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How to Stay Safe when Flooding Occurs

Posted: 16/11/23

This blog has been written by a member of the Newground Flood Team.

Floods are a part of life in many regions in the UK. While they might not always make headlines, they can have a significant impact on our daily lives. Being prepared and knowing how to respond can make all the difference. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through essential flood safety tips and give you advice and tips on how to stay safe during a flood.

While this blog offers a brief overview of flood safety measures, to learn more please follow the links and check out our dedicated pages, toolkits and resources available on our website.


Before a Flood

Flood safety begins with preparation. Before a flood event occurs, critical flood safety measures should be considered. Through planning and preparation, efforts can be made to reduce the impact of flooding to ensure the highest possible level of resilience and safety.

Follow the links below to learn more and read more about these essential flood safety measures.


Flood Warnings and Triggers

Understanding whether your property is in a flood-risk area is crucial, as it gives you a head start to prepare your property for potential future flood events. The Environment Agency offers a free ‘Flood Warning and Alert Service’ that enables people at risk of flooding from main rivers and the sea, to receive flood alerts and warnings by telephone, text and email.

Flood alerts and warnings are a great way to keep up to date with the flood risk posed by the river and sea conditions in your area, allowing you to be pre-warned of any risks towards your property. You can check your flood risk and sign up for flood warnings by visiting our ‘Am I at Risk’ page, by clicking here.

Keep informed with weather forecasts and local news stations for updates. Stay up to date with local weather and travel on the TV, radio or social media.



Flood Plan

A flood plan should contain all the steps you would take if a flood alert or warning is issued, along with the address of an evacuation centre and important contact details, such as family members who you may need to contact during a flood. Make sure you are aware of other evacuation centres and have alternate routes, in case the surrounding area and roads becomes cut off. Additionally, have a plan for relocating your vehicle to a safe location and make sure valuable possessions are moved upstairs.

For guidance on creating a flood plan tailored to your household, please visit our household page by clicking here.



Flood Kit

Prepare a flood kit with vital items like non-perishable food, water, first-aid supplies, torches and crucial documents. Keep your kit in an accessible location and ensure it is regularly replenished.

For a detailed list of what to include in your flood kit, please visit our household page by clicking here.


Make sure that items in the flood kit are regularly replaced if needed e.g. prescription medication


Flood Insurance

Flooding to a household can cause serious damage if you don’t have flood protection in place, or if the protection you have has failed or is overwhelmed. You should ensure that you have adequate cover for both your buildings and contents. If you live in a flood risk area you will want to be insured for flood risk, however insurance for households in flood risk areas is often very expensive or even unaffordable.

You can read more about flood insurance by visiting our household page by clicking here.



Property Flood Resilience

Properly installing Property Flood Resilience (PFR) measures, such as flood barriers, flood doors, automatic airbricks and water-resistant walls, can protect your property from flood damage. Research indicates that every £1 spent on property flood resilience results in a £5 saving on future damages. Some PFR measures can prevent floodwater from entering a property and others can reduce the potential damage to a home or business once floodwater has entered, meaning the recovery process can potentially be quicker and easier.

To discover more about the range of PFR products available, please visit our dedicated PFR page by clicking here.



Gas, Electricity and Water Supplies

It’s important to turn off gas, electricity and water supplies, before a flood event, provided it is safe to do so. Doing so helps prevent hazards, such as electrical issues, gas leaks, and water contamination, significantly reducing the risk of accidents and damage.


During a Flood

During a flood, prioritise safety by following the advice of professionals and emergency services. If you’re in immediate danger, call 999 for help. Never enter or drive through floodwaters to ensure your safety.


Reporting flooding

Reporting flooding is critical in ensuring that risk management authorities (RMAs) are aware of problems and can deal with incidents effectively. It is important that you know who to report the different types of flooding to and continue to report each incident, to allow RMAs to collate data to keep track of the overall picture of flooding in that area.


Click here to download this resource on ‘The Importance of Reporting Flooding’.


Entering flood water

Entering floodwater may seem safe, but it conceals significant risks, with one of the most severe threats being drowning. Floodwaters can rise rapidly, making it easy for people to become trapped or disoriented. Walking or driving in floodwater is especially dangerous due to its unpredictable strength. The water can suddenly sweep your vehicle away, leaving you stranded and in danger of drowning. Just 15 centimetres (about 6 inches) of moving water can push a person off their feet.

Avoiding fast-flowing rivers or standing too close to the sea during storm surges. The strong currents in rivers can swiftly sweep individuals away, while storm surges along the coast can lead to substantial waves, flooding, and powerful winds, all of which are extremely dangerous and pose a significant risk to life.


Risk of drowning

During floods, the murky and turbulent water often obscures its actual depth, causing people to underestimate the associated risks. Floodwaters can conceal hazards such as potholes and manholes, which are challenging to spot while submerged and can lead to falls or becoming trapped. Additionally, floodwaters can transport debris capable of causing injury, highlighting the need for caution and vigilance when dealing with floodwater to prevent potential harm or accidents.

