First steps to recovering after a flood

  • One in six UK properties is at risk of flooding from rivers, the sea or surface water
  • While measures can be taken to reduce the likelihood of flood damage, it is important to know what steps to follow if the worst happens
  • Our quick checklist will ensure that you are fully up-to-date on the steps that should be taken in the immediate aftermath of a flood

Rising floodwater has become a familiar sight in some areas of the UK, with one in six properties now at risk.

While steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of serious flood damage, it is not always possible to completely mitigate the danger. To recover quickly and stay safe, it is important to have a detailed flood response plan.

The following checklist will ensure that organisations are fully up-to-date on the steps that should be taken in the immediate aftermath of a flood.

What should be done first?

If a property is badly damaged by floodwater, it can take anything up to a year to fully dry out and recover. However, there are a number of steps that should be taken as soon as possible:

  • Check for obvious structural damage. Serious flooding can cause structural damage and make buildings unsafe. Don’t re-enter your property unless you are certain it is safe to do so
  • Contact insurers prior to the clean-up. Loss adjustors and surveyors will need to get a clear picture of the damage
  • Take photos of any items that are damaged. Photos, videos and document serial numbers are all important evidence

Which parts of the clean-up will require professional help?

Flooding can cause significant hidden damage, which can be dangerous if left untreated. To stay safe, it is important to consider professional help:

  • Ensure a qualified person has checked the safety of power and gas supplies. It can be dangerous to touch sources of electricity in flood-damaged buildings. Make sure you turn off the electricity before flood water enters your home, provided it is safe to do so
  • Check your insurance policy or call your insurer. Most building policies will provide professional cleaning and building stripping

Which parts of the clean-up can be tackled by the property owner or tenant?

While professional help should certainly be sought during some aspects of the flood clean-up process, there are some things that can be done immediately:

  • Clean taps and run before use. Mains water could be contaminated. Run water through the system before using
  • Throw away any food that may have been contaminated by floodwater
  • Remove standing water and mud as soon as possible. The fire and rescue services can help pump out standing water for a fee
  • Disinfect all areas after cleaning and start the ventilation and drying process early. Make sure you wear protective clothes, boots and rubber gloves. If required, your insurer will appoint a specialist drying contractor for you

Zurich’s Flood Guide provides additional information on how to tackle the clean-up process in three clear steps.

How can staff/ tenants stay safe during the clean-up?

While the main dangers may have receded with the floodwater, it is important to exercise caution during the clean-up process.

  • Avoid wading through floodwater. 15cm of fast flowing water can knock people off their feet and 60cm can be enough to float a car. Dirty flood water can also conceal dangers such as missing manhole covers and trip hazards
  • Wash hands regularly and cover cuts and grazes. Floodwater is more than likely to be carrying chemicals, sewage and animal waste
  • Wear a facemask. Contaminated matter could be in the air following a flood, particularly in confined spaces

The decisions made in the immediate aftermath of a flood can significantly influence recovery time. By following the steps set out in this checklist, property owners and tenants can stay safe and start recovering as quickly as possible.

Find out more and access helpful guides and insight with our new Flood Risk Resource.