Check if your home or business is at risk from floods

11 Apr 2018
9 min read
Check if your home or business is at risk from floods

Stop! Floods!

Is my house at risk of flooding? With one in six homes at risk, yours may well be. Find out if you are and what you can do about it. 

Unbelievably, a staggering, one in six properties in the UK are at high risk of flooding. Strikingly, of those properties, 60% of the people living in the houses are not even aware of this significant risk, so have taken no preventative measures.

Homes flood when water flows in through the doors, air bricks and even up through floorboards in your house. Floods in a house cause huge disruption, upset and destruction. Besides the financial and emotional losses, floods can potentially leave you in temporary accommodation, while repairs are undertaken to dry out and restore your home. This is Sophie’s story of unexpected flooding in her home.

Sophie’s Story of Flooding

The Benefits of Checking if Your Home is at Risk of Flooding

Finding out if your home could flood is vital as it allows you to:

  1. Ensure your home and possessions are adequately insured
  2. Prepare your property for a flooding incident with resilience measures
  3. Be alerted to any danger if incremental weather occurs
  4. Make a plan so you know what to do if you are flooded.

How to Check If Your Home or Business Could Flood?

You can check if your home or business is at risk of flooding through the Environment Agency website. It takes just a few minutes to check if your home is one of the 5.2 million homes at risk of flooding in England alone.

Please do so today. It is very easy and you may be surprised by what you see.

To check if your home or business is at risk of flooding, simply enter your postcode on the Environment Agency’s flood warning website even if flood defences have been installed near your home. 

Flood defences are built to provide a standard of defence but even the best flood defences can be overtopped by severe events so there is still a residual risk. This is what happened in the city of Carlisle in 2005, 2009 and 2015. They had good defences but the storm was too big to hold back the water.

What to Do if Your Home is at Risk of Flooding?

If you find out your home is at risk of flooding, there are several measures you can take. One of the most important is to buy as much time as possible in the event of a flooding incident in your neighbourhood.

Free Flood Alerts for Your Home

Signing up to free flood alerts provides you with a warning from the Environment Agency when your home is in danger. This alert buys you time and that time is a crucial window to move people and possessions out of harm’s way and prepare your property, should the worst happen.

Sign up for free flood alerts from the Environment Agency for your home or business

Flood Warning Maps for the UK

There are three levels of flood alerts: flood alerts (prepare), flood warnings (act) and severe flood warnings (survive).

If there is heavy rain in your neighbourhood you can check your immediate risk of flooding. Knowing which level of flood warning exists for your area can help you and your family prepare, evacuate if necessary and stay safe. Flood warnings will be on the local radio and also on flood warning maps.

The Flood Warnings Maps are available here for:

Floodline is a 24-hour service that provides flood warning information and general advice for during and after a flood.  The Floodline telephone number is 0345 988 1188.

Six Steps on How to Prepare for a Flood?

If you discover your home is at risk of flooding, there are six practical actions you can take that could make the world of difference. 

First, make sure you receive free flood alerts from the Environment Agency. These warnings by phone, text or email, could buy you valuable time, especially if you have vulnerable members of the family or pets to look after.

Second, check that your home building and content insurance covers flooding events.

Third, develop an escape plan and a grab bag. Identify the key possessions you would want to move upstairs and also those that you need to take with you in the event of a flood. These are just the essentials, such as medicines, phones, torch and insurance details.

Fourth, make sure you know how to switch off water, gas and electricity at the mains and also where you could stay until the waters reside.

Fifth, look at improvements to make your home more resilient. These could be measures to keep water out of your home and/or adaptations that would reduce the level of damage it causes, should it get in. The Flood Guidance website provides lots of detail on resistance (ways to keep water out of buildings) and resilience measures (methods to reduce the impact of flooding). 

Flood barriers and other property flood resilience (PFR) equipment are not expensive but could save a lot of cost, heartache and hassle should your community flood. PFR designed specifically for your home is generally a better solution than sandbags handed out by the council. For more information see How to Stop Your Home from Flooding.

