Understanding flood risk at a local level and taking appropriate action can help communities become more flood resilient. Communities can work together and aim to manage their flood risk by forming a flood action group, creating a community flood plan, and considering the potential for developing a community flood scheme.
A flood action group is a voluntary group of local residents who meet on a regular basis to work on behalf of the wider community to help to try and reduce the impact of future flood events. The focus of the group can be based around emergency planning and can also tackle local issues, whilst providing a unified voice for the community to communicate ideas and queries to others.
An established group can encourage the wider community to get involved, including not just residents but also local businesses, landowners and professional partners, as they can be important in improving flood resilience within the community.
Depending on the scope of the work, it could be recommended that a flood action group has public liability insurance. This may be available through your local neighbourhood watch group.
It is within the remit of each individual group to decide on its own roles and responsibilities.
The roles of a flood action group could include:
If your community is situated in a flood warning area, you can encourage residents and local businesses to sign up to receive flood alerts and warning; a free service from the Environment Agency.
A flood action group can invite all members of the community to highlight major concerns and areas where action can be taken in regards to managing flood risk. The group can then act as the voice of the community to communicate ideas and queries to, and build relationships with, key agencies involved with flooding.
High Water Common Ground discusses what a community can do, and how individuals and landowners can work together in response to flooding. Find out more and watch their videos here.
Planning ahead for flooding will ensure that the community can respond to the incident in the most efficient way. Together you can create a plan of action that enables help to be easily provided for individuals who need extra assistance when flooding occurs, and ensures that when a flood alert or warning is received community members know what actions to take.
Prior to becoming involved with community flood planning, individuals should firstly plan and prepare for flooding to their own property if it is at risk. It may also end up that no formal flood plan or flood scheme is put in place for your community, which is why it is beneficial to plan for general resilience. For more information on how to get prepared and become more resilient, visit our Household or Business pages.
Even if you don’t create a formal group or plan, it is still important to give a thought to your neighbours who could be affected by flooding. The effects of flooding events and extreme weather do not impact everybody equally and can be especially challenging for those in vulnerable circumstances. If you are aware of anyone in your community who may need extra support, think about what you can do to help, even if it’s just a knock on the door.
Things you can help your neighbour with:
There are organisations that may be able to offer further support, such as the Red Cross and Age UK. They play a vital role by providing practical and wide-ranging support for those who are less able to prepare for a flooding event; from giving immediate support to helping during the recovery process with repairing homes or making insurance claims.
As a community in a flood risk area, creating a community flood plan can be an effective way to encourage the whole community to become more resilient.
Having a clearly ordered and practised plan of action to make things run efficiently is important as floodwater can be unpredictable and may worsen in a very short space of time. Flood action group members should be familiar with the flood plan and the actions they should take, and the wider community should also be made aware that there is a plan in place.
The plan can be useful for emergency services who may become involved in serious emergencies, as they can identify the resources available, contact key members of the group, and identify properties that may have vulnerable residents inside, to provide them with help.
A good first step is to set up a community meeting to discuss what the aims of the plan will be, who will be involved and how it will be organised.
It is a good idea to encourage residents to sign up for free flood alerts and warnings from the Environment Agency which can be received by call, text or email by more than one individual per property. It is important to understand what the different alerts and warnings mean as they give you time to implement your flood plan and put flood resilience products in place if necessary.
It is important to consider at an early stage what skills and resources are available to the community. This may be in the form of flood group volunteers who give their time, or where physical resources such as sandbags or two way radios can be sourced from. You will also need to identify an appropriate location for an emergency assistance centre.
Flood group volunteers can be involved in the plan in a variety of ways and anyone can be involved, from individuals in the community to representatives of Parish Councils. It may be that you have the time to be involved in the development of the plan and take on a co-ordinator role, however not all roles will require such a commitment. Other volunteers may also be needed to monitor water levels, keep a look out for blockages and report them, or assist those who require help when the flood plan is triggered.
There will always be key volunteers or co-ordinators that will champion the plan and take a more significant role in its development; it is good to identify these people early on.
If you have a flood plan in place that requires products to be installed, the location of their storage should be noted along with instructions of how and where to install them. You should also consider storage for:
It is important to identify anyone within the community in need of assistance. This may include needing help to move furniture and belongings upstairs, or assistance evacuating their property. To do this you will also need to identify people in the community that are willing to provide help, and collate their contact details for when assistance is required.
The address of the residents who need help can be added to the plan so that those helping out know where to go – there is no need to add names of residents to the plan if you do not wish to do so.
A list of those in the community needing assistance can also be useful in the case of an emergency evacuation, as it can be passed on to the emergency services so they can provide help firstly to those in need.
Efficient communication within a community during a flood event is essential and therefore you should ensure that you select the most appropriate method. It is important to keep in mind that not everyone has access to the internet and therefore cannot make use of email, mobile apps or social media.
There are various ways to relay a message throughout a community:
A telephone tree works with one person acting as the coordinator and making the first telephone call to two or more people. In turn, these individuals each call another set of people and so on, until the tree is complete. The tree can be used to ensure that all members of a community are contacted and informed of the emergency, especially those who are more vulnerable.
Group messaging is a great way for a community to correspond with each other as by sending one message, all members of the group will be notified. One popular instant messaging service is Whatsapp Messenger.
Social media is a great tool for spreading news and highlighting events, and could be used to make people aware of a meeting or event that you may hold as a flood group. Facebook and Twitter are popular social media tools to use. However, it is important to remember that not everyone has access to social media and so door knocking and letter posting may be a more suitable approach to spreading a message in some communities.
