How to protect your home from flooding in Norfolk
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Many areas of the country have been hit by flooding in the last week, with parts of the north west experiencing more than a month's rain in 24 hours. With these sorts of extreme weather events predicted to become more frequent, here are some steps you can take to protect your home.
Responding to recent events, director of incident management at the Environment Agency, Caroline Douglass, has urged people to be "aware of their flood risk".
She said: "This is the third weekend we have seen exceptional river levels and stormy weather, and with the effects of climate change, we need to prepare for more frequent periods of extreme weather like this."
Even if you don't live near a river or by the sea, you can still be vulnerable to flooding, which can come at great emotional as well as financial cost.
Swaffham-based Floodsense, which specialises in flood defence systems, was set up by Kevin Williams in 2009. Having spent 15 years restoring properties which had been damaged by flooding, he decided he wanted to help people to prevent their homes and businesses from being inundated in the first place.
"We cannot ignore our flood risks. Floods take lives and damage property. They can be emotionally devastating to you, your business and your family, both while they are happening and later when you have to deal with the aftermath," he says.
"But there are things that you can do. You can prevent future damage by flood proofing your building or buildings and making personalised flood plans. You can learn important flood
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safety rules and health precautions, and minimise your losses during flood recovery."
When it comes to safeguarding your property, Kevin recommends getting professional advice to see which measures would be of most benefit.
Ways to stop water getting into your home include putting removable barriers on doors and windows, temporary seals for doors and air bricks, installing special valves on toilet and drainage pipes to help stop sewerage backing up into a building and pump and sump systems which drain water from below floor level faster than it rises.
And make sure that you sign up to the Environment Agency's Floodline warning service - you can do this online at fws.environment-agency.gov.uk.
If the Environment Agency has issued a flood warning in your area, meaning flooding is expected, alternative measures Kevin suggests to stop water getting in include putting plugs in sinks and baths and weighing them down with sandbags (available from local councils if flooding is expected), pillow cases or plastic bags filled with garden soil or heavy objects. If you don't have non-return valves fitted, plug water inlet pipes with towels or cloths. And disconnect any equipment which uses water, such as washing machines and dishwashers.
Kevin says that a water alarm could also be useful.
"A water alarm is similar to a smoke alarm; it beeps when water touches it and can give you precious extra time to minimise potential property damage," he says.
It may also be useful to buy special waterproof bags, which can be used to protect possessions from flood water - they can be large enough to take furniture or even your car. Failing that you could use waterproof plastic bags and elastic bands to cover chair and table legs which will help resist low level flooding. Keep important personal documents in a sealed bag, and in a safe location.
And place items that are likely to be easily damaged or are of sentimental value, such as photo albums, higher up in a room, or keep them upstairs.
If flooding occurs, turn off gas, electricity and water supplies at the mains - don't go into rooms with standing water if the power is still on and don't use electrical appliances affected by water. Floods can happen quickly, and aside from taking measures to protect your home in the long term, having a flood plan is a way of ensuring you've considered your flood risk and have made preparations to cope should one happen.
Insurance company NFU Mutual's checklist says:
Know how to turn off your gas, electricity and water mains supplies.
Prepare a flood kit of essential items including: copies of your home insurance documents, a wind-up or battery radio and torch (plus spare batteries), warm, waterproof clothing and blankets, a first aid kit and prescription medication, bottled water and non-perishable foods, and your list of important numbers, ensuring all members of the household know who to contact in an emergency.
Check your insurance cover includes your buildings and contents and the sums insured are sufficient.
For more information see floodsense.co.uk