Finally, number six. Talk to your neighbours and discuss developing an action plan for your community.

Developing a Community Flood Action Plan

Community officer helps local residents

A flood action plan doesn’t have to be detailed but it is particularly useful to identify:

  • Who would need help evacuating
  • Areas where cars can be parked on higher ground
  • Who has access to essential equipment for repairs such as chainsaws, ladders and four-wheel drives for after the waters reside.

Flood action groups brings communities together to find solutions with landowners and public bodies.

Communities have expertise and local knowledge that no one else has so they know which roads may flood first and which ones are still passable, which building would make the best evacuation centre etc. The film High Water shows communities around the country coming together to find solutions to flooding.

Who is Responsible for Preventing Floods?

The Environment Agency (EA) is the Government body with a strategic overview of national flood defences. The EA is responsible for flood warnings and manages national flood defences on major rivers and the coast. Local authorities are responsible for ordinary water courses and local flood risk management. However, home owners have a vital role to play.

Protecting Vulnerable Communities

Government is investing more than £1 billion to better protect the country from flooding however; the British coastline is over 11,000 miles long. If you include the larger islands it rises to 19,400 miles and that’s before including inland water plus surface water risks.

In addition, climate change has increased the severity and frequency of floods that occur in the UK and sea levels continue to rise.

Sign showing historic flood water levels in Bruton

Some communities have always flooded. The sign in the picture records the high-water flood level in Bruton, Somerset from June 1917. Note the child in the background who is a similar height!

However, flooding is a real and growing threat to millions of homes and communities around the UK. That is why there needs to be a national debate about possibly relocating some of the riskiest communities and abandoning certain homes. There is only so much money available and only so high a wall can be built.

Find out more about coastal communities at risk here:

What is a Flood

Floods occur when rivers break their banks, surface water drains cannot cope with intense rainfall, tides and waves overtop defences or even when groundwater breaks the surface. Floods happen particularly in winter during periods of heavy rain and/or strong winds when water covers land that is normally dry. This unwanted water on the land can cause problems. Often big problems.

Why is Flooding Increasing?

Flooding has been exacerbated by both climate change and development on floodplains including building new homes. Due to climate change, extreme weather events, such as super storms, are increasing in frequency and bringing more severe floods. For every one degree rise in temperature the atmosphere can hold 7% more water, which is why rain fall can be dramatic even on hot summer days.

What Causes Flash Floods?

When warm air mixes with cold fronts, storms can occur that cause localised surface water floods that are often called flash floods as they arrive very quickly. Hence one minute it is sunny and the next there is torrential rain and streets turn to rivers.

Why Building on Floodplains Causes Harm?

Building homes on a floodplain is a problem because usually rivers flood into this area during heavy rain. The water then flows back into channels when there’s capacity. However, if that floodplain doesn’t exist anymore the water needs to go somewhere else so a problem is created elsewhere, often downstream, or those homes actually flood.

The Many Types of Flooding

There are several reasons that homes can flood. The most familiar type of flooding is for those properties close to open water. These buildings are at risk

  • when rivers overtop or burst their banks, or
  • a ‘tidal surge’ (raised sea level due to low pressure system) and/or
  • large waves coincide with high tides then seawall or natural defences are exceeded.

However, ironically, around half of the properties at risk of flooding in the UK are not located close to streams or the coast. Flooding then occurs from

  • rising water tables,
  • flash flooding or
  • sewer problems.

These types of flood are just as common as sea or river flooding.

Floods Destroy

Floods can occur quickly and their impacts can be devastating often destroying possessions and property. With climate change, the frequency and intensity of flooding is increasing. Surface water and groundwater flooding means that regardless of where you live, the most important thing is to check if your home is at risk of flooding. Then you can take measures to protect you and your loved ones if your home is at risk. For further information see How to Stop Your Home from Flooding: An Essential Guide.

Please let us know if you have ever been impacted by floods or if you have developed a community action plan for your neighbourhood? We would love to hear your stories and any advice you’d like to pass on to others? 


The information in this article was correct at the time of writing and is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

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