Guide Flooding advice

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2. What can I do in case of flooding?

What to do to limit the impact of an emergency

  • Get information on flood warnings by calling the Floodline on 0845 988 1188* or by visiting the Environment Agency Flood Warnings website or the Met Office website.
  • Make a list of important contacts. Include phone numbers for family, friends, neighbours, your children's school and GP. Carry this in your wallet or handbag and keep copies at work, home and in the car.
  • Add ICE (in case of emergency) contacts to your mobile phone. Store your next of kin contacts on your mobile phone under ICE1, ICE2, ICE3 to help paramedics find who to contact in case of an emergency.
  • Arrange for a friend or relative out of your area to be the family contact point in case your family becomes separated in an emergency.
  • Request sandbags from your parish or town council.
  • Make up an emergency pack* for home and the car and perhaps work. Include the following in your emergency pack:
    • A battery powered radio
    • Torch with spare batteries or a wind-up torch
    • First aid kit
    • A copy of your contact list
    • Bottled water
    • Mobile phone and charger
    • Warm clothing
    • Essential medication and personal items (glasses)
    • Baby food, nappies
    • Wallet, purse and bank cards
    • Pet carrier, collar and lead (take pets with you)
  • Know how to turn off your gas, water and electricity
  • Even if you listen to other stations, know how to tune into your local radio station for public information in an emergency
  • Check your insurance cover is up to date

If your home is in a flood risk area, keep a stock of sandbags or install flood boards that can be deployed if a flood warning is received. Householders are responsible for protecting their own property from flooding and we strongly recommend you make provision in advance against the risk of flooding.

What to do if flooding is expected

  • Watch water levels and stay tuned to the local radio or TV. You can also get updates by phoning the Floodline on 0845 988 1188*
  • Alert your neighbours, particularly the elderly
  • Move food, valuable, pets, livestock other items to safety
  • Put sandbags or flood boards in place
  • Prepare to turn off gas and electricity
  • Be prepared to evacuate your home
  • Protect yourself, your family and others that need your help
  • Try to keep calm, and to reassure others, especially children
  • Co-operate with emergency services and local councils
  • Prepare for evacuation

What to do after a flood

Follow our advice to help you get back to normal as quickly as possible after a flood:

What to do first

  • Don't enter your house until all flood water has been removed. Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service may be able to help you with pumping flood water out of your house. Remember others may also need this help so you may have to wait your turn.
  • If nearby traffic is causing further flooding to your property contact Devon and Cornwall Police. Alternatively, if flooding is being caused by a public sewer contact South West Water.
  • Always wear rubber gloves to move objects or clean surfaces that have been in contact with the flood water, as the water will have been contaminated with sewage and other pollution.
  • Don't dispose of damaged goods until your insurers have had a chance to inspect them.
  • Get a qualified plumber and electrician to reconnect appliances. Look in the Yellow Pages under 'flood damage'.
  • Don't use electrical equipment that has been exposed to flood water until checked by a qualified electrician.
  • Avoid young children playing directly on timber floorboards or damaged tiled floors until the floors have been fully repaired, as injury could arise due to sharp edges of tiles or raised nails in the floorboards.
  • Do not let young children play on affected areas until they have been cleaned down and restored to their normal condition. Children should always wash their hands after playing outdoors, especially before eating or preparing food.
  • Regularly vacuum up any loose material and dust.
  • Contact your doctor if you become ill. You may have swallowed contaminated flood water.
  • We can help the elderly and vulnerable return to their homes.

Cleaning up

  • Ventilate your house after flooding - less damp is less damage.
  • Put on protective clothing before starting any clean-up.
  • Remove all soft furnishings and fittings that are damaged beyond repair.
  • Remove dirty water and silt from the property including the space under the ground floor if you have wooden floors. This space may need pumping out.
  • Wash down all hard surfaces with hot soapy water and a domestic disinfectant (following manufacturer's directions as to concentrations) to wash over all hard surfaces after cleaning.
  • Clothing, bedding and other soft/fabric articles including, children's toys, should be laundered at the highest temperature as indicated on manufacturer's instructions. If this is less than 82 degrees centigrade the articles may still contain bacteria.
  • Other soft furnishings that have been contaminated and cannot be put in a washing machine on a hot wash (as above) will have to be professionally cleaned or if this is not possible may have to be disposed of.
  • Contact our environmental protection team for any advice on clearing up if you have any doubts about it.
  • Seek professional advice (structural engineer) if your property is damaged.

Food preparation and storage

  • Don't eat any food that has been covered by or come into contact with sewage or flood water.
  • Wash your hands before and after preparing food.
  • Ensure all surfaces that food will come into contact with are sound and disinfected. If work tops and other areas show signs of damage, avoid food contact with these areas. Particularly make sure that the shelves including those in your refrigerator where food is stored are cleaned and disinfected.
  • Food preparation surfaces should be wiped down using hot tap water containing washing-up-liquid, and dishes and other utensils should also be washed in hot tap water containing washing-up-liquid. You could also use food safe disinfectant to sanitise the surfaces, dishes and other utensils.
  • All crockery, pots and pans should be thoroughly washed and rinsed with hot soapy water before using. If any of these are badly chipped or damaged do not use. You could use a food safe disinfectant to sanitise them after cleaning.
  • Frozen food that has been at ambient temperature for a few hours should be discarded in an appropriate manner. Check with insurers before disposal.
  • Don't eat garden or allotment vegetables that have been covered by sewerage or flood water.
  • Don't be tempted to try and salvage damaged food -- including tins as they may be contaminated with sewage and chemicals left from the flood water.


Check your insurance policy and contact your insurance company immediately. The majority of household policies provide insurance cover for flooding. If you are a tenant and have taken out contents insurance, household contents, fixtures and fittings should be covered; it is normally the responsibility of your landlord to provide building insurance.

If you are uninsured you will most likely be responsible for covering all costs of flood damage. Remember to keep records of flood damage (for example, photos).

Are you concerned about flooding in your area?

If you would like advice on dealing with specific flooding problems, please contact our customer service centre for help and guidance on (01395) 517528 or

*  Calls cost 6 pence per minute plus your phone company’s access charge. East Devon District Council receives no additional income for calls to this number.