What does a flood warning mean?

Published by Mark King on 06 January 2014.
Last updated on 06 January 2014

Flooded car

Who issues flood warnings and weather alerts?

The Met Office and the Environment Agency (EA) - both offer consumer advice on flooding and other extreme weather. In Scotland, it falls to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to warn the public.

The Met Office runs the National Severe Weather Warning Service, which it can use to warn the public about "hazardous weather which has the potential to cause danger to life or widespread disruption", whether this is rain, wind, ice or snow. These warnings are colour-coded, depending on the likely impact of the weather event: so green means there is no severe weather expected, yellow means "be aware", and red is a more serious "take action".

The EA makes flood announcements in England and Wales.

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What is a flood warning?

The EA uses three levels of severity when making flood announcements. A "flood alert" simply means some flooding is possible and the public should be prepared. A "flood warning" means flooding is expected and the public should take immediate action. A "severe flood warning" means severe flooding is expected and there is danger to life as a result.

The EA is able to issue these flood alerts across seven regions: the south east, the south west, Anglia, the Midlands, the north east, the north west, and Wales. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency issues the same alerts across the country.

How can I keep track of when a flood warning has been announced?

Aside from listening to radio news bulletins and watching TV, you can check the EA's website at environment-agency.gov.uk and follow it on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.

If you are particularly worried, it might make sense to sign-up to Floodline Warnings Direct, the EA's email flood alert service. This sends a text message to your phone or sends you an email when flooding is expected in your area.

A flood announcement has been made for my area. What should I do?

The Environment Agency says you should prepare and keep a list of all your important contacts to hand or save them on your mobile phone.

Also, think about what items you can move out of your home completely and what you would want to move to a safer part of your home during a flood, such as pets, cars, furniture, and electrical equipment.

Know how to turn off gas, electricity and water supplies and prepare a flood kit of essential items (and keep it handy). It can include copies of important documents, a torch, a battery-powered or wind-up radio, blankets and warm clothing, waterproofs, rubber gloves, a first aid kit including all essential medication, and non-perishable food, baby food and baby care items.

Consider buying flood protection products such as flood boards and airbrick covers to help reduce flood water getting into your property.

A "severe flood warning" has been issued. What do I do now?

Immediately turn off your gas and electricity, but don't touch the electrics if you are standing in water. Move people, pets, and important and precious items to a safe position (usually high up in the home, such as an attic). Try to keep insurance documents and other documentation safe.

Raise large items of furniture (or put them in large bags if you have them) and fit flood protection products (for example, flood boards, airbrick covers, and sandbags).

Put plugs in sinks and baths but weigh them down with a pillowcase or plastic bag filled with soil. If you do not have non-return valves fitted, plug water inlet pipes with towels or cloths.

Listen to the advice of the emergency services and evacuate if told to do so. But avoid walking or driving through flood water - according to the EA, just six inches of fast-flowing water can knock over an adult and two feet of water can move a car.

I've been flooded. When should I contact my insurer?

As soon as possible, alert your insurer to the flooding - most operate a 24-hour emergency helpline for this purpose.

Try to have your policy details to hand but if you do not have them, don't worry, your insurer should be able to find your details on their system. Remember to alert your car insurer if your vehicle has also been affected (and you have fully comprehensive cover).

If you are able to, take photographs of the damage, but speak to your insurer before arranging any emergency repairs. If your insurer gives you the go-ahead, keep your receipt so you can be reimbursed for the cost of repair.

Similarly, don't throw away any damaged items – your insurer's loss adjuster may well want to see everything that has been damaged before authorising any payout. Also, mark the height of flood water on the wall with a permanent marker, in all flooded rooms.

What else do I need to do re: insurance?

You should keep records – that means making a note of all telephone calls to your insurers, including the date, names of people you speak to and what was agreed. Plus, keep copies of all letters, emails and faxes you send and receive.

If your policy covers you for lost perishable goods, list the foods touched by floodwater and those in your fridge and freezer ruined by loss of power and throw them away. But don't throw away anything else until told.

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