Flooded park with benches and the bottom of a tree partially submerged in water.

Flooding can have a devastating and long-term impact on people’s lives. Around five million homes and businesses in England are at risk of flooding, but many people are unaware and unprepared. 

Not only can a flood cause damage to your home and belongings, costing you thousands of pounds, but it can disrupt your life and cause emotional distress. Preparing before a flood, and knowing what to do when it happens, can reduce these significant impacts.

Who is most at risk?

The people most at risk of flooding are those who live in a flood risk area. You can check your long-term flood risk for areas in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Actions you can take to prepare if you live in an area at risk of flooding

  • Sign up to receive flood warnings by phone, text or email. If you have a disability or need extra help you can contact Floodline and ask for flood warnings to be sent to a friend or relative on your behalf (telephone: 0345 988 1188, textphone: 0345 602 6340). 
  • Make a personal flood plan for you and those around you.  
  • Consider packing a ‘grab bag’ of essentials in advance. This could include any medication you need, a first aid kit and important documents, as well as items such as a torch, bottled water, warm waterproof clothing, and baby care items. Store the bag somewhere you can easily get to. 
  • Move sentimental or valuable items upstairs or keep in a high place such as the top shelf or drawer of a cabinet. Store important documents (e.g. birth certificates) in resealable water-tight plastic bags to help protect them from water damage.
  • If you own a riverside or canalside property, there might be additional things you need to do. Read guidance on the rights and responsibilities of owning a riverside property and contact the Canal and River Trust to find out more.
  • Before a flood happens you can make changes to your property to reduce the damage flooding can do. These do come with a cost, but if you are planning work to your property anyway it can be a good opportunity to make some changes. Read more about how to prepare your property for flooding. You may need permission to do work that will affect the flow of a river or divert flood water.
  • Know how to turn off your gas, electricity and water. These are in different places in different properties but you’ll usually find your water stop tap inside your home where your water supply comes in (or outside near to your property’s boundary under a cover), your gas shut-off valve next to your gas meter, and your mains electricity cut off on your fuse board with a big on and off switch.
  • Get insurance: you can find guidance from the Environment Agency by visiting Prepare for flooding.

There’s different guidance on preparing for flooding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Actions you can take if you are about to be flooded or during a flood

You can check for flooding in the next 5 days. If your area has a flood warning (when flooding is expected) or severe flood warning (when there’s a danger to life):

  • Turn off your gas, electricity and water supplies, if it’s safe to do so – do not touch an electrical switch if you are standing in water.
  • Move your family, vehicles, pets and important items to safety, for example upstairs or to higher ground.
  • If you have them, use flood protection products, for example flood barriers or air brick covers.
  • Always follow advice from your local council or the emergency services if you are asked to evacuate. Not evacuating or delaying evacuation can put your life at risk. It can also endanger the lives of emergency responders if you later need rescuing.
  • If you need to travel, check for flooding and get road traffic information. Always adhere to ‘Do Not Travel’ notices.
  • Never walk through flood water. Flood water may contain sewage and hide rubbish, wreckage, uneven roads and pavements or broken drain and manhole covers.
  • If you come across a flooded road while driving, turn around and find another route. The number one cause of death during flooding is driving through flood water. 

Report severe river or coastal flooding in England by contacting the Environment Agency on the 24-hour service telephone line: 0800 80 70 60. You can also use Type talk on 0345 602 6340. For some types of flooding you will need to report these to your local council. Find out more information on how to report flooding.

If your home is flood damaged and you’re not able to live there, contact your local council for help getting temporary accommodation.

Find out what to do during a flood in Scotland, what to do during a flood in Wales and what to do during a flood in Northern Ireland.

Actions you can take after a flood

  • Water levels may rise and fall for several weeks depending on drainage and any further rainfall. Do not enter flood water unless absolutely necessary. Flood water can be much deeper than it appears and hide dangers, such as uncovered manholes and sharp objects. If you must enter flood water, move slowly and carefully, avoiding fast-moving water. 
  • Wash your hands regularly, this is the most important way of removing harmful bugs and any chemicals found in flood water. Wash with warm, soapy water, then rinse and dry thoroughly after being in contact with flood water, sewage or any item that has been in the water. Further health advice in relation to flooding can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/flooding-and-health-public-advice
  • If you are insured then check the policy, Insurers may pay costs for temporary accommodation and clean up. Take photographs or video footage of all damage. Mark the water levels on the wall before they recede. Always ensure the insurance company has given approval before going ahead with any repair work. Do not dispose of any item until you are told to do so. 
  • If you do not have insurance, contact your local council for information on hardship grants or charities that may be able to help you.
  • Find out more about Flood RE, a scheme designed to help people who have experienced a flood find more affordable insurance.

Further information and resources

The Environment Agency provides advice for residents and businesses at risk of flooding.