Flooding is a major topic at the Cop26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow and as the heavens opened earlier this week, the impact was all too clear. The Environment Agency put out flood risk alerts as rivers broke their banks, drains overflowed and surface water caused havoc.
Scientists have now proved that floods are becoming more common due to global warming. This means many more homes are at risk and not just those that are close to watercourses.
Surface water is becoming an increasing problem. This occurs when drains and sewers are overwhelmed by heavy rain, which then runs onto roads and pavements and, sometimes, into properties.
Flood resilience and build back better campaigner and consultant Mary Dhonau became evangelical about educating others after her own home was badly damaged by a flood. She is now a leading authority on the subject and says: “More properties than ever are affected and you don’t have to be close to rivers and streams to be at risk.
“Thanks to climate change, surface water flooding is a big problem. The clouds heat up more and fill up more so they are heavier and when they empty their guts, that’s when you get localised downpours when part of a town can be flooded and the other is dry.”
While it was always said that living on a hill gave protection, Mary adds: “I now live on a hill and my neighbour’s house a few doors down flooded recently due to run off from surrounding land so you cannot be complacent. You see this Hebden Bridge, which has been heavily hit by floods in the past, and it can happen anywhere. Basically, every property is potentially at risk so you need to be aware of the protection available.”
The average time you are out of your house after it is flooded is nine months, as Selena Whitehead discovered when her family’s period house in York was deluged after the nearby river broke its banks.
She says: “We knew the property had flooded before we bought it but we took the risk because this is such a special place to live and we love it. The house then flooded again in 2012, which was a big shock because we were out of the house for six months while it was made habitable. It happened again in 2015 and that’s when I started researching resilience measures.”
Selena has since had tiled floors with waterproof grout laid on the ground floor, sockets mounted half way up the wall and stainless steel kitchen units installed. What appears to be 1.5m high wall panelling in the sitting room is, in fact, trestle tables that can be swiftly unhooked and used to put household items on, out of reach of water.
The family also installed non return valves on their toilets and washing machine and invested in flood barriers and pumps plus special airbrick covers that prevent water ingress. While airbricks help ventilate a home, they can also allow in thousands of litres of water in flood conditions.
“I wish we had done all this earlier. It has given us peace of mind because we have minimised the risk. The house may flood again but it should be an inch or two rather than a metre high and while we might be forced out of the house while we clean up, it should only be a few days rather than six to nine months,” says Selena, who adds: “We all need to take flooding more seriously and all new builds should have simple flood resistant measures. People should also think twice before paving over gardens to create parking as this is contributing to the surface water issue.”
Mary Dhonau agrees. She has teamed up with insurer Flood Re to take a Floodmobile van to flood prone places across the UK to raise awareness of the urgent need for adaptation of homes and businesses. She also has these tips for homeowners. For more visit her website www.marydhonau.com and find her on Twitter @floodmary
*A lot more people are getting flooded via airbricks, which usually manifests itself as a pool of water in the middle of the floor. Fit self-closing air brick covers. They shut when the water rises up to them and cost from about £30 each.
*Get a non-return valve fitted on the washing machine, dishwasher and toilets. They are about £30 each and will stop water and raw sewage from entering your home this way during a flood.
*Sign up for free flood warnings and make sure you are clear on your plan of action should the worst happen. www.gov.uk/sign-up-for-flood-warnings.
*Have solid wood internal doors and a flood resistant front door.
*Put your fridge and other white goods on raised plinths to minimise flood damage.
*Have tiled floors with waterproof adhesive on the ground floor.
*Have a separate electrical circuit for upper and lower floors and move plug sockets to higher points on the walls downstairs.
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