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Introducing the Floodmobile!

What is the Floodmobile?

The Floodmobile is an innovative mobile demonstration community outreach vehicle that has been designed to bring Property Flood Resilience to life. 

The ‘flood house on wheels’ is packed with around 50 different property flood resilience measures, to show households and businesses what property-level adaptations can be introduced to a property to help reduce the impact future flooding can have.

The Floodmobile showcases a wide range of interventions, in one place.  This includes door valves, non-return vales, wall membrane systems with accompanying sump pumps, flooring, wall coverings, alternative skirting boards, self-closing air bricks, periscope covers, recoverable kitchens and flood barriers and doors – including those suitable for listed buildings. The Floodmobile also showcases various types of waterproof plaster and insulation.

A virtual tour of the Floodmobile is available to access via this link.

The Floodmobile will be touring communities across the Wootton Brook and Harpers Brook catchments to talk face-to-face to individuals and businesses. 

It will be an opportunity to see and touch the measures, speak to our team of experts, ask questions, and watch various educational and information videos of PFR in action, in real life homes and businesses across the country.

What is the aim of the Floodmobile?

The Floodmobile was created to help show communities, households and businesses just what steps can be taken to help make properties, or assets, more resilient to flood water.   It’s packed with ideas and, with the RAIN project’s team of experts on hand to answer any questions, they can explain what options are available.

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After the Floods

On Sunday 12 February, The Sunday Times featured a double-page spread on flooding, and specifically on property-level flood resilience and recovery. 

The article, written by David Byers, focused on how people can make their houses flood-proof and contained a host of examples, as well as interviews with people who have already taken steps to help add protection to keep water out for longer, or to make flood recovery far quicker.

The RAIN project’s very own property flood resilience (PFR) advisor – and one of the UK’s leading PFR champions – Mary Long-Dhonau OBE was interviewed by David. She shared her personal story of flooding and how this has since spurred her on to help people and communities all over the country, ever since.

Having been flooded on many occasions, Mary explained what impact this has – not just on belongings and items, but also on people’s mental wellbeing.  

The feature went on to provide some great examples of homeowners who have also taken steps to protect their properties, with some very inspiring stories. Details were also published regarding Flood Re’s Build Back Better scheme to show that financial support is available, via their insurance providers, to those affected.

We are hopeful that seeing more of these articles in mainstream newspapers and websites will help to empower more people in exploring their PFR options. Many people are unaware that there are options available to them and this type of educational article really is very helpful. 

Thank you Mary for sharing your personal story and also for continuing to offer support and guidance to people more than 20 years on from your very first flood.

You can read the article online here (a free trial is available, if you don’t have a subscription):
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/how-to-make-your-house-flood-proof-6qqlb7sdt

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What is Surface Water Flooding?

Mary Long-Dhonau OBE, property flood resilience expert and advisor for the RAIN project, explains:

“Surface water flooding occurs when intense rainfall overwhelms drainage systems. According to the Environment Agency, over 3 million people are at risk of surface water flooding in England alone. In my book, it’s far more than that – and the worst bit is that people don’t know they are at risk, as there is no visible river, sea, or stream to warn them of that fact. Almost anyone can be flooded from surface water. (Yes, even those who live on a hill – I’ve been in many wet homes on hills!)

The intense rainstorms we have seen in recent years can quickly overwhelm the surface water sewers and flooding can result. These ‘flash floods’ typically occur and then disappear again in a short space of time, but they can still cause devastation if they get into our homes. The threat that climate change brings promises us that things will get worse.

I believe we are all unwittingly contributing to our surface water flood risk.

Whilst Local Authorities take an active role in reducing surface water flood risk, there are moves we can to take to reduce our own risk at a property level.

I live on a normal housing estate, where most of us have paved over our front gardens and drives to create parking spaces. In London, the equivalent of 5,000 football pitches have been paved over for this reason. But by doing this we have reduced the amount of land that can absorb rainwater – so when it comes, it hits the ground running (no matter how often the roadside gullies are cleaned out by our local authorities). The surface water sewers are quickly overwhelmed, and flooding can result. The risk is increasing still further because of growth in urban population and the demand for more housing, with yet more land built on and paved over.

It has always been my belief that if we all took small moves to reduce our flood risk at our own property level, then collectively we could make a significant reduction to our own flood risk. At the same time, we would be ‘greening up’ and supporting nature and wildlife, which in turn could have health benefits to us all. We would all enjoy nature thriving around us, the air we breathe would be cleaner, and our mood uplifted, so what’s not to like?

