Holding back the water

FloodIn recent years, the UK has seen unprecedented levels of rainfall and subsequent flooding, which is the world’s most common natural disaster. Flooding throughout the country has dominated the news agenda on many occasions with individual’s stories, dramatic rescues and the exceptionally high costs of repairing the damage highlighted in the press.

Since the infamous 2007 floods, which affected families, businesses and schools across the UK, flooding has also been the subject of extensive political comment and debate. Following the floods, the government commissioned a comprehensive review of events. The Pitt Review documented 92 recommendations in order to better prepare for future flooding, one of which stated that the role of local authorities should be enhanced so that they take on responsibility for leading the coordination of flood risk management in their areas.

Taking responsibility

The government’s response to the Pitt Review was the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, which aims to improve the ability to manage the risk of flooding in the UK by clarifying who is responsible for what. The Environment Agency (EA) has an overview of all flood and coastal erosion risk management, whilst Unitary and County Councils are responsible for managing the risk of all local floods.

Whilst this will avoid any delay or confusion about who is responsible, it does not prevent individuals from making full use of all capabilities, resource and experience locally.

Understanding the risk
Despite the extensive damage that flooding has caused in recent years, many commercial property owners just don’t think it will happen to them.

The truth is that more properties are at risk than people think. Statistics show, for example, that 185,000 commercial sites, including 2,358 schools in England, and 1 in 4 homes in England and Wales are at risk of flooding.

Following the extensive damage to schools during the 2007 floods, the government distributed £14m amongst schools in the north of the country alone. As one of the most affected areas in the country, £3.2m was given to Hull as only eight of its 99 schools remained unaffected during the flooding. When one also considers the fact that the summer 2007 floods cost affected businesses on average between £75,000 and £112,000 and that the average cost of repairing a flood damaged home ranges from £20,000 to £30,000, the financial implications of flood become clear.

It is not, of course, only the financial implications for schools that need to be considered, however. Flooding can cause site erosion, structural and non-structural building damage, and damage to or loss of contents. It can also bring health threats from contaminated floodwater. These effects can all lead to temporary or even permanent closure, thereby greatly affecting pupils and their education. In 2007, GCSE pupils at a school in Hull had their exam papers re-examined owing to the fact that not only did they lose coursework in the floods, but that their final weeks of learning and exam preparation were so disrupted.

Risk management & preparation

The onus is on property owners and councils to ensure that they are properly prepared for flooding. There is no need, however, to worry unduly: there are a number of resources that can be used depending on the nature of the business. Home and business owners as well as councils can obtain reports that will not only advise of an individual property’s flood risk but also guide on how to prepare for flood.

With the Environment Agency recently warning that communities will have to pay more towards flood defences in their area, despite taxpayer funding of £629 million towards flood management, it is clear that individuals should be aware of how to mitigate risk and lessen the financial impact of flooding.

Practical advice

The Know Your Flood Risk (KYFR) campaign, which launched in 2009, aims to provide practical guidance and support for business and homeowners to help them become more knowledgeable of their own flood risk. Since its launch, over 200 members have joined the campaign, including legal and property professionals, housing developers, flood protection specialists and homeowners, through to national government and local authorities.

Working in association with the National Flood Forum (NFF), the UK’s leading flood charity, which provides support and advice to communities and individuals that have been flooded or are at risk of flooding, KYFR has produced a ‘Flood Guide for Councils’. The guide is a tool for councils to offer information and guidance for residents and businesses.

The guide includes the following:
• an explanation of the types of flood risk
• how to establish whether a property is at risk from flooding and how to protect it
• information about the ongoing flood recovery operation
• an emergency pull-out guide providing practical advice in the event of future floods

The National Flood Forum has also created the ‘Blue Pages Directory’, which is an independent directory of flood protection products and services for anyone at risk of or affected by flooding.

For more information:

For more information on the Know Your Flood Risk campaign and to join today, visit www.knowyourfloodrisk.co.uk
For information on the NFF’s Blue Pages Directory, visit: www.bluepages.org.uk