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Property Flooding – Prevention, Safety and Repair Advice

Over recent weeks, the UK has experienced high levels of torrential downpour, particularly in the South East and North West, causing widespread chaos to people and costing property owners millions in damages.

The Met Office Hadley Centre predicts that we will experience “warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers along with an increase in the frequency and intensity of extremes”. They went on to advise that if emissions are not cut, severe heatwaves would be likely to happen every other year by 2050. Although summers would generally be drier, there would be an increase in the intensity of heavy rainfalls.

Within this blog, we will be looking at some key preventative and safety measures for property owners in high-risk locations, and our advice in the event of flooding within your property.

Prevention where possible

Although flood water can move extremely quickly, many property owners will know well in advance that their property is at risk of flooding. It is essential that they prepare properties accordingly to reduce the risk of water getting inside and to reduce the damage caused by flood water if the worst happens.

  • Protect your property from flood water by purchasing sandbags or modern non-sandbags designed for flooding and position these at all entrances.
  • Consider purchasing flood-proof doors and windows, or purpose-built flood boards, which can be fitted when flooding is expected. Flood-proof airbricks are also available but covers can also be placed over traditional airbricks.
  • Consider raising door thresholds to keep shallow water out. Check external brickwork to ensure the pointing is in good order and think about applying a water-proof sealant to external walls.
  • If drains and pipes are left untreated, wastewater can flow back into the property’s ground floor sinks and toilets through the sewerage system.
  • Consider fitting non-return valves to drains and water inlet and outlet pipes. The design of your external space, including any gardens or driveways, can also be used to divert floodwater.
  • Internally, buy large, sealable bags to protect large items of furniture which are difficult to move. Move all valuable items to upper floors or place on high shelves. If time allows, raise electrical sockets, fuse boxes, controls and wiring to 1.5 metres above the floor level.
  • Regularly check the Met Office and Environment Agency’s websites for the latest weather forecasts and flood warnings to ensure you are prepared.

Due to the high level of the water table, many properties are being flooded by rising groundwater. This can happen unexpectedly and cause severe problems for property owners and facilities/property managers. Sandbags offer zero-defence against ground water. Instead consider installing a pump, which may need to be in operation for several weeks. Be cautious about using an electric pump near floodwater and consider a petrol/diesel equivalent.

When flood water is on the verge of entering a property, switch off water, gas and electricity at the mains and disconnect any equipment which may use mains water such as dishwashers or washing machines to ensure it isn’t damaged. Do not touch electrical sources or equipment when standing in flood water.

In the event of flooding

If a property floods when there are people inside, the first thing to do is to ensure that everyone can be evacuated safely. Try to avoid walking through flood water where possible as manhole covers can often become loose and flood water can quickly become contaminated. Ensure that anyone who comes into contact with floodwater washes their hands as soon as possible to help avoid any infection.

If your property has been flooded, contact your insurance company as soon as possible to inform them of the situation. Ensure you carefully note down their requirements which may include compiling a list of all items affected, photographic evidence and a written report including specific dates and times. Ensure that you agree with the insurance company what can be thrown away (for example, sodden carpets) and do not throw away anything that has not been agreed. Also keep a note of all conversations with the insurer, including time, date and what was discussed.

Before attempting to clean up any damage, take precautions. Flood water can be contaminated and may contain animal and human waste or poisonous chemicals. Ensure you wear protective gear including gloves, boots and masks. There may also be unseen dangers lurking in the water such as sharp or fallen objects.

If flood water is high, consider purchasing or renting a pump to remove the water. But only do so when flood levels outside the property are lower than inside it or you risk causing structural damage.

If it is safe to do, and the equipment has been checked by qualified engineers, turn on the heating and maintain a temperature of about 22 degrees Celsius to start the process of drying out the building. Keep doors and windows open if possible and safe to do so. Also consider buying or hiring dehumidifiers, in which case doors and windows should be kept closed.

Once water has left the property, start the clean-up process using standard cleaning and disinfecting equipment and use specialist anti-mould or anti-fungal treatments where appropriate. Don’t forget about your building’s security after a flood, especially if it is vacant. It could become a target for vandals, thieves and arsonists. Consider installing remote security monitoring equipment. If there is no power in the building, then battery-powered cameras are a good alternative.

We’re here to help

Our nationwide specialist cleaning and clearance teams hold over 30 years of professional experience for all types of situations and can offer free guidance for any post-fire or flood enquiries. If you would like more information regarding our flood clearance and cleaning services, then please get in touch with our team and we will be happy to assist.

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