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Tips for flood preparation

This advice applies to Scotland

Types of flooding and who is responsible for managing flood risk 

Who has responsibility for preventing, monitoring and assisting with flooding depends on the type of flooding. The main types of flooding are:

  • River
  • Coastal
  • Surface water
  • Ground water
  • Drain, sewer and broken water mains
  • Snow melt

There is more information on the different types of flooding on SEPA's website at www.sepa.org.uk.

Where flooding that has been caused by action or inaction by the owner of a neighbouring private property this should be approached in the same way as other neighbour disputes. For advice on how to resolve these problems, see Neighbour disputes

The main agencies involved in managing flood risk and assisting in the event of a flood are:

  • Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA)
  • Local Authorities
  • Scottish Water
  • Emergency services

An explanation of the duties of these agencies is available on the SEPA website at www.sepa.org.uk. See Practical steps and staying safe when you are flooded for who to contact in the event of a flood.

It is also important that you take responsibility for your home and your own safety  by following the steps below. 

Sign-up up to Floodline for flood alerts and flood warnings

SEPA’s Floodline provides a free advanced-warning service to help you to prepare for a flood. You can choose to receive voice messages or texts on your landline or mobile. To sign-up, visit floodline.sepa.org.uk. Alternatively, you can call Floodline on 0345 988 1188.

You can sign-up with multiple mobiles or landlines. A relative can also receive the messages on your behalf if you would find this helpful. Flood alerts and warnings may be issued at any time, 24 hours a day. You may prefer to sign-up for text alerts if you do not want to receive phone calls during the night.

If you have difficulty signing-up to Floodline, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

There are two types of flooding notice: if you are in an area covered by a SEPA flood monitoring system, you will receive a targeted flooding warning message. If you are not in a flood warning area, you will receive a more general flood alert message. For more information on the types of messages, see www.sepa.org.uk.

If you receive a flood warning or flood alert, phone Floodline on 0345 988 1188 for more information and advice or visit the website floodline.sepa.org.uk. You can choose to speak to a trained adviser. You may need to activate any home flood defences you have, move any vehicles to higher land, and have your emergency kit to hand.  A severe flood warning means you should prepare to evacuate your home. See Practical steps and staying safe when you are flooded.

Live flood updates can be accessed at any time at floodline.sepa.org.uk. You can also phone a Quick Dial code for the most up-to-date flooding information. Find the Quick Dial code for your area at floodline.sepa.org.uk.

Understand your flood risk

SEPA has produced flood maps to highlight areas of low, medium and high flood risk in Scotland. The maps show potential sources of flooding such as rivers, and also highlight where flood defences are in place. It is possible to search for your postcode. The flood maps are available at map.sepa.org.uk. Flood maps do not provide an accurate assessment of flood risk for individual homes and should not be used by insurance companies.

As well as the flood maps, you should look for local knowledge of rivers, underground culverts and natural flood plains that may affect your home. Your local authority should have a published flood risk management plan on their website. You could also try speaking to neighbours and looking at local papers.

It is important to monitor your own flood risk as well as signing-up for flood alerts or flood warnings (See step 1). You can access up-to-date information on river water levels on the SEPA website at apps.sepa.org.uk. Live flooding information is available at floodline.sepa.org.uk

See more about home insurance for flooding.

Prepare an emergency kit and flood plan

It is wise to prepare an emergency kit in a sealed waterproof bag, with the following items:

  • A list of important phone numbers: friends, family, insurance emergency helpline, local authority, the Scottish Flood Forum (01698 839021) and Floodline (0345 988 1188). See Practical steps and staying safe when you are flooded for who to contact
  • An up-to-date, detailed home inventory listing fixtures, furnishings and valuable items
  • Home and car insurance documents, passports and other important documents
  • A mobile phone with long-lasting battery life and charger
  • Emergency cash
  • Medications and first aid kit
  • Warm and waterproof clothes
  • Wellingtons
  • Supplies for pets
  • Essentials for children

Keep the kit upstairs or somewhere high and ensure all family members know where to find it.

More information about preparing an emergency kit is available on the Scottish Flood Forum website at www.scottishfloodforum.org and on the Ready Scotland website at www.readyscotland.org. SEPA have also produced a video about making an emergency flood kit, which is available at vimeo.com.

