With Storm Ciaran expected to hit tonight, homeowners are being urged to make sure they’re prepared.

The Met Office has issued a number of severe weather warnings, with high winds and heavy rain expected in many areas of the country.

Ben Lukey, flood duty manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Large waves and onshore gales caused by Storm Ciarán mean significant flooding is possible along parts of the south coast on Thursday, with minor impacts possible more widely. Flooding is also possible along parts of the coasts of Yorkshire and the north east on Thursday.

“Heavy rain from the storm could see significant surface water flooding from Wednesday evening to Friday and rivers flood on Thursday and Friday in parts of the south and the north east.”

Many people are still dealing with damage caused by Storm Babet in October. Tragically, a number of deaths were reported following the storm, and the total number of properties reported to have been flooded during Storm Babet currently stands at 2,197.

When most properties are flooded the damage is caused by relatively small amounts of flood water – often just a few inches, although in some cases flooding will be much more dramatic, giving homeowners only limited time to scramble to safety. Many of us will never experience flooding – thankfully – but climate experts agree that the number of properties that are damaged by flooding is likely to increase in the future. You can’t stop it from happening, but you can make sure you’re prepared.

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If you think you’re in danger of flooding

Visit Check for flooding – GOV.UK for current flood alerts. These tell you where the flooding is expected and how severe it is predicted to be. You can register on the site to receive flood warnings to your mobile phone, home or work telephone.

Scotland is covered by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). Its website also carries live flood warnings. You can sign up for the site’s Floodline service, which will ensure you’re notified when the area you live, work or travel through is at risk of flooding. Find out more about flooding in our guides What should I do if my home is flooded?

Planning ahead

If your home is at risk of flooding or storm damage, draw up a flood plan, which sets out details of who to contact in an emergency (such as the local council, gas and electricity provider) plus where the electricity, gas and water cut-offs are located. Other ways to plan ahead include:

  • Putting important documents in plastic bags and move them somewhere safe (upstairs if possible)
  • Rolling up carpets and rugs and hanging curtains over curtain poles unless you have time to take them down
  • Securing any loose objects in gardens and driveways that may cause flying debris, ahead of time
  • Charging phones and devices in case there’s a power outage
  • Securing weak fencing or gates
  • Getting a flood pack together which includes warm and waterproof clothing, medication, food, a torch and wellingtons
  • Trimming or tying back bushes or trees that could damage your windows in high winds.

Dealing with your insurance company

If your property is flooded, you should get in touch with your insurance company as soon as you can. Some insurers move response teams into areas that have been affected by flooding, others don’t.

  • They’ll generally pay for emergency repairs and can normally help with getting your home dried out
  • Take photos of the damage as it may help when you come to make your claim
  • Don’t take your carpets up unless you have to, as they may shrink
  • Don’t throw furniture etc away as the insurance company may want to see it before they pay the claim.

When there’s significant flooding, cowboy traders often descend on an area offering their services. Your insurer should be able to advise you on reputable tradesmen to use, otherwise if your policy stipulates that you should sort out repairs yourself and claim afterwards, try the Government-approved Trustmark site or – even better – have a list of electricians and plumbers in your flood pack.

There are lots of myths surrounding flooding and insurance. You can read more about these and the truth behind them in our article Flooding: 7 insurance myths busted.

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If there is a problem

If your insurance company isn’t treating your claim as it should, there are a number of organisations that can help. The National Flood Forum is a charity that provides advice and support to people who’ve experienced flooding or are at risk of flooding.

The National Flood Forum isn’t designed to help in the immediate aftermath of a flood, but it is definitely worth getting in touch with if you’re having problems with your insurer.

If you’re not satisfied with the way your insurance company has handled your claim, you have the right to take a complaint to the free and independent complaints adjudicator for financial firms called the Financial Ombudsman Service. Find out more about making a complaint in our guide How to complain about a financial company.

If your car is flooded

Flooding can cause serious, and sometimes irreparable damage to cars, and the amount of protection you’re likely to have will depend on the type of policy your car is covered by.

Julie Daniels, motor insurance expert at Compare the Market, said: “You may be able to claim for flood damage if you have comprehensive car insurance, but you should check the terms and conditions of your policy. It’s unlikely that your car will be covered for flood damage on a third-party fire and theft policy. You may only be covered if you’ve done what’s necessary to keep your car safe.”

You can learn more about the various types of car insurance in our guide What are the different types of car insurance?

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According to Ms Daniels, typically, insurance providers put flood damage into two categories. She said: “Unavoidable flood damage is if your car is flooded where it’s usually parked, such as at home. Avoidable flood damage is if you take risks, like driving into a flooded area despite warning alerts.

“If your car is submerged, don’t try to start the engine, even if the water has subsided as it might cause further damage. Your insurer may also have its own ‘preferred repairers’ so avoid drying out or repairing the car yourself. If you’re concerned about the risk of flooding and whether your car is covered, contact your car insurance provider for more information.”

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