When I moved into my house, one of the first things I did was to pull up the ugly paving in my garden and replace it with gravel. I also installed a water butt. (Slimline versions are readily available for smaller gardens). This only cost a few pounds but saves money (if you’re on a metered supply) for watering the garden – and is especially good when water is scarce in the summer.

Just imagine if everyone in London installed a water butt and emptied it when a storm was due, what a difference to surface water flooding that could make! Here are a few more suggestions as to what can be done to slow down the rate that rainwater enters the drains: a quick web-search will easily give you more details.

  • Instead of hard paving on your drive, use permeable paving or a plastic ‘honeycomb system’ (a system of plastic grids) that you can either fill with soil and then plant grass seed, or fill with gravel. The honeycomb system will contain the gravel and keep it in place – either way, it is robust enough for a car to be parked on.
  • It is possible to plant a hedge to divide you from the street? This would encourage wildlife and screen of pollutants from the road. If you really need a fence, grow roses or an evergreen climber (such as Jasmine) up it.
  • You could create a ‘rain planter’ into which you can divert the rainwater from your roof downpipe. It is a job within the capability of many DIY enthusiasts.
  • Plant water thirsty shrubs in your garden, or even throw caution to the wind and put your front and back lawns back! You could even grow a green roof on your shed roof. (There is plenty of guidance out there which will tell you how.)

The illustration below depicts my suggestions.

Flood Mary illustration

Surface water floods don’t tend to be too deep, so it is possible to stop the flood water from entering your home. It is also very difficult to predict, as storms are often very localised – it’s difficult to know exactly where a large cloud will ‘dump’ itself. Flood forecasting is improving all the time, but a warning may come when you are at work or on holiday. My advice would be to fit what are known as ‘passive measures’ to your home, as these will work, whether you are home or not! Self-closing airbricks use the rising water to close themselves and will prevent vast amounts of flood water from entering your home via this route. It’s also advisable to check the condition of the mortar around your bricks, as water will find its wicked way into your home by any vulnerable gaps.

There are now coatings that can be painted onto your bricks, which allow the bricks to breath, but form an invisible waterproof barrier to slow the ingress of water. It is possible to replace your front and back doors with a flood resistant, ‘normal’ looking door. (Make sure you buy one that has a kitemark, as it will have been tested to BSi standards).

If you are at home most of the time, then you could use an easy-to-fit kitemarked door barrier. Barriers are available for a garage too, so if you know you are going to be away from home for a period of time, you can always fit these internally.
Consider fitting a non-return valve to your drains – these will stop flooding from the foul-water sewer coming into your home, via toilets or ground-floor showers. Failing that, there are various things that can be fitted to your toilet/shower and sinks that can prevent the back flow of water.

If you feel these measures are too expensive, do invest in modern sandbag alternatives. They contain a gelling polymer, which absorbs water, and they are both environmentally friendly and biodegradable.”

Mary Long- Dhonau OBE
www.linkedin.com/company/rain-northants/

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Flood Mary

Steps you Can Take to Reduce Surface Water Flooding

Guest Blog from Mary Long-Dhonau OBE for RAIN: 

A little-known piece of legislation, which has been discussed since 2010, is finally being brought into effect in the face of growing flood risk and sewage pollution: the Flood and Water Management Act came into place in 2010 as a result of the widescale floods that happened in 2007, when 55,000 properties were flooded.  

The government has announced that it will finally implement Schedule 3 of the Act, which mandates sustainable drainage (SuDS) in new developments.

This is excellent news for several reasons In particular, water will now be managed at a local, new development level. This means that communities nearby will now have peace of mind that new developments will not make flood risk worse for them.  The new rules are being discussed now, with implementation anticipated for 2024. 

Sustainable drainage systems – also known as SuDS – are designed to both manage the flood and pollution risks resulting from urban runoff by using a combination of ponds, swales, soakaways, tree pits, permeable paving, naming just a few methods. 

As well as managing flash floods and reducing the risk of sewage spills, SuDS can clean-up polluted water running from roads, recharge depleted ground water supplies. This means it is also useful in times of water scarcity, and it provides beautiful blue/green spaces in our urban environments.

The good news is it is perfectly possible for all homeowners to incorporate SuDS to help make a difference now:  

Instead of having hard paving on your drive, opt for permeable paving or a plastic ‘honeycomb system’ (a system of plastic grids) that you can either fill with soil and then plant grass seed, or fill with gravel. The honeycomb system will contain the gravel and keep it in place – either way, it is robust enough for a car to be parked on, but allows water to soak through;

Install a water butt to slow down the runoff from your roof, and in the event of extreme wet weather events, empty excess water from the container to ensure as much additional run-off can be captured;

Create a ‘rain planter’ into which you can divert rainwater from your roof downpipe – a job that isn’t too difficult to do for many DIY enthusiasts;

Plant water thirsty shrubs in your garden, and include lawn in both your front and rear gardens where possible, so as many surface water can naturally drain away;

You could even grow a lightweight ‘green roof’ on your shed roof, which will help to capture and use rainwater;

Plant a hedge to divide you from the street to not only encourage wildlife but screen off pollutants from the road. If you really need a fence, grow roses or an evergreen climber (such as Jasmine) up it.

