Resisting flood damage
Householders and communities at risk of flooding can do much to prevent or reduce flood damage, but many do little beyond checking their insurance policies. We spoke about this to Mike Still, who will Chair the Flood Resilience Summit in February 2018.
Report from – Tom Harvey
Mike Still has more than 30 years’ experience in the insurance and risk management industry, and has seen at first hand, the huge physical, financial and emotional impacts of flooding on the people whose homes, businesses and communities have been affected.
Chair of BITC's business emergency resilience group, which helps firms and communities prepare for and recover from emergencies, Still is keenly aware of the relatively simple actions that can reduce the effects of flooding – but are often not taken. “We witness the devastating impacts of floods,” he says, “in circumstances where, with a little warning and some action, so many of the consequences could have been reduced or even avoided altogether.
“Most people will have seen the physical effects of flooding on news reports, but what the pictures do not always show are the emotional impacts of having your home flooded – and the damage done to communities whose housing, places of employment, shops and other amenities, etc are suddenly taken away from them.”
The fact that people and communities can take effective action themselves to reduce the risks and damage from flooding to their properties, is a message that Still is keen to emphasis and promote as widely as possible. “Too many people are unaware of or ignore the risks,” he says, “or perhaps think that their insurance will sort out any problem that occurs. Insurance is, of course, a vital safety net and can provide financial support, but it cannot prevent flooding nor the disruption and emotional upheaval it causes.”
Flood Resilience Summit
Mike Still will be promoting this message in his role as Chair of the Flood Resilience Summit at the BRE Innovation Park in Watford on 8 February 2018. He is looking forward to welcoming professionals from planning, construction, insurance and flood prevention to the event, but also people from outside those sectors whose homes and communities are at flood risk.
“We would particularly like to see people at the event who have leadership roles and influence in their communities,” says Still, “and can effectively cascade what they learn to others in those communities. We want them to champion the importance of being aware of flood risks, of participating in flood warning systems, and of applying simple strategies for reducing the impacts of flooding. And we want them to emphasise the fact that these actions can make a real difference.”
The importance of getting this message out was recently highlighted by the Environment Agency, which warned that a staggering number of people are putting themselves at risk by not signing up to receive up-to-date flood warnings. They pointed to the example of Hull where just 4% of residents are signed up to receive flood warnings, despite that fact that 97% of the properties in the Hull City Council area are at risk of flooding.
Resistant and resilient home
The Environment Agency provides advice on the simple actions that people can take, once they have received a flood warning, to reduce the disruptive effects of flooding on their lives. There are also effective actions that householders in flood risk areas can take to make their homes more resistant and resilient to flooding – they don’t have to rely just on public flood defence schemes and insurance policies.
Those attending the Flood Resilience Summit will be able to see this demonstrated at the Flood Resilient Repair Home at the BRE Innovation Park in Watford. The house has been adapted to resist flooding from water up to 600mm (2 feet) deep, and to be resilient to the effects of flooding beyond that – it is designed to dry out quickly and be suitable to move back into in a very short time after a flood incident.
In the normal course of events following a flood, builders repairing a flood-damaged home will strip off soggy plasterboard, take out the flooring and rip out the saturated chipboard kitchen. Once the house has dried out they will probably put the plasterboard back, install a new chipboard kitchen and use non-water-resistant flooring and insulation materials which, if the home were to flood again, will suffer the same fate.
The BRE Flood Resilient Repair Home demonstrates alternative replacement products that will not be affected by subsequent flooding. It also shows how simple measures such as placing electrical outlets higher up walls, and using doors and windows with flood resisting seals, can help minimise future damage. And if water does get in, an automatic 'sump pump' connected to drains in the floor quickly gets water out of the house again.
Visitors to the house generally agree that, although it is designed to be water resisting and resilient, it still looks and feels 'homely'. You can judge for yourself by going to see it during the Flood Resilience Summit on 8 February.