Sending out an email to a pre-collated list of recipients can be a very useful way to send messages throughout a community, for example local newsletters. However, email will not be suitable for messages that require immediate action, and not all residents will have an email address.
A contact list should be included in the plan, which should contain community contacts and contact details for useful agencies;
You should first agree on what the most suitable triggers for taking action will be. If you are in a flood risk area and eligible for flood warnings, this can be via the Environment Agency’s flood alerts and warnings. You should then decide on roles for each member of the community flood group, but keep them flexible in case some members of the group are unavailable when flooding occurs.
It is important to ensure that all flood group volunteers put their own household and/or business flood plans in place before carrying out any community flood plan actions.
Flood group volunteers should NOT enter floodwater or carry out wet evacuation
Flooding to low lying land and roads is possible. Stay vigilant and make early preparations for a potential flood.
Actions to consider at flood alert stage:
Flooding is expected. Immediate action is required to protect the community. Put the community flood plan into action.
Actions to consider at flood warning stage:
Severe flooding is expected. Significant risk to life and property. Prepare to evacuate and cooperate with emergency services. Evacuate.
At severe flood warning stage:
It is important that a community flood plan is reviewed regularly to ensure that contact details are up to date. It is a good idea to appoint a member responsible for maintaining details. Create a maintenance schedule to regularly check that products used in community flood plans still function properly and practice installing them periodically.
As well as floods, community plans can also cover a range of emergencies such as fires, large scale power cuts, severe winter weather or other emergency events that could cause your community to become cut off. This means that your community can become much more resilient and can make a plan that is adaptable for different types of emergency events.
Two main points of focus when thinking about community resilience are to keep everyone informed, and to have a plan. The plan should be tailored to the community it serves, and should be a working document that is kept up to date.
ACT Cumbria has resources available to help with community emergency planning; you can browse their guidance sheets to download resources here. Download their ‘Full 10 step Community Emergency Planning Toolkit’ and ‘Summary Poster’ for help on community emergency planning.
A community scheme can be a great way to increase a community’s flood resilience, with each scheme being tailored to suit the specific needs of the area. The size of the scheme will vary between communities, and can protect the community in different ways, from installing property flood resilience (PFR) to individual properties, to deploying larger defences to protect a certain area within the community.
It is a good idea to get a flood survey carried out to identify the best course of action for protection, and the range of options available to your community. You will also need to ensure that you consult the necessary agencies to obtain any permission for a scheme before it is developed, if needed.
If a community flood scheme is not feasible for your community, it is important that residents instead plan for general resilience to households and businesses individually. For more information on this, see our Household and Business pages.
Bob Embleton / Flood Barriers at Upton / CC BY-SA 2.0
It may be possible for a flood action group to access funding from local organisations to assist with community resilience. In order to access funding, the group may need to become a constituted group. A constitution is the ‘governing document’ of your group which sets out how you intend to run it, and shows funders that the group is organised if you are going to apply for grant funding.
Your local Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) can assist the flood action group in becoming constituted and can provide access to resources and information around running successful community groups.
Simple schemes could ensure that all the properties in a row of terraced houses install property flood resilience measures such as demountable door barriers. This will reduce the risk of floodwater seeping through the party wall from a neighbouring property. In these cases, consent will usually be needed from residents from each house to allow the scheme to go ahead.
Larger schemes may involve modifying or building a flood wall along a riverside or around a group of properties to protect a community. In these cases a flood risk assessment would usually be undertaken to ensure the flood risk is not increased elsewhere.
It is worth noting that there is a flood risk activities exemption for schemes that protect up to 6 adjoining properties using raised defences up to a meter high: ‘Constructing raised flood defences around a maximum of 6 adjoining properties (FRA26)’
Sometimes, permanent solutions are not appropriate so temporary barriers can be used to redirect water away from properties, such as across a cul-de-sac entrance. At a larger scale, flow paths could be altered to redirect water back to the watercourse using roads as temporary channels.
Purchasing a telemetry system for community use may increase the community’s chance of receiving a warning. They are especially useful for communities in areas which are not covered by Environment Agency flood alerts and warnings. These systems can be set up in a location where a certain water level usually indicates that flooding is possible, and when triggered, will give residents a warning so they have time to take action and prepare for flooding. Some systems like rain gauges have the added bonus of being able to warn of surface water flooding which the Environment Agency is not able to monitor.
Image taken from Vision Link
Products should be purchased from a reputable source, Know Your Flood Risk’s ‘Homeowner’s Guide to Flood Resilience’ has more information on available products. The Buy with Confidence scheme highlights trustworthy businesses to source products from. The Buy with Confidence scheme highlights trustworthy businesses to source products from. The Blue Pages is a directory of flood products which gives information on available options of protection, and this Trader Directory can be used to find traders in your local region.
You can ensure the quality of any products by checking that they are Kitemark certified meaning they have been thoroughly tested in a BSI (British Standards Institution) approved testing facility and therefore have good safety, quality and reliability. The BSI Kitemark for Flood Protection products is known as PAS1188. See here for more guidance on checking the certification of products.
A community flood resilience scheme will usually include various communal flood defence products and equipment. This equipment will need to be stored in a suitable and easily accessible location to allow communities to respond quickly to the flooding. It should be maintained well and checked regularly as part of the flood plan to ensure it remains in working order.
At least two people should have access to this store; preferably those that own properties that are not at high risk of flooding. This means they are able to respond to the community’s needs with less chance of needing to attend to their own household or business needs first.