Property flood resilience – Let’s get prepared

This week sees the launch of 30 Days 30 Ways UK, the national campaign helping to raise awareness of steps we can all take for being prepared to different hazards. Phil Emonson, Technical Director and Head of Flood Resilience reflects on the events of 2020, and why there’s never a more pressing time for such an important initiative.

Back in February we again saw the devastating impacts flooding can bring to homes, businesses and communities. Storm Ciara bought disruption to large parts of the UK, quickly followed by Storm Dennis which bought high rainfall totals and river levels, affecting South Wales and border counties such as Herefordshire and Shropshire in particular. Once again, we saw people’s furniture and possessions piled up on pavements as insurance claims were processed and lives turned upside down. One can only imagine the human cost and the stress on families, communities and businesses, and this unfortunately continued for many months ahead as we soon moved quickly into lockdown.

Although the TV cameras and news agendas soon moved on, we mustn’t forget the ongoing struggle hundreds if not thousands of families faced across the country as they sought to return and rebuild. For many the recovery phase was severely hindered by lockdown restrictions, bringing added complications and additional stress. The lucky ones would have engaged with loss adjustors and started the drying process, but for many, homes still remain largely untouched since the flood, with alternative lockdown accommodation placing significant pressures on family groups.

It will be some time before the total number of properties flooded will be known, but whether it’s 1 or 1,000 – the impact and loss for the individual, family or business is the same.

Flood resilience

Any TV or radio phone-in during a flood event highlights that everybody has a view on the reasons behind this latest event, or who might be to blame with themes such as lack of investment, leadership or reduced maintenance. In truth, we live on an island which is prone to Atlantic storms, and with a finite area in which to live our lives. As efforts continue across the UK to defend and protect communities against flooding, there is increasing acknowledgement that we must also learn to live with floods. Risk management authorities and our emergency services across the UK work tirelessly and should be applauded for the round-the-clock commitment and support they provide. And so, to live with floods we need to help homeowners and communities be better prepared and be more resilient.

This year I’ve had the honour of initiating and being elected Chair of the new Flood Resilience Professional Working Group for the Emergency Planning Society. For the first time this brings together emergency planners from across the UK to discuss and help bring about change and improvement in flood resilience. We hope that this forum will act as a vehicle of debate and to continue to help the UK prepare.

Be prepared

There will be a next storm, and there will be next time so we all need to be prepared – whether that’s infrastructure owners and operators, Category 1 and 2 responders, businesses, homeowners or communities. With climate change affecting our weather patterns and bringing an increased likelihood of warmer and wetter winters, we need to direct our focus to building preparedness and resilience so business and homeowners aren’t faced with the total devastation we’ve seen, taking months or years to recover, and with extremely costly insurance claims.

Let’s all get involved in the 30Days30Ways campaign.  Let’s all consider what steps we can take in our organisations, communities and home for next time. And let’s all get prepared.

Want to know more?

Throughout September, our Flood Resilience team will be posting a series of blogs as we support Preparedness Month and 30Days30Ways.

Email Phil Emonson for more information about how we can support your organisation with incident management training and exercising, or support with independent Property Flood Resilience surveys. You can also find more information on our Property Flood Resilience webpage.

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