Ultimately, reducing the risk of flooding and water pollution by limiting the use of impermeable services and instead replicating natural drainage solutions will be welcomed by all, and help create a more resilient future for growing communities across the country.

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Are You Ready for Rain?

Mary Long-Dhonau OBE had written a guest blog for the RAIN project that offers advice on preparing for winter and the potential for more floods

Having experienced flooding first-hand, I have created a handy pre-winter check-list that I share with as many people as possible.  It offers some simple tips on the steps that can be taken to make sure you’re as prepared as possible as the winter turns wetter, and while it is not exhaustive, it may help in thinking ahead before any floods occur. 

Conduct a walk-about:

Every year, as the ‘rainy’ season approaches, I always take a walk around the outside of my house to make sure that all the brick work is in good order with no lose mortar.  Flood water will find its wicked way into any vulnerable gaps, such as a wobbly drainage pipe or utility service wires, so check these. 

I also make sure that any aco ‘channel’ drains are cleared of fallen leaves and debris and also check any other drain that is located outside of my home has no blockages. Hard paving leaves floodwater nowhere to go, so if you do have it, perhaps think about removing a few slabs at regular intervals and planting a few water thirsty small shrubs in their place. 

On top of this, I always make sure that gutters are free of any leaves that may have gathered during the autumn drop.

Finally familiarise yourself with how you turn off your gas, electricity and water supplies, in the event of a flood emergency.

Plan Ahead:

Firstly, I urge everyone to keep informed and sign up for the Environment Agency’s Flood Warning. The free service will send you flood warnings if your home or business in England is at risk of flooding: https://www.gov.uk/sign-up-for-flood-warnings 

Secondly, be prepared by creating a household plan so when the flood comes, you know exactly what to do. For example, think about the needs of children, babies, elderly and disabled living at home and your also your pets. 

If you don’t store your documents in ‘the cloud’ make sure, computer data and photographs are backed up and stored safely. There will be some items that cannot be replaced: family photographs, sentimental pieces or children’s drawings – keep them somewhere where they will be safe – or move them in good time. 

Also, consider where you can move your car so it isn’t affected by flood waters.  Create an emergency flood kit ‘grab bag’, containing emergency medication, torches, spare clothes, first aid kit, important documents, and also the means to keep warm.   

Keep a list of useful telephone numbers (including your GP details, insurance claim line & policy number) to hand, and make sure they are also stored on your mobile phone.

A useful guide on how to create a household emergency plan is available to access for free here: 

https://marydhonau.com/how-to-plan-for-emergencies/.

Check Your Cover

Do you know if you have the correct insurance cover in place? Check your buildings and contents or business policy with your insurance company to be certain. Take detailed photos of your property and contents now, before any flood occurs.  And be sure to keep you policy details safe – whether in your emergency grab bag, but also on email or in the cloud.

Flood Resilience Measures

Have you ever considered how are can prevent water from entering your property?  There is a wide array of property-level flood resilience products that can be used to help minimise the risk of flood water entering your home, or steps that can be taken so if water does enter, it is easier and quicker to dry out and repair. 

Installing flood resilience measures will ultimately enable recovery to happen in just a matter of days instead of months, should a significant flood occur.

More information on what fully-tested, Kite-marked products are available in this free guide:

https://www.floodtoolkit.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/FloodGuide_ForHomeowners-2021.pdf

Before a Flood Occurs

If you receive a warning that flooding is imminent, there are some immediate actions I recommend you take. The first is to empty your water butt; this will allow run off from your roof to go in there and not into the drains.

Secondly, move your car to higher ground if it is safe to do so and, finally, put your household flood plan into action.

Stay Safe During a Flood

During a flood remember the most important thing you can do during a flood is to stay safe.  Always remember that:

Six inches of fast flowing water can knock you over

Two feet of water will float your car

Flooding can cause manhole covers to come off, leaving hidden dangers

Do not walk or drive through flood water, as there will be many hidden hazards, the water may be too deep to drive through and you may well face an insurance claim for your car

Do not let children play in flood water as it can often be contaminated waters

Do not walk on sea defences or riverbanks

When water levels are high be aware that bridges may be dangerous to walk or drive over

Culverts are dangerous when flooded

Look out for other hazards such as fallen power lines and trees

Wash your hands thoroughly if you touch floodwater as it will be contaminated.

