Flooding risks: how to stay afloat when the waters rise
13 August 2019

Flooding: how to stay afloat when the waters rise

Still current at: 21 February 2022

Taking appropriate precautions and insuring your buildings and contents against flooding will save both money and stress. (Check your insurance schedule to find out if your buildings and/or contents are covered for flood damage.)  

Here are a few tips for keeping your head above water before, during, and after a flood.

Get the lay of the land

Many areas are outside obvious flood zones like coasts and rivers, but could still be at risk in extreme circumstances. Urban areas are prone to flash flooding, while the countryside can get saturated during very wet seasons, leading to surface flooding.

Check whether your property is at risk of flooding on the environment agency website for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

If you’re in the danger zone:

  • Consider business interruption insurance to cover loss of income caused by the flooding, for example if you rent out the property to other groups.
  • Keep copies of important contacts (e.g. gas, electric and water suppliers) and policy documents somewhere safe, dry, and easy to find.
  • Keep an eye on weather warnings from the Met Office.

Cloudy, with a chance of flooding

Flood alerts usually go out a day or two before the rain begins. Use this time to take some simple steps to protect your property.

  • Move valuable items upstairs or out of the building to a safe zone.
  • Move vehicles to higher ground.
  • Unblock drains and gutters around the building so water can flow away as quickly as possible.
  • Check you can still find those all-important contacts and policy documents.
  • Switch off water, gas and electricity before the storm.
  • Seal off toilets, sinks and baths to prevent wastewater rising. 
  • Call the 24-hour Environment Agency floodline on 0845 988 1188 for local flooding information.

Keeping your head (above the water)

If your building is flooded, it might be tempting to rush in to salvage the situation, but please approach with caution. These rapid response tips should help a smooth recovery process:

  • First, notify your insurer. They may wish to send a loss adjuster – a claims specialist who will assess the cost of repairs before you book the work in.
  • Be careful. The water could be contaminated and hide dangers such as sharp objects or manholes. Wear protective, waterproof clothing, gloves and wellington boots or waders.
  • Do not touch any sources of electricity if you are standing in water.
  • Leave the gas, electric and water supplies off until an engineer verifies it is safe.
  • Doors and windows can swell and floors bulge up, making the building structurally unsafe. Await professional help if this is the case.
  • Photograph all the damage as records for your insurance claims.

Don’t get hung out to dry

Insurers want to help you recover as quickly as possible, but may need evidence that you have taken steps to limit the damage.

  • Clear out the remaining water using a pump and generator, which must be placed outside as it releases poisonous carbon monoxide.
  • Temporary emergency repairs should be covered so keep all of your receipts.
  • Once the flooding has subsided, bring in dehumidifiers. Take meter readings before and after.  (Dehumidifiers use a lot of electricity, which you may be able to claim back on your insurance policy.)
  • Remove carpets and place outside. Buildings can take months to dry out, so do not redecorate too soon.
  • Keep all damaged items as you will need to show them to your loss adjuster who will arrange replacements or the cash equivalent.

Further information

For more information, visit the Environment Agency website and their pages on the best course of action before, during and after a flood.

Flood cover for your buildings and contents

Our expert advisors are happy to help arrange the flood insurance for your building and contents. Give us a call on 0845 0945 702.