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Heavy Rainfall and Floods

Human-induced climate change makes extended periods of extreme winter rainfall much more likely - according to the Meteorological Office.

So, if you are living in any of the known flood risk areas across the United Kingdom, it's important to prepare for flooding and extreme weather conditions.

Floodwater Help Guide | Table of Contents

Important: A personal flood plan lists the important things you can do (e.g. move valuable items to a safe place). You can also use the checklist to make a note of important contact details – such as your insurance company.

Groundwater Flood Risk

Severe flooding from groundwater can occur if the water table rises sharply within a given land mass (e.g. rock or soil).

As a result, the responsibility for managing the risk of groundwater flooding falls on local flood authorities, such as the county council.

Furthermore, the Environment Agency provides a groundwater alert service. You can check water situation reports for England online. It includes data provided by water companies and the Met Office.

Note: The GOV.UK website has groundwater situation reports for high flood risk areas. You can check the latest updates on monitored groundwater levels to see whether any alerts or warnings are in force.

Check Your Risk of Flooding

You can find out whether you are at risk of flooding over the near and long term. The information also tells you if the risk is:

  • Immediate (by checking the current flood warnings as well as the river and sea levels).
  • Likely in the next five (5) days.
  • In one of the areas that has a likelihood of severe flooding in the future (by checking the long term risk on flood maps).

Note: The GOV.UK website has a service that allows you to check your flood risk in England, Scotland, Wales, and in Northern Ireland.

Flooding History for Properties

The Environment Agency keeps some flooding history of properties in the United Kingdom. You can get the flood risk history of a property by sending your daytime telephone number along with:

  • A specific date range – or state that your request is for all the information that the EA has on the property.
  • The full postal address. Send a map of the area (using a web link or file attachment) if you do not know the postcode.

Send an email with all the relevant information to the EA at [[email protected]]. As a rule, they will respond within three weeks.

The Environment Agency does not charge a fee for flooding history reports if they take less than eighteen (18) hours to compile. If it takes longer, they will (either):

calling the Floodline number.

  • Inform you that they will not be able to complete the report.
  • Request that you make a payment (from £450 depending on how long it takes) for them to prepare the report.

Working on a Flood Defence

In some cases, you will need to apply for permission (issued by the Environment Agency) to carry out certain types of regulated flood risk activities.

Thus, unless it’s one of the excluded flood risk activities, you should check whether a flood risk activity permit (previously called a flood defence consent) will be required before starting any work.

Note: Failing to get permission, when required, can result in a prosecution, a hefty fine, or a prison sentence.

Preparing for Floods and Flooding

There are several steps to take if you think you are going to get flooded. The National Flood Forum gives online advice or you can speak to one of the Floodline advisers.

Telephone: 0345 988 1188
24-hour service
Check phone call charges

Note: The flood warning information service allows you to check the risk of severe flooding in your local area. Furthermore, the data is current and updated on a regular basis.

Where to get Sandbags

You should be able to get sandbags to use as barricades from building supplies shops or most large DIY stores. If not, your local council should be able to help you find sandbag suppliers in your region.

Note: You can get traffic information from the GOV.UK website to help you plan a journey if there will be a need to travel by road.

Protection against Future Flooding

There are ways to protect yourself from floodwaters by planning how to respond to a future deluge. Thus, using a basic template will help you to minimise. Read more about:

How to Protect Property

The National Flood Forum is a charity that helps to support and represent people at risk of flooding. Talk to a Property Protection Advisor about ways to protect your property and how much it will cost.

You can also use the Blue Pages to help you find flood protection products and services near to where you live.

Important: You may need permission to carry out work that is likely to divert flood water or may affect the flow of a river.

Owning Property Next to a Watercourse

There are several obligations and responsibilities for the owners of properties near to a watercourse (e.g. becks, brooks, culverts, ditches, goyles, mills, streams, and rivers). If this applies to your property:

  • You must not obstruct the natural water flow.
  • You must maintain all relevant riverbeds and banks.

The Environment Agency will give you further information about your responsibilities for the stretch of watercourse that you own.

Environment Agency (EA)
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 03708 506 506
Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm
United Kingdom call charges

Note: You must follow certain rules and responsibilities for watercourses if you do own one (e.g. based on the deeds for the land or the actual property).

Properties Next to a Canal

The Canal and River Trust will confirm who has the responsibility for maintenance if your property is next to a canal.

Local councils put people with a disability on a list to get extra help during a flood. The Citizens Advice can help if it affects your energy supply. You can also ask Floodline to send any relevant warnings to a relative or a trusted friend (e.g. on your behalf).

