Understanding Floods & Protecting Against Them

Flooded pub

Despite hardened Britons being accustomed to a bit of rain every now and again, the deluge that washed through the South West of the country over the early weeks of 2014 was beyond the norm. The rain devastated towns and villages, aided in no small part by almost hurricane strength winds at times, and the loss of life and damage to property has been horrendous.

In some areas, such as along the banks of the Thames through Buckinghamshire, the issue has been with the overflowing river bursting its banks, known as ‘fluvial flooding’. Wales has taken the brunt of the ‘tidal flooding’, with a battering of flood defences from a wild and rough sea hitting towns along the coast like Aberystwyth.

Saturated Subterranean Layer

However, the extent of the damage in the South West, where some of the worst flooding has been seen, has been due to a complete saturation of the subterranean layer that provides natural drainage, leaving further rainfall with nowhere else to go. This is known as ‘pluvial flooding’, and occurs as a result of overdevelopment on land that had previously acted as a natural drain, and many experts are suggesting that pluvial flooding could be a more common scenario in the future.

So how can the UK’s five-and-a-half million homes that are potential flood risks protect against rising water levels? 

Protecting Against Fluvial and Tidal Floods

If the main threat to your home is from river flood waters, your first move is to get hold of sandbags. These can be obtained from commercial builders or, in the event of emergencies, from the National Flood Forum Blue Pages Directory.

Place them in front of doors and around low-lying windows to discourage the water and potentially contaminated mud and silt from entering your home – door and window skirts are also available for this purpose.

This will help in the short term, but more long term steps will need to be taken if your area is particularly prone. Raising door steps and purchasing specially designed flood-resistant windows is worth the investment, and coating your exterior walls in waterproof sealant is another option.

Your drains and pipework is another popular access point for flood waters, so the simple addition of valves to allow water to flow in only one direction is a no-brainer.

Protecting Against Pluvial Floods

Guarding against this type of flooding is not as simple, as much of the water rises up through the ground due to the oversaturated layer.

Many of the methods above will be ineffective, such as the use of sandbags, and preparation for potential flooding is limited mainly to applying waterproof sealant to floors and covering vents and drainpipes.

Again, more long term steps can be taken if flooding is frequent, such as raising power sockets and other electrical items, and you may need to sacrifice carpeted ground floors in favour of tiling.

Water Pumping

Unfortunately, pluvial flooding has a greater emphasis on cure over prevention, necessitating the use of a water pump. A petrol or diesel one may not be the cheapest, but will be safer than electric-based ones in the event of rising water levels.

Ensure that you only pump water out of your property when the water level outside is lower than that inside, otherwise you may be putting the structural soundness of your property at risk, and keep the pump installed at a low level, such as a basement.

Be wary of where you are pumping water to, as you could be causing greater damage elsewhere – particularly if it’s ending up in public drains or sewers.



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