1947 flood remains the UK’s most catastrophic rain event in history as thousands of people had to be evacuated after they failed to prepare properly.
A great debate arose a generation later–in 2007–when record rainfalls again drenched the nation. Comparisons were predictable. But time, technology and innovation had come a long way in the 60 years between the two events.
The Environment Agency has compiled statistics that are the envy of actuaries who can’t get enough numbers. That agency is accumulating more figures as climate change affects the planet, creating unpredictable events that are giving weather forecasters pause across the globe.
What does this have to do with you? Plenty. It is incumbent upon you to help your neighbours, family and friends stay safe when flooding occurs, and if you have been around Cheshire of late, we don’t have to tell you how much discomfort and inconvenience recent weather patterns have caused.
Recent headlines describe 31 major flooding incidents that shut down roads and caused residents to question whether Cheshire flood-related protocols and response systems need to be updated.
Whether or not that goal comes to fruition, consider yourself the conduit to your own safety and that of others around you by perusing the following suggestions. Just because we’re a taxi company, that doesn’t mean we’re not a concerned neighbour eager to make sure you and your loved ones stay safe and sound!
3 general tips to prepare for flood warnings in your community
1. Take advantage of local media notices
Visit this government web page for the latest news – Check Cheshire Flood Warnings. It is updated daily to deliver severe flood warning and alert information so you get the latest data at the earliest moment. Alternately, sign up for flood warnings alerts here: https://www.gov.uk/sign-up-for-flood-warnings. You will be asked to provide your preferred method of contact so there is no delay in reaching you should your area be threatened.
2. Put into place a comprehensive plan…
…based on the topography of your neighbourhood. If you live in close proximity to a river, canal or your property is prone to flooding, keep essential items confined to a waterproof suitcase or bag that includes irreplaceable documents like home and property insurance policies. The National Flood Forum (NFF) is an invaluable resource to have, especially if you are new to Cheshire or to the region (www.nationalfloodforum.org.uk).
Dry runs are opportunities to make sure everyone you’re worrying about is on the same page. Turn your rehearsals into a fun time, giving every family member a specific task, like corralling the pets, moving valuables upstairs or making sure everyone has their mobile charged so if you get separated, you can stay in touch. With every family member in the loop, it will be easier to protect your property if everyone has a designated task. Talk with your insurance expert. If your current policy doesn’t cover floods, call 01299 403 055 (the National Flood Forum line) and ask for guidance.
5 actions to take if a flood strikes
If you have taken proper precautions, rehearsed, dealt with insurance matters and water starts to rise, swing into action. Turn off your gas, water and electricity and repair to an upper floor where the aforementioned suitcase should reside. Did you volunteer to be a flood warden in your neighbourhood? Good for you. Expect phone calls from those who have been given your contact information so you can advise them on pertinent issues; like where to find food, clothing, shelter and assistance.
See to your family, pets and neighbours. If danger is immediate, call 999. Have at the ready the address and pertinent information about the area you are calling about. Speak slowly, calmly and distinctly. Follow the advice you are given by these professionals since he or she likely knows more about flooding crises than you do. Be helpful. In the event emergency crews are summoned, they will reach you faster to assist everyone.
Escape to high ground if you’ve got advance warning. Whether the cause is rain, overflowing river banks, burst water main(s), tidal overflow or drains incapable of handing the amount of water dumped by the flood, myriad dangers may lurk outside your door. If you have been given advance warning courtesy of Environment Agency alerts, get your car to higher ground before water rises to heights that can take out your auto’s electrical systems or sink the vehicle if rushing water overtakes the area.
Caught driving on the road when the water comes? Use offensive driving practices that include turning on headlights or fog lights. Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you so fast breaking doesn’t propel your car into that vehicle. Should you feel you’re losing control because the car starts aquaplaning, don’t panic. Slow down gradually and ease off the petrol. Don’t open the bonnet as a signal for help or you could soak your electrical system, making it impossible to restart the engine.
Obviously, you want to avoid driving into deep puddles, but sometimes, it’s hard to gauge how deep water in the path of your car happens to be, so always “slow your pace, just in case” when waters appear to be rising. If you encounter approaching cars on a narrow road, it’s wise to let them pass you first. If your car starts to make waves, you are probably going too fast. Keep testing your brakes to make sure they are working. If, despite precautionary measures, your car winds up stuck in flood water, stay inside the vehicle, call 0800 88 77 66, and wait to be rescued.
