Great Britain

As storms swamp Britain, here’s how you can save your home from this floody hell

MARY first suffered the misery of flooding in her Worcester home in 2000.

The mum-of-five has since become a campaigner for flood defences, writing several books on how to protect your home. In 2009 she was awarded an OBE for her environmental work.

THERE are no words to describe the impact of your home being awash.

To see everything you hold dear annihilated by flood waters is heartbreaking.

You can replace your sofa and your fridge, but for me the hardest part was losing the things which don’t come with insurance.

I had been keeping little boxes for my children, filled with childhood milestones and pictures, to give to them on their 18th birthdays. Every one was washed away in the flood.

One neighbour had buried her husband the day before a storm broke.

She went to bed leaving her wedding photos on the table. They were destroyed.

After the flood comes the recovery, which is much worse than the flood itself.

The average victim is out of their home for nine months afterwards. Sometimes it’s as long as two years.

'RIVERS CAN'T COPE'

Having lost that refuge — the one place you feel safe and comfortable — which feels like a violation in itself, you either have to cram your family upstairs or live elsewhere while you project manage a building site which was once your home.

Alarmingly, more and more people are experiencing this heartbreak and upheaval.

Storm Dennis triggered nearly 600 flood warnings and alerts in England alone on Sunday, more than any other day on record, with dozens more across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

So why is it happening? There is no arguing that this mass-scale flooding is down to climate change.

The world is heating up, which means the atmosphere holds more moisture leading to heavier and more frequent rainfall.

Our rivers can’t cope and burst their banks and, in some cases, flood defences have overtopped. (I always say a flood defence reduces your risk of being flooded, it doesn’t take it away).

What’s more, because we have concreted over so much of the country, there is nowhere for the water to drain, causing an increase in surface water flooding. We are all participating in this.

There is no easy way to hold back the tide but we have to adapt to climate change. Not just building flood defences, but working with nature to slow the water.

Planting more trees, investing in permeable paving and sustainable urban drainage, building woody dams and using varied vegetation to slow run-off from the hills are all part of the tool kit.

It might even mean reintroducing beavers, once native to the UK.

A project in the River Otter in Devon, where beavers have been allowed to spread, has shown the dams they build can moderate water flow.

We all need to work together, government, local authorities, the Environment Agency and individuals, too.

I have been campaigning vociferously to “build back better” after a flood, and we need the help of the insurance industry with that.

But it also comes down to individuals, who must accept the reality and make their homes flood resilient.

There is no arguing that this mass-scale flooding is down to climate change

Even though only six per cent of flood victims think it will happen to them more than once, if you have been flooded there is a high chance it could happen again, so it is important to adapt your property accordingly.

As you can see from my tips above, this can be simple things such as putting plugs and boilers higher up the walls, so that water doesn’t reach them and you still have electricity and heating after a flood.

Install a kitchen of resilient hardwood instead of MDF, and use waterproof plaster on the walls, which can be wiped down after the waters retreat.

Most floods are only 30cm (1ft) deep, so you can guard against them by fitting free-standing kitchen units that can be moved, with only worktops held in place.

It is important to sign up for free Environment Agency flood warnings, so you can move cars and possessions.

I worked with shops in Hebden Bridge, West Yorks, that were open only two days after being flooded thanks to similar adaptations.

We put smoke alarms in our homes to protect ourselves from fire, so it is high time we made changes to protect ourselves from floods, too.

Flood resilience costs money, but given that it will be £30,000, on average, to restore your home, it is worth the investment.

Many of the measures I have suggested cost much less than half that sum.

Every time there is a flood, everyone says it is a wake-up call.

But we’ve been pressing the snooze button for too long. The time to act is now.

Powerful Storm Dennis flood water travels through back of South Wales house before breaking smashing windows