Raising awareness of Property Flood Resilience in Yorkshire

We chat to Emily Howes and Lauren Davidson, Project Officers for Yorkshire Flood Resilience, one of three national Pathfinders being led by the Environment Agency. Together with JBA Consulting, the Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP) and the Living with Water Programme, the Yorkshire Pathfinder project aims to raise awareness of the benefits of Property Flood Resilience (PFR) and encourage positive behavioural change to support its uptake.

Tell us about the project

We started our roles in January 2020 and the project will conclude in September 2021. We aim to empower communities to take proactive steps to reduce the risk of flood damage to their own properties. We’ve created a project website which hosts a range of online resources, including awareness articles, videos and blogs, downloads, animations and online training. We’re connecting with communities via public presentations and demonstrations and co-developing a community demonstration hub at Wilberforce College in Hull. We’re trying to reach a wide range of stakeholders, including residents and businesses, the property sector and trades, financial influencers and local authorities.

Are there any misconceptions around PFR that you’re looking to address through the project?

We’ve encountered some concerns about the impact of PFR on the appearance of homes and, consequently, their value. Every solution is bespoke to the property. Many of the measures on a property’s exterior are removable and interior adaptations can be incorporated into the design of a home. Once PFR has been installed, it’s the property owner’s responsibility to ensure that it is maintained and put into place in the event of a flood.
Some people may be put off by the cost, but it’s important to remember that the cost of repairing your home following flood damage could be considerably more, especially in areas at risk of repeated flooding. PFR is, therefore, a long-term investment, and more and more homeowners are recognising the importance of understanding their flood risk and installing these key measures.

Installing Property Flood Resilience can help to bring peace of mind, whilst also reducing the financial impact of flooding.

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency (EA) has praised the pathfinder projects for helping to boost the uptake of property-level resilience measures in homes and businesses across the country,” which is one of the core themes of the EA’s FCERM Strategy. How are you/will you be working together through the project?

All three Pathfinder projects are in close contact and, although we each have slightly different approaches to encouraging take-up of PFR measures, we’re sharing best practice and hoping to put what we’ve learnt individually into some joint projects aimed at raising greater awareness of property flood resilience in other areas of the country during the coming months. We’ve each developed innovative ways of working with our local communities. These include demonstration sites, flood hubs, and online learning with real life case studies, which are soon to be launched.

It’s important that everyone understands their flood risk and how they can prepare and become more resilient.

What are some of the key messages you’ll be promoting?

We’re keen to encourage people to take action to reduce the risk of flood damage to their property. Installing Property Flood Resilience can help to bring peace of mind, whilst also reducing the financial impact of flooding. It’s important to understand the flood risk to your property; so be prepared and act now.

Property flood resilience reduces the damage that floodwater causes to your property and can therefore help to minimise the need for costly flood repairs, saving you money and enabling you to return to your property quicker after flooding. It can also reduce the need to make insurance claims if your property floods. As flood risk is predicted to increase in the future due to climate change, nobody should assume that flooding won’t happen to them. Therefore, it’s important that everyone understands their flood risk and how they can prepare and become more resilient, whether that’s through making a flood plan, considering having property flood resilience installed or making sure that the measures you have are maintained.

How do you hope the outcomes of the project will inform future PFR work?

The learning from our project will inform research into effective strategies to raise awareness of property flood resilience and flood risk. Our work is being used to inform academic studies, as well as educational courses about flood risk management. Through our educational work, we hope to inspire a flood-resilient future generation. We hope that, through engaging with Yorkshire Flood Resilience, more people in Yorkshire will be inspired to make their homes resilient to flooding.

Finally, how can people get involved?

You can find out more about our project and stay up to date with the latest information about flood resilience and flood risk management by visiting our website at www.yorkshirefloodresilience.co.uk. You can also access our wide range of online resources on the website. Follow us on social media for the latest project developments and news from the flood risk industry.

Find us on:
Twitter: @YorkshirePFR
Facebook: Yorkshire Flood Resilience
LinkedIn: Yorkshire Flood Resilience

Emily Howes, Project Officer, Yorkshire Flood Resilience
Emily Howes
Lauren Davidson, Project Officer, Yorkshire Flood Resilience
Lauren Davidson

Flood Action Campaign 2020

This year, the Environment Agency’s annual Flood Action Campaign, which runs from October through to March, is targeting people who live in areas at high risk of flooding but have not yet experienced flooding to their home. This is a priority for any year, but particularly now as COVID-19 restrictions will exacerbate the challenge of recovery from flooding this winter. The campaign encourages people to prepare for flooding, using and downloading the ‘Prepare. Act. Survive.’ flood plan to help reduce these risks.  

There are 5.2 million homes and businesses in England at risk of flooding. Don’t assume it’s not you.

Whether you live on a hill, in a flat or in an area that’s never flooded before, flooding can still affect you, putting your home, your possessions and your family at risk. In England there are over 5 million properties at risk of flooding, but most people assume it’ll never happen to them. According
to recent polling, only a third of people in areas at risk of flooding believe that their home could be at risk.

And with climate change already causing more frequent, intense flooding and sea level rise, we all need to know what to do, should the worst happen.

Knowing what to do in a flood could save your life.

According to the Environment Agency, the average cost of flooding to a home is around £30,000. Flooding also brings a significant risk to life. The mental health impacts of flooding can last for 2 years or more after flooding has happened. Depression, anxiety and PTSD can affect up to a third
of people who have been flooded.

