Knowing the level of risk is important in order to make a decision on whether or not you want to protect your property. The Environment Agency has maps (1) that demonstrate the risk from rivers, sea, and, in some places in England, from groundwater. They are updated on a regular basis and should be periodically reviewed; for example, when your home insurance policy is due for renewal.
Some of the most recent floods experienced in England do not take place anywhere near a river. These types of flooding occur after heavy rainfall and where drains or land do not allow the water to escape quickly.
In England, Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) are responsible for managing flood risk locally and they can give you information about the risk from ground and surface water or direct you to who is responsible. You can find out who your LLFA is by contacting the Environment Agency (2).
Other people living in the area can be a source of knowledge on previous flood incidents. Alternatively, the local library, place of worship, or community centre may have people who know the area well. Have there been previous floods? What are they doing and why? Your local councillor may also know the right person to ask. The website www.gov.uk helps you to find your local authority and councillor by postcode (3).
A fee can be paid for a commercial property search. For advice on providers of these services please see the Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO) (4).
If you tick all of the boxes on the checklist below then it will be a good idea to find out more about flood resilience technologies.
Has the area been flooded before?
Is there a significant risk of flooding (sea, rivers, brooks, open drains, pipes, rain, groundwater)?
Given the type(s) of flood risk – have I contacted organisations who know where to go for more information?
Have any of my friends, family or neighbours installed flood resilience products?
At this point, you might want to find out what types of product are available and how they might be funded. There are a number of organisations that can help you to find out more such as the National Flood Forum through their Blue Pages Guide (5) and the Flood Protection Association (6). If the up-front cost prohibits installation then individual property can contact their local authority or their local Environment Agency (7) office for more information on the types of funds that may be available.
Some communities have come together to try to find funds that the Government might be able to match. The Environment Agency (8) has examples of such community partnerships. Your local authority might also be able to help, particularly if they can divert funds from the local levy (raised from your council tax).
You will need to check with your insurers what their policy is in regards to property level flood resilience technologies. Recent research indicates that a reduction on insurance premiums is not guaranteed (9). However, more companies may be willing to provide a quotation. It is good practice to contact a range of insurers to ask for a quote. The Association of British Insurers (10) or the British Insurance Brokers Association (11) may be able to suggest insurers that specialise in flood risk cover. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published guidance on insurance for property owners who live in areas at high risk of flooding (12).
Are any of my neighbours interested in installing flood resilience technology?
Can we raise some money in the local community?
Can my local authority, local councillor or the Environment Agency help with funding?
Have I contacted a range of insurers to ask for a quote?
What is my insurer’s position on this risk?
Once you have explored costs and sources of funding, the next important step will be a survey of your property. This will check for all possible points where water can easily seep in such as doors, windows, air bricks and even the toilet. You can either go direct to a manufacturer who provides a survey as part of their overall package. However, most people choose to have an independent survey. If you want an independent survey, try to look for a firm who are locally based or who has previously worked in the area. You can contact your local authority planning department (13) or the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has a list of professional chartered surveyors that you can search by postcode (14).
Be aware that any surveyor that recommends only one product has probably not surveyed correctly: most properties need a combination of measures such as door guards and air brick covers, along with other remedial work. A good surveyor will also take into account other nearby properties, previous flooding and the location of drains. Defra has published a template for those undertaking surveys as part of its funded schemes (15). You can expect to receive a report that:
- provides an assessment of the flood risk (depth, duration, type(s), frequency);
- provides a comprehensive assessment of all possible points where water could enter a building and how it might affect a building based on its existing envelope and internal systems;
- the specification of measures that can be adopted to protect a building.
In some cases, two surveys may occur before installation. The first will provide a risk assessment. However, a manufacturer, particularly if it is a bespoke solution, may wish to carry out a detailed measured survey of the property during Step 4.
You may need to talk to your neighbours as your investment in flood might not work if your neighbours do not have similar protection.
Is the surveyor accredited by a professional organisation such as RICS?
Have I asked the surveyor whether all possible points of entry have been covered?
Has a report been provided that gives a comprehensive assessment along with a specification of measures?
