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Guest Blog: How to Mitigate the Impact of Flooding

By Stuart Kerr, Managing Director of Restorations UK

As the climate continues to warm up, and we inch ever closer to the ‘tipping point of humanity’, flood mitigation may seem like an unusual uptick. In fact, climate change has caused an increase in heavy, unpredictable weather systems that in turn cause flash floods, which create problems for homeowners, residential developers, and landlords.

As homes across the country are put at greater risk, mitigation is of the utmost importance when developing and living in an at-risk home, as well as exploring the cause of increased flooding across the nation.

Flood damage in the billions globally

Across the world flood damage amounts to billions. In the US $3.75 billion dollars was spent on flood restoration in 2019 alone, and this was just an average year of rainfall.

Meanwhile, recent floods that have taken the lives of over 80 people in Western Germany, and damages to property alone are expected to cost in the billions to restore.

Flood damage costs billions annually, hence the importance of good flood mitigation, from government placed flood defences on beaches, to in house mitigation such as door barriers.

Risk of flooding on the increase

With climate change, increasing population and reduced green space due to growing housing needs, the risk of flooding increases annually.

Climate change doesn’t necessarily increase floods directly, but the increased risk of unpredictable rainstorms and density of those rainstorms has, as well as prolonged periods of unusual weather. Heavy rains that cause flooding and droughts have increased drastically since the 1950’s, affecting more than 90% of the worlds regions according to the latest IPCC report.

Pre-emptive flooding strategies

From flood resilience (FRe) technologies to mitigatory plans in case of a flood warning, all requirements must be considered at every stage of a development, or when moving into a house.

Often RICS Chartered surveyors can advise on flood mitigation strategies, even when building a house with the choice of material. Some are more appropriate than others, as they can release water quicker, or don’t retain damp as much. It’s important that even in the build phase of a house where it could be at risk, a pre-emptive flooding strategy is carried out.

What does a pre-emptive flood strategy include?

  1. A good pre-emptive flood strategy should include:
  2. Plans for evacuation, and the route to take
  3. The build property of the house and what materials have been used, including specifications
  4. Current and future flood risk of the property
  5. Vulnerability maps for a variety of circumstances
  6. A Property Level Protection (PLP) report.

Understanding PLP reports

Property Level Protection (PLP) reports can be used to understand any potential strategies needed to ensure that a property is as protected as can be in the event of a flood. They should consider building materials and more. It can be simple aspects like using water resistant mortar on bricks, providing at-risk homes with a portable pump to remove floodwater, or at the more expensive end of the spectrum, installing a sump pump to help remove below ground water.

House Developer Legislative Requirements for Flood Risks

According to the National Planning Policy Framework, paragraph 167, footnote 55, developers are required to provide a specific flood risk assessment (FRA) for any new property developments.

These site-specific FRAs show risks created by the development, how these have been considered in the planning, how flood risk will be managed throughout the build, from initial site digs to key handovers, as well as if flood risk is increased elsewhere by the development and how this is being managed.

An FRA must also show how a developer will deal with these risks and include evidence as to how investigations from local authorities would be managed.

When a Flood Happens: The Responsibilities of All Parties

All parties are somewhat involved when a flood happens, some to greater degrees than others. Landlords, homeowners and tenants bear the brunt, but in some cases property developers may play a part.

Provide manual or automatic flood defences

This lies with the landlord and/or property developer. If, as part of an FRA or similar plan, flood defence systems are required to enable the build to go through, then the developer must provide them, or build them into homes. When developing property, automatic flood defence systems for those built on high-risk areas can greatly improve the insurance guarantee and also warranties on new build homes. Guidance from the National Flood Forum on the six steps to flood resilience can assist property developers with legislative backed guidance.

Floods during a development

In new build estates, development work often continues while people move into homes. Heavy groundwork can increase the risk of detrimental floods if not appropriately managed. Therefore, during a development, flood risk should be managed by moving any machinery to safe locations, creating temporary barriers and prioritising lived in properties with mitigation.

Creating a flood checklist

Homeowners and tenants alike should have a flood checklist. While it can feel like planning for the worst, it is better to be prepared. Appropriate evacuation kits should be provided and any temporary flood prevention measures, such as sandbags, protective coverings for immovable furniture, and flood proof safes should be purchased.

A flood checklist should also include a list of relevant contacts and authorities, such as insurance companies, local authorities, emergency help and flood restoration companies who can provide emergency flood remediation or restoration once the water has resided.

In the immediate during a flood

If a flood happens, then in the immediate, make sure people are safe and well, and evaluate whether the home is safe to stay in or whether temporary accommodation needs finding.

Erect any flood barriers and move valuables upstairs, or to a safe location. Sandbags can also be used to barricade oncoming water.

Once the water has resided, contact insurance companies and begin the claims and flood restoration process, including documenting any images.