Flooding can cause serious damage to our homes, infrastructure and livelihoods, so it helps to be prepared and to minimise the damage.
According to the Environment Agency’s national report on flooding, at least one in six homes in England is at risk of flooding.
The unpredictable nature of the weather also means that a flood can happen at any time of the year.
With that in mind, knowing when one is on its way, and how to bolster your home’s defences, will help to reduce the damage.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ measure of your area’s risk of flooding. It’s difficult to say “my house is close to water, therefore it’s at risk”.
That water source might only be a small brook, or a stream that’s protected by defenses, so the risk is reduced.
Each area has its own particular risk based on a number of factors. Finding this out is a good first step to flood-proofing your home.
One of the first places to check is the flood risk map from the Environment Agency, which will give you an indication of how much of a risk your area is (highlighted in dark blue).
The map also shows flood defenses currently in the area (pink).
The potential extent of flooding in a major city such as Cardiff [above]
These maps are updated by the Environment Agency every three months with new flood defences or any potential new threats.
For Scottish residents, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has a similar service.
If you live in an area that you know is at risk of flooding, another invaluable tool you can use is the Environment Agency’s Flood Warnings Direct service.
When a flood warning is issued near you, you will be notified by email, text, or phone, as well as through Facebook.
This could give you enough time to prepare your flood defences or, if the threat is great enough, evacuate.
SEPA also has a flood alert system for Scottish residents.
Research from the Environment Agency shows that adding robust flood defences to your house could cost between £3,000 and £10,000.
Even if you don’t have that kind of budget, there are some fixes you can make to reduce the chances of floodwater making its way into your house.
Install non-return valves to your drainpipes - these pipes have a hinged door that prevents water from flowing back into your house. These range from £40 to £150 each.
Keep your important documents in a secure and dry place e.g. identification and home insurance policy details - you could invest in a waterproof fire chest, which you can pick up for as little as £60.
Replace your airbricks with automatic ‘anti-flood’ airbricks - this allows ventilation through your home, but will automatically seal itself shut if it detects floodwater trying to get in. These tend to cost around £30.
Protecting your home
The cost of repairing a flood-damaged home can range between £10,000 and £50,000.
With that in mind, it’s important to consider a home insurance policy to cover repairs to your house, alternative accommodation and replacement of your belongings.
Gareth Lane, home insurance expert at Confused.com, says:
"A standard home insurance policy will allow for a certain amount of coverage for flood/storm damage, but policy holders will need to check that any items worth £1,000 or more are listed separately on the policy.
"This ensures that if there was any damage to these items, you would be covered for the right amount.
"Check your home insurance policy (and if you have a car, your car insurance policy too) to see what is and isn't covered when it comes to flooding.
"If in doubt, get in touch with your insurer directly to make sure you have all the facts, in case you need to make a claim."
Minimising the damage
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a 100% flood-proof home, and so it pays to make sure that the damage is kept to a minimum.
Keep your house in good order - this includes keeping your guttering clear, making sure that your drains are aligned correctly, and checking that your roof is in good repair.
Contact your local council and ask about getting sandbags to put up against your external doors - some councils will have a limited supply of sandbags for residents, but they’re also available from local building merchants.
When a flood is imminent, switch off your gas, electricity and water supplies - this reduces the risk of fire caused by the sparking of water-damaged electrical sockets.
Move as many of valuables as possible upstairs (if you live in a bungalow, try to move them at least 1.5m above the floor).
If you’re told to evacuate your home by the authorities, do so as soon as you can. Staying put isn’t worth the risk if the flood is about to hit.