You should also prepare a flood plan. This should outline the steps you’ll take to minimise the flood damage in each room of your home, and what steps you will take to care for children, vulnerable relatives and pets. The plan should be specific to your home and family. The Scottish Flood Forum provides a template flood plan at www.scottishfloodforum.org .

Other things to consider:

  • Do you have good mobile phone coverage? You can check your coverage on OFCOM’s website at www.ofcom.org.uk
  • Are you familiar with the main switch-off for electricity/gas in your home? In a block of flats there may be a central point for all properties. You should put this in your flood plan
  • Do you have a corded landline phone, so that you are able to make phone calls even if the mains electricity is off?
  • Mobile home parks are often located on flood plains. Do you have a contingency area to move to if flooding is predicted?

Preparation for older, disabled and vulnerable people

Floodline have produced a leaflet called 'Be Prepared for Flooding: a guide for older communities', available at www.floodlinescotland.org.uk .

You should make yourself known to your local flood resilience group. See step five for how to find out if there is a group in your area. They may keep a list of vulnerable people in the community who will receive extra help in a flood. 

Scottish Water and certain energy suppliers also keep registers of vulnerable people. This is sometimes called a Priority Services Register. You should ask to be added to this register to ensure you receive extra help in the event of a flood.

The emergency planning department/social work department of your local authority may also keep a list of vulnerable people. You should contact your local authority and ask to be added. 

Join or set up a community flood resilience group

The Scottish Flood Forum assists communities to establish flood resilience groups. There are 61 flood groups around Scotland.

To find out if there is a flood resilience group in your area, contact the Scottish Flood Forum on 01698 839021 or send an email using the webform at www.scottishfloodforum.org.

More information about setting up a flood resilience group can be found on the Scottish Flood Forum website at www.scottishfloodforum.org.

Consider installing flood defences

If you own your home, and live in a high-risk flood area, you may want to consider installing flood defences. It is your responsibility to ensure you are prepared for flooding. 

Before installing flood defence products, you should check with your insurer to see whether this will affect your insurance premiums. Installing these products when you are not considered to be in a high risk area may increase you premiums. See Insurance for flooding. You should also check whether you need planning permission or building warrants from your local authority. For more information on planning permission, see the mygov.scot website at www.mygov.scot. For more on building warrants, see www.mygov.scot.

If you are renting a property and wish to have flood defence products installed, you should ask the landlord to pay for the installation. You could argue that flood defences would benefit the landlord by reducing the amount of money they would need to spend on repairs to meet the legal repairing standard if the property was flooded. Installing defences without permission may be a breach of your lease. For more information on the repairing standard, see Getting repairs done while renting.

Common flood defence products include:

  • air brick covers
  • door and gate barriers
  • sewage non-return valves
  • waterproof plasterboard

Some flood defence products are automatic and some must be activated. For example, door barriers must be put in place and sealed. If you would not be home to activate the door, this may not be the right product for you. 

For more information about different flood defence products, the Scottish Flood Forum has produced an illustrated flood protection guide, available at www.scottishfloodforum.org .

The  Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) has produced a range of factsheets on improving the flood resistance of your home. These are available on the CIRIA website at www.ciria.com.

You should only install products that fit your type of property, your budget and are appropriate for the level of flood protection you need. Check with your local authority to see whether they offer grants or loans for flood defences or have a trusted trader scheme in place.

The Scottish Flood Forum provides a free survey to assess your needs, installation advice and can refer you to trusted suppliers. To request a survey, fill out the webform on the Scottish Flood Forum website at www.scottishfloodforum.org.

Flood defence products are rarely completely water-tight and some leakage may occur. Seals and mechanisms can degrade over time and may need to be replaced in the future. They may be under warranty.

If you have consumer problems with the installation or quality of flood defences, see Problem with building work, decorating or home improvements. You should also contact your local citizens advice bureau for help. 

More tips for flooding preparation can be found on the Floodline website at www.floodlinescotland.org.uk and on the Scottish Flood Forum website at www.scottishfloodforum.org.

Next steps

See Practical steps and staying safe when you are flooded.

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