How to cope with a watery deluge

Jonathan Christie explains why the recent flood damage should teach us to be prepared

Rising rivers, early spring and tornadoes – Britain's climate is clearly becoming more extreme. For thousands of homeowners in the UK, flooding is just a grim fact of life. But for others, the recent flash floods across the Midlands and the North were an unwelcome surprise, and insurance companies are bracing themselves for thousands of fresh claims. Acts of God and the havoc they wreak are tricky to predict, but doing your homework and preparing for the worst may take the edge off of any deluge or tempest heading our way.

Am I in the line of fire?

Whether you're concerned about your current home or worried about an impending purchase, you can establish the risk of flooding to your property through the environment agency's website (environment-agency.gov.uk). A simple postcode search provides a map that shows the different levels of risk. Inland flooding, tidal flooding and high-risk areas are displayed. It can be startling to see a large, blue smudge running across your property's (or future property's) location – if you have concerns or need clarification on what the actualy risks are, contact the environment agency directly, or your local council.

Often, simple precautions can minimise the chances of flood or storm damage. Securing lawn furniture, checking nearby trees, repairing your gutters, tiles and roofs and ensuring any nearby streams or watercourses are regularly dredged and cleared can all help – even if this means getting your wellies on and doing it yourself. Local knowledge can be a good source of information, especially if there are older residents nearby. They might let you know if there have been any recurring problems or about just that one blocked culvert in 1958.

What should I do if a storm hits?

If you suffer storm or flood damage, notify your insurance company as soon as possible – most have 24-hour helplines. Your services may need to be checked, so contact your electricity, gas or water providers and, in the case of floods, be wary of contaminated water – run your taps through for a few minutes before use.

Storms can leave properties in a precarious state and older homes that suffer from a soaking mustn't dry out too quickly, as this can cause even more damage. There will inevitably be repairs and, in the wake of last week's storms and floods, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has issued a warning to people to check the credentials of any builders they may employ.

Richard Diment, the FMB's director general says, "Many people will be in a hurry to repair damage, but rogue builders will be preying on unsuspecting and sometimes desperate people who need to fix their homes quickly."

Some of the guidelines they've issued include: avoid dealing in cash; never pay in full up front; don't employ someone who knocks at your door asking for work; and agree a contract. The FMB's free Find-A-Builder service is available at www.findabuilder. co.uk or on 08000 152 522. Finally, keep all receipts and approve any work valued over £500 with your insurers.

How do I know if I'm adequately insured?

There are more than 2 million homes in the UK that are at risk from flooding and yet, even after the storms of January this year, it's estimated that a third of households are still not insured. Being covered will ease a lot of pain after a battering from the elements, so check your existing policy is up to date.

Kelly Ostler from the Association of British Insurers says the most common mistake made by homeowners is being under-insured.

"Ensuring you have enough cover on your buildings and contents insurance is something many people forget to check," she says.

"Good practice is to read through your annual renewal and make sure that any home improvements like loft extensions and conservatories, as well as high-value items like flat-screen TVs, are added to your policy. This doesn't always mean your premium will increase, but it will ensure you have enough cover should the worst happen."

With the average flood claim costing about £25,000, make sure you're not going to be short-changed. Check also that there are no exclusions in the small print. Some policies will cover the repair of a broken roof tile, but not the damage caused by any subsequent leaks.

If you're unhappy with your level of cover or a revised premium, shop around for a better deal. But don't cut corners with a cheap quote - it could cost more in the long run.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'