Flood Insurance in the United Kingdom

If you need to insure a property in one of the flood-risk areas (e.g. Cornwall, Great Yarmouth, Hull), you can try:

Note: Completing a flood risk report (e.g. through a surveyor) will inform insurers, or a potential buyer, that you already had flood protection installed to reduce future risks of flooding.

How to Prepare a Business for Floods

In fact, businesses in the United Kingdom are more likely to be flooded than be destroyed by fire. There has been at least one serious flood every year since 1998.

Is your business at risk and would it stay afloat? There is a simple guide explaining some of the actions you can take. You want to ensure you are as prepared as you can be for heavy rainfall and flooding.

Note: The Environment Agency produces a guide to preparing your business for flooding and what you should do if you find your company is at risk.

How to Sign Up for Flood Warnings

If you sign up for flood warnings in England, you can receive the alerts by email, telephone, or by text message.

Registration for the EA flood warning service is free of charge. But, you will need to supply them with an address for the property that you are registering, and:

  • An email address.
  • A telephone number that they can contact you on during the day and night.

You should contact the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in Scotland or Natural Resources Wales. You can check the flooding risk for Northern Ireland using flood maps.

Flooding: floods preparation guide for the United KingdomRegistering with Floodline

You can also register, update your contact details, or cancel the account by calling the Floodline number.

Telephone: 0345 988 1188
24-hour service

Registering for Multiple Warnings

You will be able to register for flood warning alerts for more than one place if you are based in England (e.g. it operates at several different sites).

Targeted Flood Warning Service
Telephone: 03708 506 506
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Learn about UK call rates

Note: Contact the Targeted Flood Warning Service to register. The service is free of charge for not-for-profit organisations. Otherwise, it will cost around £4,700 a year.

How to Report a Flood in the UK

Depending on what is actually flooding, there are different ways of reporting a flood or the possible cause of one.

Reporting a Burst Water Main

You should contact your local water company (based on your postcode) to get blocked sewers or burst water mains fixed.

Flooded Roads and Public Drains

Contact your local council authority if you want to report a blocked drain or report road flooding.

Rivers (including the sea)

You should contact your local council if you want to report flooding from brooks, rivers, or streams. But, the Environment Agency 24-hour incident line deals with:

  • Blockages (e.g. due to a fallen tree).
  • Badly damaged or collapsed canal or river banks.
  • Unusual changes to the normal river flow.
  • Flooding from a main river or from the sea.

Environment Agency Incident Hotline
Telephone: 0800 80 70 60
24-hour service

How to Report Groundwater Flooding

As water rises up through the ground it can cause a groundwater flood. As a result, local councils deal with most cases of groundwater floods.

Note: The property owner would have the responsibility of fixing any floods caused by private drains.

Who to Contact During a Flood

The National Flood Forum gives online advice about staying safe during a flood or you can speak to one of the Floodline advisers (see details above).

Another section explains how to get up-to-date information about traffic problems and the general road conditions if you need to travel around the United Kingdom.

Important: Contact your nearest council offices if you are going to need some help getting temporary accommodation.

Reporting Electrical, Gas or Sewage Problems

You should contact:

Getting Permits to Pump Out Water

In some cases, recovering from a flood is going to involve pumping out water from a property. If so, you may need to get a permit before pumping water into:

  • Ditches, rivers, and certain other types of watercourses (e.g. brooks, streams). Contact the nearest Environment Agency office for further guidance.
  • Public sewers (the water company will give more advice).
  • Highway ditches or street drains (contact Highways England for further information).

Note: The local fire service may offer you some assistance for pumping out water from a building or off flooded land. They can also help you get any required permits.

Cleaning Up a Flooded Home

Public Health England (PHE) produces detailed guidance in a two-page PDF leaflet explaining how to clear up your home safely after a flood.

Throwing Away Flooded Items

You can legally dispose of any used sandbags at the local tip. Most other damaged items can go in the bin (providing they are not polluted with chemicals or sewage). Furthermore, the local councils can help you get extra rubbish collections or skip removal services.

Disposal of Contaminated Waste

There are strict laws about getting rid of contaminated items in the United Kingdom. The local council will have an environmental health department to help you get rid of things polluted by chemicals or sewage (e.g. sandbags).

Important: Another section contains more guidance about the treatment of waste materials – especially the ‘duty of care’ required when getting rid of business waste.

Flooding: Dealing with Extreme Weather in the United Kingdom