After a Flood

While you may be tempted to return to your home following a flood, wait until you have been told it is safe to do so by the emergency services.  I would urge you to contact your insurance company as soon as possible; many have 24-hour help lines during a flood and should be able to support you. 

I also recommend you do the following post- flood:

Take photos and a video of the damage, this includes the contents of fridge and freezer, with your mobile phone or buy a disposable camera

Mark a line on the wall as to where the water came up to

Wear gloves when touching anything that is wet as it may well be contaminated

Cut a piece of your carpet and save it for the loss adjuster and then try to remove carpets into the garden but do not throw it away. Carpets hold water into the property and wet heavy items inhibit the drying process

Once carpets are outside, try to keep your windows and doors open to aid ventilation but remember to lock-up every time you leave to avoid any unscrupulous thieves from taking advantage

I’ve written a guide on Flood Recovery, which is available to view here: https://marydhonau.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/FloodRecoveryGuide-KYFR-Dec-2013-1.pdf 

Repairs – things to beware

Unfortunately, following a flood event, there will be people or businesses trying to take advantage and capitalise on your situation.  For example, beware of tradesmen who can start the next day, as reputable ones are usually busy.  Also, be wary of those who offer not to charge VAT, don’t have a business address or company number, or are unable to provide references to past clients.  Always seek examples of their previous week and seek samples, wherever possible.  

Beware of scammers pretending to be related to your insurance company. Always check first before providing any details regarding your property and if in doubt, call your insurance company or loss adjuster directly. 

Do not pay in advance for any repair work: pay in stages and do not make the final payment until you are completely happy with the work.  Also, don’t think you only have to use ‘approved’ repair firms; you can use your own builder so book a local reputable builder early as there could be a shortage of builders if multiple properties have been affected. 

Build back better! Consider installing flood resilience measures in to your home when the repair works take place, so your are in a stronger position in the future, should flood events occur once again.

For more information:
https://edition.pagesuite.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=&pubid=b3dddc3f-8c89-4711-86f3-4f0f9ce9a713

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Rain

RAIN project invites Northants communities to gather to discuss flood resilience

With the second anniversary of the Christmas 2020 floods approaching, a special event is being held in the village of Brigstock, Northamptonshire, on Monday 12 December, which is the first to take place by a new flood innovation and resilience project that is soon to launch across the Harpers Brook and Wootton Brook catchments of the county. 

Funded by Defra as part of the Flood and Coastal Innovation Programmes, and managed by the Environment Agency, Resilience And Innovation Northants (RAIN) is one of 25 local authority-led flood resilience projects, which is focused on developing, testing and implementing innovative flood risk solutions for locations deemed at risk of flooding.

The event on Monday 12 December, from 3pm-6pm at Brigstock village hall, invites homeowners, landowners and farmers from Brigstock, Sudborough and Lowick to meet the RAIN project and learn more about the project’s plans. 

Alan Ryan from the West Northants Flood and Water Team confirms: “With climate change upon us, we must get ready for the unavoidable impacts by adapting and helping communities to become more resilient.  Since 2012, around 350 flood incidents have been reported across the two Northants catchments that RAIN is focusing on.

“Our aim is to therefore work with these communities to embrace a broad range of resilience actions to better protect and prepare against flooding. This includes using nature-based solutions to store or slow the flow of flood waters, and better preparing and responding to flood incidents through timely and effective forecasting, warning, evacuation and resilience measures.

“The RAIN project is about to launch in early 2023, however we wanted to visit some communities before Christmas to start introducing our team, to listen to people’s concerns and to really engage with local people on this important matter.”

Adds Mary Long-Dhonau OBE, PFR advisor for RAIN: “Almost two years ago, villagers from Brigstock, Sudborough and Lowick experienced dreadful flooding when Harper’s Brook burst its banks, combined with a deluge of surface water flooding.  Having been flooded myself, it is a completely appalling experience and I have since worked for more than two decades to support communities prepare, plan and become more resilient to flooding.  

“We therefore look forward to meeting people from across Brigstock, Sudborough and Lowick on 12th December to introduce ourselves and to listen to residents’ personal experiences or concerns.”

The £150 million Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme will enable local authorities, businesses and communities in these locations to test and demonstrate innovative practical resilience actions.

The RAIN project brings together experts in both flood resilience and natural flood management, as well as many specialist partners, to provide information, education and support to those living and working in the Harpers Brook and Wootton Brook catchments. 

For more information regarding the RAIN project, visit https://www.facebook.com/RAINnorthants, follow the team on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RAIN_Northants or email RAIN@westnorthants.gov.uk.

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