Resident water safety expert and RLSS UK Programmes Manager, Dr Cliff Nelson, explains how you are more at risk of flooding than ever before.
In recent years it seems like it has become a regular occurrence that the staff at RLSS UK HQ, River House, watch the River Avon bursting its banks and flooding the neighbouring fields. This often brings home to us how heavy rain quickly turns this small river into a dangerous, powerful and fast flowing killing machine.
As we watch the river level rise, and hope that it doesn’t pass the flood defences, it’s a shocking reminder that not everyone has the protection our office has, with 5.2 million properties in England alone, now at risk of flooding.
The majority of people will remember the huge surge of water hitting Boscastle in 2004, destroying buildings and sending cars careering into the harbour. Some 7.9ins (200mm) of rain had fallen in 24 hours, leading to rivers bursting their banks. Fifty-eight properties were flooded, with four destroyed, a total of 150 were swept away, luckily no lives were lost. And, what were, shocking images coming from our TV now seem to have become far more common and affect far more people each year.
These images show us vital it is to not underestimate the power of floodwater. Whether there are swollen rivers or general floodwater on roads and pathways, it is vital people follow simple, common sense, steps during periods of flooding to help ensure they, and their families, stay safe.
We ask our members to take heed of the below advice but please share it with people in your area if they are affected by flooding.
- Never try to walk or drive through floodwater – six inches of fast flowing water can knock an adult over and two feet of water will float a car
- Never try to swim through fast flowing water or floodwater – you may get swept away or be stuck or caught on an object in the water
- Never allow children or pets to go near or play in floodwater. It is hazardous and may be contaminated with chemicals
- Keep an eye on weather reports for flooding in your area. Do not travel in heavy rainstorms unless absolutely necessary
- Prepare a flood kit in case your home floods or you are trapped in a vehicle for any period – this can contain a change of clothing, wellies, waterproof and blankets as well as a torch, charged mobile phone, radio, medication and first aid kit and a list of useful numbers, including flood alert lines
For more information on how to stay safe around flood water or to join a flood rescue team visit rlss.org.uk.
*Environment Agency, Defra, Parliament UK