Only 20% of home owners consider flood protection

One in three UK flood victims fear the threat of flooding is increasing, and nearly half believe their property will be at risk again, new research reveals.

Despite this, 80% of home owners say they would not consider making changes to their homes to provide better protection against flood damage. This is why Norwich Union is launching the UKs first flood resilient demonstration house to show the steps people can take to limit the impact of a flood.

Norwich Unions flood resilient home demonstrates that protective measures are relatively easy to install. They drastically reduce the time taken to make the property habitable again and lower the cost of repairs.

The Flood Resilience Research report is the largest piece of research ever conducted amongst UK flood victims. The report questioned over a thousand people who have been flooded in the recent past. The report aims to ensure property owners know responsibility for improving resilience to flooding lies with them. Currently however, over half of those affected by flooding choose to restore their homes exactly as they were before.

The research reveals that the disruption to family life is the most difficult aspect of flooding to deal with according to two out of five, 40%, respondents, followed closely by the loss of property and possessions, 27%.

Mark Spybey lives in Northumberland with his wife Elaine. They were totally unprepared for the storm and floods which hit north-east England during the winter of 2004/2005. Spybey says: “When we returned to our home after the flood it was devastating, the water was more than two feet deep and had saturated everything from kitchen cabinets to wooden objects and soft furnishings.

And it isnt just as simple as drying it out. Anything made of reconstituted wood, for example kitchen cabinets, disintegrates and often you need to stop things drying out too quickly or else materials like plaster crumble and wood bows.”

Faced with this level of disruption to family life and the destruction of so much of their property, the Spybeys were keen to make sure they did everything they could to limit damage to their home and belongings in the event of another flood.

Spybey adds: “We chose to install flood resistant and resilient measures. We fully expect the work to pay for itself in the event of another flood, where hopefully we should not sustain anywhere near the same level of damage as we did previously because of the resilient adaptations. Also, because we can prove we have taken these steps, our insurance costs reflect the reduced level of risk to our property.”

Norwich Unions revolutionary digital flood map is the first map to pinpoint flooding to individual houses instead of by postcode. It shows that the Spybeys home is likely to flood again within the next 50 years.

John Wickham, senior claims manager at Norwich Union, says: “The Spybeys were amongst the luckier ones. They were able to return to their home just a week after the storm and live upstairs while most of the restoration work was going on. This was mainly because the flood water had not been contaminated by sewage.

“But nearly a fifth of those we spoke to said it took them between three and six months to get back into their homes after a flood, whilst over a quarter took nearly three months. If flood resilient measures had been in place, this time could have been halved.”

More than two-thirds, 69% of those affected are yet to take any action to protect their homes from future flooding. And over half, 52% restore their homes exactly as they were before.

Wickham says: “Implementing measures to make your home flood resistant or resilient are relatively straightforward, and there are a number of options available.”

Mary Dhonau from the National Flood Forum says: “It is impossible to quantify the emotional toll and strain caused by a flood. We would strongly advise anyone to research the potential flood risks in their area and seek advice about how this might affect their property.”

If flood protection has been put in place, costs for restoration could be lowered from 48,564 to as little as 8,560 per household. And because damage is on a lesser scale families can return home more quickly.

The flood resilient demonstration home has been undertaken as part of Norwich Union and Norfolk County Councils FLOWS project, a jointly funded scheme to encourage householders to see the benefits of protecting their homes from floods.

Alison McErlain from Norfolk County Council says the recent research shows that only one in 10 householders understand that they have a responsibility to protect their homes against flooding, incorrectly believing it is the remit of local government, the Environment Agency, or water companies.

“Unfortunately it is householders who ultimately suffer the brunt of the costs from flood damage. Through the Floodplain Land-Use Optimising Workable Sustainability project we wanted to show how people at risk can protect their homes either by doing resilient work when they are planning to make changes to their homes or following flooding.”