How to deal with flooding

23 November 2009

The number of households affected by the floods bringing misery across the UK are thought to be as many as £5,000. The Association of British Insurers puts the cost of damage so far in the hundreds of millions. Find out what to do if you've been hit by flooding. 

There are currently 349 flood warnings in force across England and Wales, and thousands of people in flood-stricken communities have had their lives disrupted by the heavy rain. 

Protecting your home from flooding

If your home has already been hit by the heavy rain, then you should contact your home insurance provider as soon as possible. Many will have 24-hour emergency helplines, and will have trained staff to deal with urgent enquiries. Repairs and inspections should be prioritised.

Try to photograph any damage to your building or contents, as this type of evidence should help with your claim. Don’t throw away any damaged items you wish to claim on, as they may need to be assessed.

It’s hard to know how flooding will affect your property, so don’t try to use electrical equipment or turn on your gas supply until these have been checked by a qualified tradesman. You’re also advised not to use your water supply until the all-clear has been given - even after it has, make sure you run your taps for a few minutes before using.

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If you need to move to alternative accommodation then check with your insurer whether the cost for this is covered under your policy. Remember to keep receipts for all your flood-associated costs – this includes any emergency repairs you may neen to carry out.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says that once the flood water has receded, floors and furnishings should be disinfected. You should also throw items from your fridge and freezer away and clean these thoroughly. Keep a list of disposed items – and photographs if possible – as you may be able to claim on them.

Soaked rubber-backed carpets should be removed and replaced. However, allow hessian-backed carpets to dry on the floor, as they will shrink if lifted.  Once they are dry, the carpets can be lifted to dry the areas underneath. Remember to remove mud or silt - if these have collected in airbricks, then you could be at risk of rot.

Insurer More Th>n says people with wooden suspended floors should lift the floorboards and ventilate underneath with a de-humidifier until properly dried.

You can help the drying process by keeping windows, doors and cupboard doors open in the mornings (on dry days only). By mid-afternoon, close external doors and windows and put your heating on.

A de-humidifier can also help. Remember to refrain from redecorating until your property has properly dried out - this can takes weeks.

Nick Starling, director of general insurance and health at the ABI, says: “Events like flooding highlight why insurance is so important. The first priority for insurers will be to ensure that every claim is dealt with as quickly as possible and they will do everything they can to help customers recover.”

Protecting vehicles from flooding

Property is not the only asset at risk from the heavy rain – motorists also need to think about how much it might cost to repair any damage to their cars.

Insurers paid out an estimated £35 million to drivers following the 2007 floods, with many drivers caught in the flood waters or forced to abandon their cards when trying to cross flooded roads. 

Repairs to flood damaged cars are often expensive with many vehicles being written off for health and safety reasons, according to insurer esure. Damage can also take months to show itself as corrosion causes mechanical parts to fail.

“It is not just homes that should be the focus of people's concerns when floods occur; hundreds of cars are often irreparably damaged by taking on flood water,” says Mike Pickard, head of risk and underwriting at esure. "As the number of flood warnings continue to rise this week, drivers must ensure they understand how to avoid flood water damage."

Before even attempting to make a journey, visit the Environment Agency's website and check for flood warnings. Don’t rely on your Sat Nav, as this will only find the quickest route and won’t take flooded or closed roads into account.

Drivers trying to navigate water-logged roads should never attempt to drive into a ford or puddles unless they can be sure it is a safe depth. A car that is submerged above the sills of the doors is at a risk from stalling, plus you will suffer major water damage to their interior if the door is then opened.

If your car does stall in water, then you risk causing damage to your engine if you try to restart it. You should remain in the car and call for assistance or, if you are concerned about your personal safely, then you should get out of the vehicle as soon as possible.

Because of the risk of getting your car stuck in a flooded road, drivers in flood-stricken areas might be better off leaving their vehicles at home. Of course, a parked car is still at risk from flood waters, so try to park your car on higher ground such as a nearby hill.

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