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.

Sport
Lionel Messi pictured after reaching the final
world cup 2014
Sport
Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller have shone brightest for Argentina and Germany respectively on their way to the World Cup final
Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?