But, crucially, taking steps to prepare for flooding, and knowing what to do in a flood can significantly reduce the damages to a home and possessions (by around 40%), reduce risk to life, and reduce the likelihood of suffering from mental health impacts in the future.

Know how to Prepare. Act. Survive.

The good news is that there are some simple things you can do to prepare for flooding. Knowing what to do in a flood could help keep you and your family safe, and save you thousands of pounds in damages and disruption.

Would you know what to do in a flood? Visit flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/what-to-do-in-a-flood

For more information and to find out if you are at risk visit the what to do in a flood page on GOV.UK to get prepared.

Caroline Douglass, Director of Incident Management at the Environment Agency, said, “Flooding can cause serious disruption to people’s lives. We can’t prevent it, but we can help homeowners to be more flood resilient. Those who are aware of the risk and have done something about it are
able to reduce damage to their homes and possessions considerably.”

Flood Action Week starts next week from 9 to 15 November.

The Environment Agency is using bitly links (https://bit.ly/2EytseV) to track visits to their campaign materials. Please use the links from this article to maintain tracking capabilities.
Twitter: @envagency
Facebook: facebook.com/environmentagency
Instagram: @EnvAgency

Waiting for the flood: action plans are great, but how do we find ways to live with long-term risk?

Flood risk

We are in a season of so-called ‘super-floods’. Flood professionals and volunteers have swung into intensive action for what they classify, less dramatically, as the ‘response phase’, and those who have flooded are facing the stark misery of what is left. We are all more aware of the risky world we live in. But, as all ‘floodies’ know, being at risk is not just about the crisis, it’s for life, for individuals and for communities. And it is worth thinking about what that means.

In my teenage years, my grandmother, before leaving her house, would sit in her hall dressed in her coat with her handbag on her lap waiting for her lift. She would often get out her small black diary and read it. This is one of my most enduring memories of her.

For my grandmother, to be prepared was to suspend all other activity in order to be ready to leave when the time came. When the flood siren sounds, this may well be a sensible strategy. Turn off the electric and wait for help with your emergency grab bag to hand. In the longer term, though, we cannot suspend our lives for a flood that may or may not come.

With a changing climate and the increased flood risk it brings, we have to find ways, as individuals, as communities, and as institutions, to move along the paths of resilience and adaptation. We have to do this, not by shutting our changing environment out, not by ignoring risk, but by weaving change and risk into the everyday in a constructive way.

Easy enough to say. Doing it is a different matter.

Much excellent work is going on to encourage and help communities to plan, practise for and recover from emergencies, not least by charities such as Communities Prepared and the National Flood Forum and by excellent local bodies such as Cumbria CVS, or Somerset Prepared.

But how do we ourselves, collectively and individually, process, understand and respond to flood risk in a way that doesn’t destroy our peace of mind? Our well-being? How can we be both ‘prepared’ and able to get on with our lives and loves? How do we get the balance right?

Garage full of rubbish
Prepared but not ready? When life gets in the way.
Rain on window
Rain dread: once flooded, never forgotten.

Some people who have experienced flooding, whether directly or indirectly, actively look for ways to prepare. If you are visiting this website, you are probably one of them. I am myself.

Many Flood Action Groups have started like this. We know, too, though, that many others do not prepare (for complex reasons, not least the psychological strain of living in fear or other pressing needs in their lives).  

Some preserve their peace of mind by relying on past patterns of flooding and solutions that may no longer apply. Or by framing their own experience as a one-off event with a very specific cause. And then there is an increasingly large group who must prepare for a risk they have never faced, cannot really imagine. How do all these people ‘prepare’?

I have no simple answers. But here is one thing I know, from my own village, from the very varied towns and parishes that make up the West Somerset Flood Group, from other groups and ‘floodies’ across the country:

The shape and dynamics of preparedness must match the people and the place

Whatever it looks like currently, our preparedness must be able to change just as communities and their circumstances change. I will stick my neck out here and say that this is often easier for villages than towns and cities (which is just as well, given the lesser support available to rural communities).

So, although I can’t suggest how to do this, I can, tentatively, offer a starting point.

We must start with who and what we are, with how we do things ourselves, where we live. That means not feeling defeated when faced with shining examples that seem alien to our own experience. It means not trying vainly to fit into the template. It means recognising the differences among ourselves. It means looking at our own communities’ strengths and building on them. It means doing it our way, even if it’s sometimes a bit rubbish. Not on our own but with the help of others. And in a dynamic way – we cannot suspend our lives and sit in our metaphorical hallways with our coats on waiting for a crisis to arise.

Teresa Bridgeman is Chair of the West Somerset Flood Group, Vice Chair of the District Flood Board and occasional convenor of the West Somerset Natural Flood Management People and Partnerships catchment group. She is author and editor of Flooding in West Somerset (2014) and co-author with Phiala Mehring, of Simple SuDS (2019), a guide to sustainable drainage. She sets out (with varying degrees of success) to strengthen networks of cooperation and trust at all levels of Flood Risk Management. Like all maintenance work, this is a perpetual and evolving task and is only possible because of the brilliant people she encounters along the way. Anybody who thinks they recognise their own influence on this blog is probably right, not least Carolyn Otley, Hugh Deeming, Mary Dhonau, Phiala Mehring, Hannah Ovett, Chris Uttley, Evangelos Ntontis, Katrina Brown and Cormac Russell.

Dr Teresa Bridgeman

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