The 3 biggest dangers you face if you are a flood victim
1. Rising water levels
Once water levels obliterate curbs, pavements and other defining structures that help keep you within your driving lane or water begins to seep into your home, dangerous circumstances can arise from your contact with flood waters. Assume that all waters arising from flood surges are contaminated and to be avoided at all cost.
Floods invade and overtake sewer systems and drains in urban areas and mix with agricultural chemicals and animal waste in rural communities. Should you come into contact with flood waters, seek a clean water source, remove soaked clothing and use soap to disinfect everything so you don’t wind up in hospital with a germ- or virus-borne illness.
Don’t think that drowning happens only to people who swim in the sea or in swimming pools. Statistics tell the tale: around two-thirds of all people who die in flood-related incidents were good swimmers. An equal number of deaths have reported due to being trapped in vehicles as water rises and being unable to get out.
Further the colder the weather, the faster bodies lose strength and muscle tone, so even someone religious about their fitness workouts can become debilitated by dangerous temperatures. Finally, the sheer force of floodwaters has the power to wash people off their feet, swallow up a vehicle and sweep it along at surprisingly high speed.
3. Financial ruin
The biggest danger may be human life, but the financial hit you could take as a direct result of your car and/or house being assaulted by a flood can lead to financial catastrophe, so don’t minimise the impact a flood could have on your assets and lifestyle.
It has been a couple of years since “Insurance Times” reported on payouts UK insurers make as a direct result of flooding, and it’s likely “the average domestic flood claim payout” surpassing £50,000 in 2016 has only increased thanks to inflation and rising prices. Reinsurance broker Aon Benfield estimates that annual “insured losses from…UK floods could exceed 1.5bn,” thus it is important not only to prepare well in advance but to have proper coverage.
Recovering after a flood: 10 actions to take
1. Contact your insurance company immediately to report the condition of your home, your car and other major assets that you have had the forethought to insure. If you have no flood insurance coverage, you can still make a call to the National Flood Forum (01299 403055) to see what help they may be able to provide.
2. Notify local authorities to find out where flood victims whose homes were ravaged are sheltering. Town halls, schools, community centres and other large facilities can serve as temporary shelter, but if prime candidates for this type of facility have also been flooded, contact a nearby flood warden, food action group or NFF for help.
3. If you were flooded out and you sense it’s safe to return home to assess damage, don’t do it alone. At the very least, contact emergency services, give them your address and ask what has happened to your neighbourhood or block before you head in that direction.
4. Be cautious about opening doors once you reach home. Do a walk through to assess damage, but don’t turn on utilities until service providers determine they are safe. These folks may have to turn on your water, electricity and gas if adjustments had to be made to any of these main systems as a direct result of the emergency.
5. Before you begin cleaning, take photos of all of the damage in case you run into problems associated with your insurance claim. It’s a good idea to ask your agent or broker about items you intend to throw out because they can’t be cleaned and restored. You may be asked to hold on to these items as proof of damage.
6. Undertaking the clean-up and repair of a home is heartbreaking business. Unless you happen to be a professional restoration tech, turning to professionals is always the wisest move to accomplish a clean up. Crews are trained to spot weaknesses in structure or infrastructure that you don’t notice. Where to find the right expert? Turn to your insurer.
7. Until repairs and restoration have been handled, proceed with caution as you go about the business of reoccupying your home. Wear protective gloves, masks/respirators and footwear to protect against contaminated water. If you do come into direct contact with flood water, wash that area of the body immediately.
8. Heaters and dehumidifiers may seem an ideal solution to getting on with flood remediation, but if ventilation in your flood-ravaged structure is poor or non-existent, you and your family could get sick–especially if you turn to petrol- or diesel-driven generators that emit lethal exhaust gases.
9. Adopt the NFF’s plan for avoiding flooding in the future. Visit their website and review suggestions they offer for future reference (https://nationalfloodforum.org.uk/about-flooding/reducing-your-risk/protecting-your-property/).
10. Take care of yourself, your family and especially your mental health. Even a small flood is a traumatic event for every member of the family and the necessity to stay hyper-vigil about tap water, food safety and potential health and welfare hazards can take a toll.
Don’t be shy about asking for help—-whether that help comes in the form of cleaning up, refurbishing your residence, getting emotional support or finding financial aid to help with your losses. Remember: If you don’t keep yourself healthy and emotionally supported, who can your family count on when they need reassurances the most?