The Importance of Reporting Flooding!
What are the reasons that flood events go unreported?
Not surprisingly, people often think that incidents of flooding will be reported by somebody else. News of the event will surely make its way onto social media and reach those who need to know. Some may also believe that there is little point in reporting it, assuming that there will be no help or support available from authorities. Another reason incidents go unreported is because people do not want the addresses of their property recorded as being flooded, whether for reasons of future sale or increased insurance premiums. Believe me when I say I have personally met people who have spent most of their life savings (as much as £50,000) recovering their flood affected property in order to avoid speaking with their insurance company. Please, don’t ever do this. For one, the insurance industry already has access to some of the best flood risk maps and data sets available, so they can already find out your risk. And two, your insurance company is there to help you when you need it most; it’s the reason you bought insurance to begin with!
And, surprisingly, floods can still go ‘unreported’ usually because the incident has been reported to the wrong risk management authority (RMA). RMAs often operate and encourage reports of floods to a designated telephone number, with some also taking reports online. If a flood isn’t directly reported to the correct risk management authority and via the correct process, there is no guarantee that it will be recorded, logged and responded to.
Why should you report flooding?
First and foremost, reports of flooding allow agencies and authorities to respond. This may mean deploying staff to close roads, unblock gullies, co-ordinate and prioritise recovery efforts, as well as to document and photograph affected areas.
Further to recovery support, local authorities may also wish to assist with council tax relief and business rates rebates to help ease the financial burden of a flood. Following Storms Desmond and Eva in 2015, the UK Government chose to respond with a flood resilience grant scheme for property owners, whereby a grant up to £5,000 was made available to those who flooded to help them better protect their properties for future flood events. As the scheme was administered via local authorities, having records of those affected helps to identify and ascertain eligibility for such grant schemes further down the road.
Additionally, each Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) decides themselves what initial criteria must be met for a flood to be regarded as ‘significant’ enough to trigger the requirement for a Section 19 investigation report. While the definition of a ‘significant’ flood can therefore vary somewhat between LLFAs; it should not differ too greatly. Common examples include the internal flooding to five or more residential properties, economic disruption from flooding to commercial properties and infrastructure, as well as flooding to critical services, such as hospitals, care homes, schools and emergency services.
Where a Section 19 report is to be produced, early and accurate reporting by those affected can help the LLFA to understand the flooding mechanisms at play and ensure RMAs work towards a resolve where practical and financially feasible.
The bigger picture!
For communities impacted by coastal or river flooding, flood schemes can often cost several millions pounds to design and construct. The level of funding the government will allocate for the scheme has, in part, a direct correlation to the economic damages caused as a result of the flood event. The higher the amount of economic damage, the easier it is to build a business case for a flood scheme, which why it is so important that the Environment Agency has true and accurate data of those affected. For more information on how Environment Agency flood schemes are funded, read our blog here.
In locations prevalent to the back flow of foul sewerage into homes and gardens, the number of properties reporting problems will likely determine the course of resolve for the water company. Where a larger number of properties are affected, it would be far easier to justify work to resolve the problem.
On a more local level, extensive and ageing drainage infrastructure together with funding cuts has placed a strain on local authority highways departments. What really makes a difference here is reporting blocked drains. Not only will this prompt a response but in flood risk areas it can also help to prioritise hotspots and bring about scheduled cleaning. Additionally, for example; where watercourses may be culverted beneath highways, reporting floods can help to bring about future investment for alleviation works to reduce flooding.
Because flood risk changes over time, building a detailed and localised history of flooding is incredibly beneficial for LLFAs and other RMAs as it also helps them to monitor for increased activity and identify areas which are becoming critical hotspots. Each and every incident reported really is as crucial as each penny in making a pound. If multiple people in your area are affected by a flood, then multiple reports can help agencies to prioritise accordingly.
Who should you report a flood to?
The source and cause of a flood directly determines who it should be reported to.
- The Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs)
This is either your unitary authority or county council and they are only responsible for managing flood risk from ordinary watercourses, groundwater and surface water (including highway drainage). The maintenance of ordinary watercourses located on, beneath or adjacent to private land; such as streams, ditches, dykes and most brooks are actually the responsibility of the respective landowner under their riparian landowner responsibilities. However, if you are experiencing flooding from a watercourse on privately owned land or feel that a landowner has contributed to increasing flood risk, you can report this to your LLFA. They have investigatory powers and can potentially take action if required.
Find your local council here: https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council
- The Environment Agency (EA)
They manage flood risk from main rivers, reservoirs, estuaries and the sea. Flood events and incidents which may increase flood risk from these sources should be reported to them directly. If you’re unsure as to whether a particular watercourse is classed as a main river or not, you can check online and find out here: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=17cd53dfc524433980cc333726a56386
EA incident hotline (24 hour service): 0800 80 70 60
- Your water company
Your water company is responsible for managing flood risk from the sewer network. Their surface water, foul or combined sewer infrastructure can become overwhelmed and surcharge through manhole covers, highway gullies and even back flow into properties. If you experience sewer flooding, either within your garden or internal to your home or business, report it to your water company as soon as possible, they may be able to provide a preliminary clean and additional support.
Find your water supplier: https://www.water.org.uk/advice-for-customers/find-your-supplier/
- The local highways department
The local highways department manage flood risk from surface water on the roads. Surface water flooding occurs when surface runoff from rainfall events exceeds the capacity of gullies and the highways drainage system to remove it. Incidents of surface water flooding should always be reported for safety reasons, as in some cases manhole covers can lift and roads may need to be closed. Reporting incidents can also help to ensure that any blocked gullies or collapsed drains can be dealt with accordingly. If you are unsure as to the agency responsible for your local highway infrastructure, you can check online and find out here: https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council.
So if your area is ever unfortunate enough to experience a flood, please encourage each and every person affected to report their flooded property, street, drain etc. to the correct RMA, and via the correct channel.
by Andy Ainsworth
Sources: GOV.UK, Water UK