Furthermore, it’s important to be aware that floodwater is cold, and the shock of cold water can have a profound impact on your ability to breathe and swim, often leading to drowning. This can affect even the strongest swimmers. Therefore, if you ever find yourself in trouble, it’s crucial to remember the following steps:

Float first: Fight the instinct to swim immediately and allow yourself to float to regain control.

Control your breathing: Focus on regulating your breathing to prevent panic.

Kick to the side: After calming your breathing, gently kick to the side to move to safety.

These steps can be lifesaving in the event of encountering floodwater. If you’re in immediate danger, call 999 for help.




In addition to physical hazards, floodwater may contain harmful substances, including pesticides, chemicals, sewage, animal waste and oils, posing health risks on contact. Cuts or wounds exposed to floodwater should be promptly cleaned and protected with waterproof plasters.

Frequent handwashing is essential to prevent the spread of contaminants, and items exposed to floodwater should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, if possible.

It’s crucial to avoid consuming any food or drink that may have been contaminated, as they can carry dangerous bacteria and pathogens that can cause severe illnesses if ingested. It’s important to check your drinking water source too.




During floods, streetlights, traffic lights, and CCTV cameras may still have live electricity supplies. Contact with electrified floodwater can result in dangerous shocks, potentially causing severe injuries or even death. Extreme caution is essential to avoid contact with potentially electrified floodwater.



Click here to download the ‘dangers of entering flood water’ resource.


Driving in floodwater

Driving through floodwater is extremely risky. The water can suddenly sweep your vehicle away, leaving you stranded and in danger of drowning. In standing water, research shows that as little as 30cm (11 inches) of water can cause vehicles to lose contact with the ground, leading to a loss of control. In flowing water, a depth of 60 cm (23 inches) can carry a vehicle away.

Even if the water appears shallow, it can conceal deep holes or road damage which can harm you and your vehicle. Floodwater can erode the road, forming hidden gaps and weak sections. Venturing into these areas can result in accidents and vehicle damage. It only requires an egg cup’s worth of water in your engine’s intake to stall your engine and potentially cause thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Additionally, it’s important to note that bow waves created by vehicles moving through floodwater can not only damage property but also pose a danger to people.
For your safety and that of others, it is crucial to avoid driving through floodwater. Instead, turn around and seek an alternative route to ensure safety.

For more information on safe driving in floodwater, you can explore our dedicated blog by clicking here.



Click here to download the ‘Driving in Floodwater’ resource.


After a Flood

As the waters subside after a flood, safety remains a top priority during the recovery phase. This section guides you through crucial safety measures, addressing potential hazards post-flood. For more in-depth information and practical tips on flood recovery, click here to visit out household page.



Re-entering your home

Before re-entering your home after a flood event, take a moment to assess its structural condition. Floodwater can erode foundations, damage load-bearing walls, and harm essential systems, like electrical and plumbing, compromising the overall structural stability. If you notice any visible damage, it’s crucial to consult with a professional before entering to avoid potential risks.

Click here to read more about flood recovery on our household page.



Clearing up

Stagnant water can quickly become a breeding ground for diseases, especially when left standing for an extended period. To prevent this, promptly remove any stagnant water from your home using pumps or buckets and ensure proper drainage. Stagnant water not only poses health risks but can also damage your home’s foundation and structures over time if not managed effectively. Click here to download our resource on sump and pump systems.

Drying out your property is an essential step in the recovery process after a flood. However, it’s crucial to do this safely. Never use petrol or diesel-powered generators indoors, as the gases they emit may contain Carbon Monoxide, a colourless, odourless gas that can be deadly if inhaled. Proper ventilation and the use of generators in safe, outdoor areas are essential to ensure your safety during the drying-out process.




Any food that has been in contact with floodwater or has perished due to flooding should be promptly disposed of. Consuming contaminated food can pose severe health risks with potentially fatal outcomes. After encountering floodwater, it’s crucial to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water. This seemingly simple step can be a powerful defence against waterborne illnesses.

In addition to this, consult your local council for up-to-date information on how to dispose of other contaminated items such as sandbags or furniture.



Mental health

Flooding can have profound and enduring impacts on mental health, often affecting individuals and communities long after the floodwaters recede. The aftermath of a flood, with its challenges such as displacement, financial stress, and complex insurance claims, can lead to increased risks of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Vulnerable groups like the elderly and children may be particularly affected. Click here to read our blog on mental health and flooding.

Children can suffer badly because of flooding but they can also be great sources of support to their families, neighbourhoods and communities in an emergency. Initiatives like school education programs aim to support affected children. Click here to visit our ‘How does flooding affect children?’ page, and read Lancaster university and Save the Children’s ‘Children, Young People and Flooding: Recovery and Resilience’ report.

Those who have been affected by flooding and require further support should contact their GP or NHS 111 in the first instance. There are also organisations such as MIND who can provide advice and guidance on accessing support services as well as a range of mental health related information.
You can contact MIND directly on 0300 123 3393 or by visiting




Click here to download the flooding safety resource.