Will these products be compromised because my neighbours have not installed similar measures?
The survey will recommend a combination of products. Organisations such as the National Flood Forum (16) and the Flood Protection Association (17) will be able to direct you to reputable companies who can fulfil the specifications.
You can check the National Flood Forum’s Blue Pages (18) for a list of products and manufacturers. A good manufacturer should also be able to provide testimonials from people who have previously purchased their products.
However, make sure that the products suggested are right for you. For example, flood doors may need to be activated in a particular way. People who are mobility impaired may not be able to do so. Other people have installed garage doors that only one member of the household is of sufficient height to activate.
You need to make sure that everyone in your property is capable of using the product and checking that it works or else can easily access someone to help. Very often there is little time between hearing a flood warning and making sure that the protection measures are in place and fully operational.
The British Standards Kitemark (PAS 1188) is a rigorous standard to which some products will have been tested to (19). As a rule, the Environment Agency recommend Kitemark tested products. Please note that the Kitemark allows for a small amount of water leakage when products are tested (1 litre of water per hour per metre of seal under a designated maximum water depth).
Some websites or brochures indicate that a manufacturer is covered by the Kitemark but please be aware that this might NOT apply to ALL of their products. The Kitemark also does not cover all items, for example, non-return valves or sealants.
Am I clear about what the products do?
Am I confident that I or another member of my household could use the product?
Have I been provided with information about the product such as sample materials, or installation and maintenance?
Do the products have the PAS 1188 Kitemark?
If the products are not covered by the PAS 1188 Kitemark, have I asked for evidence that they are suitable (e.g customer testimonials)?
Some manufacturers will install their own products. However, it can often be the case that products will be installed by a third party. Here, the manufacturer is responsible for providing the installer with the necessary instructions.
You should ask who an installer works for and who pays their fee. Some manufacturers belong to the Flood Protection Association (FPA) (20) who have a code of practice and so, if there are any complaints, then contact the FPA to help.
It is good practice for the property owner to inspect the installation once it is completed. If the initial property survey was carried out by an independent surveyor then they may come out to inspect whether or not the product has been installed to their specifications.
If the works have been completed under an Environment Agency or local authority scheme, they can provide you with a revised flood risk mitigation assessment on the basis of the installed products. The template is available from the Environment Agency (21). Alternatively, you may ask for this as part of the post-installation survey although you may have to pay an additional fee. This survey may be useful in the future when obtaining quotes from insurance companies.
Does a survey need to be arranged to check the quality of the installation?
Does the product come with a guarantee?
Do I know where to go if I am not happy with the product?
Have I asked for, and received, a revised risk assessment that takes account of the installation?
All products – even automatic ones (often described as ‘fit-and-forget’) – will need to be periodically maintained. During periods when the property is unoccupied, it is worth making alternative arrangements for someone else to fit the products or, if they are automatic, to check whether they have been activated if a flood warning is issued.
Property owners are ultimately responsible for ensuring that installed products are maintained in accordance with the product manufacturer’s recommendations. You should be given a maintenance manual and contact details for the manufacturer. Typically, maintenance should be annual or biannual, or else whenever a flood warning is issued.
Please be wary of any supplier that tries to sell you an expensive maintenance deal. If in doubt, you can contact the Flood Protection Association (22) or the National Flood Forum (23) who will be able to advise you.
If any neighbours have installed similar technology then it is good practice to talk to them about how they maintain it. Also, if possible, it is good practice to see if there are others in your community who you can help if they are less able to maintain or operate certain products. Your own protection may be compromised if other properties do not activate, or fail to maintain, the products.
Have I been provided with guidance for maintenance regimes that I need to follow?
If temporary, is there somewhere to store the product correctly and safely, in accordance with the instructions?
Do I have emergency plans in place if there is more severe flooding than the products can cope with?
Do I know where to go for advice if a product fails?
Is there anyone else in my community that I can help to make sure that their products work too?
Have I made arrangements for someone else to check the products are activated if there is a flood alert when I am away from the property?
(5) http://nationalfloodforum.org.uk/ and http://www.bluepages.org.uk/