April 2012 has been the wettest month since records began over 200 years ago.
With this increasingly erratic weather, protecting your property from flooding is vital. This can involve a variety of actions, from inspecting and maintaining the building to installing protective devices and having a flood plan in place. Paul Harris of Fine & Country Cambridgeshire offers some advice on what measures to take to minimise the impact of wet weather.
The first thing to consider is the risk level for your property. The Environment Agency has an easily searchable map that provides flood risk assessment by postcode or suburb. See www.environment-agency.gov.uk for details. Additionally, you can speak with your local building official, city engineer, or planning and zoning administrator. If you are in a high risk area sign up for flood warnings by calling 0845 988 1188.
It is not possible to completely flood proof a property but there are lots of things you can do that may reduce damage. If you are looking at purchasing property in a flood risk area you may want to pay attention to the measures already in place before putting in an offer, as some protection can be costly.
Some of the more complex considerations include checking the position, and if necessary repositioning electrical system components such as fuse and circuit breaker boxes, meters, switches, and outlets, which are easily damaged by flood water. Having a functioning system makes the clean up process a lot faster and easier. The recommended minimum level is one foot above the 100 year flood level.
Elevation is also the solution for heating, ventilation and cooling equipment, such as furnaces or hot water heaters. In flood prone houses these elements should be moved away from ground floor or basement areas. If this is not possible, a secondary measure is to build a concrete or masonry block floodwall around the equipment.
Further measures to keep flood water at bay include raising door thresholds to keep out shallow flooding or purchasing purpose built flood boards for external doors and windows that can be installed when flooding is expected. Other commercial solutions include air bricks, covers that can be easily fitted over ventilation bricks when flooding is anticipated.
Drains and pipes should be fitted with non-return valves to prevent waste water from flowing in to the property and if the area is prone to ground water flooding it may be worth sealing floors or replacing wooden floorboards with concrete to block rising water. Even your landscaping can assist. Make sure your garden areas and driveway act to divert water away from the property.
Most importantly, put a flood plan in place so that you can act quickly in the case of a flood and reduce the impact. Simple considerations include moving anything of value to upper floors or higher shelves. Make copies of all of your important documents and store them in a safe, dry place which is easily accessible. This includes your insurance policy which you should read thoroughly so that you know what is actually covered in the event of a serious flood. Also make sure you are familiar with how to turn off your utility supplies.
Finally, prepare an emergency kit in case you are trapped or need to evacuate. This should include blankets, torches, waterproof clothing, food, water, a shovel, a first aid kit, any essential medication and a list of important contact numbers including the national flood line.
Fine & Country Cambridgeshire Telephone: 0845 603 2825 www.fineandcountry.com