Climate change means the UK is wetter than ever before. With severe weather warnings predicted now and for the foreseeable future, here’s how to guard against the increasingly likely risk of floods.

Extreme weather is on the rise around the world, and the UK is no exception. According to figures from the Met Office, heavy rainfall is on the increase, with extremely wet days up 17% in the period 2008-2017, compared to 1961-1990. Furthermore, UK summers now see 20% more rainfall on average. The IPCC says we’re ‘very likely’ to see more heavy rainfall events by the end of the century.

A lot of rain falling in a short space of time – plus sea level rises which make storm surges bigger and more likely to breach coastal defences – means the risk of flooding has increased significantly. One in six properties are at risk of flooding and that’s even higher in London and other areas prone to floods. The Met Office has already issued a number of serious flood warnings so far this autumn, with more set to follow. As the planet continues to warm and climate change takes hold, we can expect flooding to become more severe, and more frequent. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe.

Be prepared for flooding

  • Be aware of the flood risks in your area. The Government’s website has a number of online tools to help you determine if and how you’re at risk. co.uk also provides a wealth of information on the types of flooding that occurs in the UK.
  • Pay attention to weather reports and warnings from the Met Office, especially if you live in an area known to flood. You can also sign up for free flood warnings from the Environment Agency.
  • Prepare a ‘grab bag’ in case you need to leave your home quickly, or if services such as gas and electricity are cut off. Don’t forget things like medication, batteries, charging devices and the needs of your pets.
  • Keep important documents in a waterproof container, or at least stored away from ground level.
  • Install flood resilient measures such as flood doors and air brick covers. If you are unprepared then contact your local council to get hold of sandbags and learn how to use them. However, it’s worth noting that sand bags are far from ideal at keeping water out.
  • Make sure your home and contents insurance policy covers flooding – many don’t, and those that have experienced serious flooding have often been left with nothing.

What to do during a flood

  • First and foremost, stay safe. If you’ve been told to evacuate, then do so.
  • Call 999 if you’re in immediate danger.
  • If you receive a flood warning, move your car to higher ground - if safe to do so.
  • Never walk, swim or drive through flood water, and stay away from bridges over fast-moving water. 
  • If you’re in a building, go to its highest level – don’t climb into a closed attic as you may become trapped. Go to the roof only if absolutely necessary.
  • If your home is being flooded slowly, move valuables to higher levels but only if it is safe to do so. Leave possessions behind if you need to exit in a hurry.

What to do after a flood

  • Only return to your property if authorities say it’s safe to do so.
  • Avoid wading through floodwater, which can be full of dangerous debris and contamination.
  • Be aware of the risk of electrocution.
  • Take photos of everything before you start clearing up for insurance claims
  • Dispose of used sandbags at your local tip using gloves
  • If sandbags or other items have become contaminated by sewage or other chemical waste, contact your local council for guidance on getting rid of them safely.
  • Speak to your local fire brigade for advice on pumping out water.
  • Identify ways to take further precautions in the event of future floods: build back better.

Floods are serious and potentially life-threatening, but they are becoming more common due to climate change. To reduce the risk of flooding, we need to eliminate threats to the climate by reducing our greenhouse gas emission. Until then, it’s important to be prepared for every kind of extreme weather event, which are only set to become more frequent.

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