You don’t have to look too far back in the history books to find examples of how unpredictable the weather can be, for instance the heavy snowfalls of 2009/10 or the Cumbrian flooding of 2009. When it comes to “acts of God” like this, insurers can be reluctant to pay out if your property has been affected, normally protesting that “appropriate measures” weren’t taken to protect your property from flooding or other weather related damages.
Even if the insurance company agrees to compensate you, it can’t remove the lost time, inconvenience and heartache that often accompany the damaged caused to your home, or priceless belongings by dirty floodwater, heavy snow, or wind. So what can you do to help protect these important things in your life in the event of bad weather? There are a surprising number of things that you can do to help yourself combat the worst of the weather should it hit.
Probably one of the most common “acts of God” in recent years here in the UK has been that of heavy rain over prolonged periods of time that leads to large tracts of the countryside disappearing under water for days at a time and unlike the damage inflicted by heavy winds, in most instances you get some warning that the flood or snow is coming, which gives you time to take precautions to protect yourself – although this isn’t always the case and it is advisable if you are in a vulnerable area to make sure you have plans in place long before the rain or snow start to fall.
There are many places on the internet that you can look to see if you are at risk of floods, the Environment Agency website is just one of these. Once you have determined how at risk you are from flooding it is time to start putting together your “flood plan”.
Your flood plan should include things like making sure you know what your insurance policy actually covers in the event of a flood, and making sure that you are familiar with how to turn off your utility supplies (gas, electric and water). You should also make a list of the possessions that you would be devastated to loose, and arrange to move as many of these to a safe location – for example, moving photo albums, family videos and other small precious mementos up onto a shelf, or even to a higher floor in the house that is less likely to be affected by rising water.
Also create a list of important contact numbers, including the national flood line on 0845 988 1188 and talk about where you would go in the event of a flood and how you would contact those you would need to contact. Make a list of the things you would want to move to safety if a flood comes, for example expensive furniture or electrical goods, pets and your car.
You should also think about putting together a “flood survival pack” which should hold essential items like a torch (preferable a wind up one), food, warm blankets and a wind up radio. If you have the room and you are particularly at risk, you might want to consider a small supply of sand bags to help hold back any floodwaters. Although many authorities will provide sandbags, these are normally in high demand, so having your own supply will ensure you can protect your property as fast as possible as local authorities may well try and protect businesses first.
In addition to sandbags, there are a variety of products available to help protect your property, for instance if you have air bricks in your property, you can buy airbrick flood guards that can be stuck over the front of the air brick providing a waterproof seal to help hold back the flood water and you can also fit non-return valves on your drains and water pipes, and emergency storm boards to your front door to help prevent flood water gaining access that way.
If you are lucky enough to be living on a more modern housing estate, you may find that your estate had a sustainable drainage system installed when it was being developed, which may also help keep the levels of flooding down.
When decorating your home there are also things that you can do to help minimise the damage should flood water enter your home, for instance install shelving on the walls to provide a more secure spot for valuables, ensure that your TV/Stereo/Games consoles are placed at over 1.5 metres. It isn’t just inside the home that some forethought in the decoration can help you, by making sure your garden drainage is correctly set up, it will help the flood waters to run off more quickly.
Although heavy snowfall is more rare in the UK, we have had several instances in recent years, including Feb 09 and of course the heavy winter of 09/10. Again, you don’t always get a lot of warning to give you time to protect your home, so it is advisable to ensure you are prepared long before the event.
Snow is less invasive then rising floodwaters, but can still cause you major issues if you aren’t properly prepared. You should make sure you have plenty of food in the house, preferably tinned and long life foods in case you become snowed in, in addition to this, you should make sure you have a good supply of warm blankets, candles and some form of keeping warm, this could be in the shape of a camping stove for example, as well as a windup torch and radio. These items are useful to have if the weather turns bad as it is possible you could loose some or all of the utilities to your home if the snowfall is particularly heavy and takes down power lines.
Even if you don’t end up snowed in, you may still have difficulty leaving the house, and it might be worth investing in a small grit bin so you can spread grit or salt on any paths or driveways that may require it. Local councils do provide grit bins – However, these are only to be used in public areas such as pavements or roads, so if you wish to grit your own path or drive, you will need your own supply.
If you have to travel by car in bad weather, it is a good idea to have a few precautions with you. For instance, a warm blanket, a shovel, a thermos of hot drink, a bag of grit and some method of contacting people if you get stuck.
If you would like to know about how to protect your property from flooding or other weather related damages, please visit the relevant sections on the Environment Agency Website.