around in several backpacks for your family members to carry then this will help you conserve your energy.
DEFENDING YOUR HOME FROM FLOODING
Depending on where you live, flooding may be inevitable in the worst situations. The good news is there are options available to minimise the damage that your property receives, providing you have the right equipment for the job.
The first line of defense should be sandbags. You can pick these up from your nearest DIY retailer, or if the flooding has been forecast, even your local authorities. Sandbags should be placed in the following locations if applicable:
- Front and back doors
- Garage doors
- Garden gates
- Around your garden
- At the bottom of any hills where water can run down
The first goal of the sandbags is to obviously stop water from entering your house, but if you can place them in such a way which provides the water with a run-off from your property, this is ideal. Do not direct water into areas such as your neighbours’ property, or public land/roads.
Unfortunately, sandbags aren’t 100% effective and your property will still flood during the worst cases. This is where water pumps come in handy and can drastically reduce the amount of flooding you suffer.
Since flood water will contain dirt and debris, you will need to use a dirty/trash water pump. These are designed to pump water which may contain solid particles and come in three varieties:
Electric Submersible Water Pumps are designed to be extremely compact and lightweight, which makes them easy to move around your property. Because they’re powered by electric, they’re also safe to use inside as they don’t produce carbon monoxide. We always recommend the use of an RCD when using an electric water pump, but in the case of flooding you may not have a source of electricity, which makes them somewhat limited in the situations you can use one.
Petrol Water Pumps are larger and heavier than submersible water pumps, but also significantly more powerful. Because they’re powered by petrol, they can be used when the power is out, but also produce carbon monoxide so must be placed outdoors at all times. If your house is at risk, this is probably the type of water pump you want.
Diesel Water Pumps are very similar to petrol models, except for the obvious difference that they can be powered using diesel. Red diesel is cheaper than petrol, which keeps the running costs down, but in terms of performance you won’t find too much difference.
The best course of action is to get your water pump ready as soon as you know that a flood is on its way. That way, as soon as the water starts to enter your property, you can pump it back out. As with sandbags, always make sure you’re pumping the water into an appropriate location.
If your home has an upstairs, it’s always worth preparing for the worst and carrying as much as you can to higher ground. The obvious things to take up are electronics, personal items such as photographs, and anything that can’t be easily replaced. Some people try to clear their entire ground floor during a flood, which is a hard task, but can save many of your valuable items.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR HOUSE
If your house does become unsafe and you have to evacuate, always try to find help as soon as possible. Your aim should be to find the nearest emergency service team as quickly as possible and follow their directions, but you should also stay calm and don't rush. Panicking can lead to accidents which may be more dangerous than the flooding itself, so try to keep a cool head and keep those around you calm as well.
Before leaving your house, identify the safest exit. You don’t want to walk into the worst of the flooding, so if your back garden is less flooded than the front, use that, providing you won’t be trapping yourself.
Once you’ve left your house, identify the safest route quickly. Avoid flood water as much as you can as it will not only be very cold, but also possibly contaminated.
If you’ll be driving, make sure you drive very slow and avoid any bodies of water that you wouldn’t drive through under normal conditions. Getting your car submerged in water will not only be costly, but potentially very dangerous.
When walking or driving isn’t a viable option, find the highest ground possible. Again, make sure you pick a location which is safe to go up, and always help up the most vulnerable people first. Moving away from flooding should always be your first course of action, but if that fails, finding a high spot which is safe from flooding is your next best option.
When you’re away from the worst of the flooding, or on safe high ground, now is the time to try and contact the emergency services using your phone. Providing you can contact them, always give clear information about where you are and follow their instructions. If you can’t contact them, be patient and don’t panic. Help will be on its way.
THE AFTERMATH: RETURNING TO YOUR HOME AFTER A FLOOD
As hard as it can be to leave your home during a flood, returning to it afterwards can be even harder. Seeing your home left in ruins is a traumatic experience and unfortunately nothing can really prepare you for it.
Your first priority should be to contact your insurance company to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. Most companies have special departments set up for flood victims after a large scale flood, so you’ll likely speak to someone who is already aware of your situation.
Once you have contacted your insurance, you will want to tidy your home quickly to minimise the further damage that can be caused. If you have a water pump, they can make quick work of transferring the flood water out of your home.
Next you will want to move any furniture or items which are beyond repair out of your home. Don’t worry about arranging a collection, simply get them outside your home and into your garden.
When your house is clear of water and flooded furniture, it’s time to try and dry it as much as possible. In the case of severe flooding it can take weeks, or even months, to dry out the fabric of a building, but you need to start the process as soon as possible. The best methods are to:
- Open all windows and doors which will create a flow of air through the building.
- If possible, add heat to this flow of air.
- Or use a dehumidifier and close all doors/windows to warm up your house as much as possible.
After a few days you should see good progress in the drying of your home, but don’t expect it to return to normal overnight. During the process of claiming on your insurance you will likely have your home inspected by experts who will be able to advise you on the situation, and the best course of action moving forward.
DON’T GET LEFT IN THE DARK: HOW TO COMBAT POWER CUTS
In most situations, floods will cause havoc to the National Grid and your home will be left without power – possibly for several days. This can add extra distress and challenges to an already hard situation, which makes the investment in a standby diesel generator a smart option.
These small, quiet and economical generators can providing a running time of up to 30 hours, which allows you to have a constant supply of power following a flood. This will not only help you with your clean-up operation, but also help you return to normality sooner.
Obviously a diesel generator still requires your electrical system in your home to be safe to use, so if your house has suffered more than a shallow flood, it might not be safe to try and power electrical equipment. Always use common sense and if in doubt, ask the advice of a trained electrician for expert advice.
Even if you don’t suffer directly from the flooding, the power outages are usually far spreading. During Storm Desmond, over 50,000 households were left without power for days.
For most domestic houses, a generator which produces 5kW – 6kW is more than enough power, so make sure when preparing for floods that you buy the right model. If in doubt, contact us today and we’ll be able to help you.