Keeping flood risk management firmly on the agenda

Having personally suffered the appalling consequences of being flooded on several occasions, I have made it my mission in life to raise the awareness of flood risk. As well as working alongside local authorities and consultancies raising awareness of flood risk to communities, much of my time is also spent supporting organisations that champion flood prevention and protection.
The last twelve months have been a whirlwind and I’ve been actively involved in a host of projects – on both regional and national levels – in my bid to keep flood risk high on the agenda of all parties – central government, local government, the media and in the communities themselves.  
During this time, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) made me an honorary member of their establishment for ‘outstanding contribution to the public understanding and awareness of flooding’. I was also very pleased to receive the ‘Voice of the Customer Award’ at the Chartered Institute of Insurance Public Interest Awards. I have worked closely with insurance professionals trying to improve the overall ‘customer experience’ after a flood.

The pathfinder project
I have been working with the team from Northamptonshire County Council Flood and Water Management to develop and launch a new ‘Flood Toolkit’, following its selection as one of 13 areas around the country to take part in a DEFRA Pathfinder Project to work with communities at risk to enable them to become more resilient to flooding.

As a result, householders, communities, landowners and businesses in Northamptonshire now have a lasting legacy to help to minimise the risk from flooding thanks to the online toolkit, which is tailored specifically for the county.

The Council has developed a website to provide a central point of information on a wide range of areas, including flood-risk maps, funding available and interactive guides. The toolkit aims to answer the most fundamental and frequently asked flood related questions through a number of interactive elements and easily accessible downloadable guides. Ultimately, the aim is to equip people so they have the information required to help themselves as much as possible, to reduce their own risk to flooding.
The original aim of the Pathfinder Project was to encourage communities at risk to help themselves to become more resilient to flooding. Experience shows that communities are often best set to help themselves as they have an in-depth knowledge of their areas.  However Northamptonshire has helped by gathering all of the important information and centralising it so it can be used easily – with people selecting what they need.
The Flood Toolkit essentially allows people to find out if they are at risk of flooding using an interactive Flood Risk Map. Additionally, the Toolkit enables people to discover who is responsible for flooding outside homes or on the roads and how to contact them, and encourages them to learn how to protect property from flood water through engaging images. Furthermore, the Toolkit helps people to locate funding sources for flood related projects using the Funding Mechanism Tool, see how much rain has fallen in local areas through the Rain Gauge Widget and educate children through the Flood Aware Schools Pack. The great thing with the toolkit is that it can be adapted for the individual needs of any local authority, creating a ready-map template for other councils to work from.

Know Your Flood Risk
Over the last year, I have been supporting the team at the Know Your Flood Risk campaign in developing the newly updated Homeowners Guide to Resilience. The Guide has been produced in conjunction with RAB Consultants and KYFR’s own researcher, Carly Rose. It is designed specifically with the homeowner in mind – the aim of which is to help reduce the worry about what flood protection products to use, and illustrates the variety of ways a home can be protected, how difficult the product is to fit and when it is appropriate to use them.
It not only talks through the different types of flood risk, but offers support on where homeowners can turn to calculate their risk, offers an insight into the range of protection measures that are today available, as well as advice on how to create a Flood Plan. There is also a product directory at the back of the guide. I believe that being prepared for an emergency will ultimately reduce the risk to families and also limit the damage to their home and contents. There is a template and guide to planning for household emergencies on my own website.
Carly Rose and I have also written a Flood Recovery Guide. It has been well received by recent flood victims as it talks through both the practical and emotional sides of flood recovery. Both guides are available as a free download from the Know Your Flood Risk website. In addition, there is a bespoke guide for councils to adapt to their needs.
Within the last few months, the team and I have gone ahead and developed our first smartphone app. The ‘Flood Risk’ app has launched and is available to download for free via iTunes. The free mobile app helps people quickly assess their potential or current risk of flooding – whether it’s for the home they are living in or own now, or are potentially planning to buy or rent. It not only provides an assessment of a property’s overall risk rating (using data from a number of qualified flood risk specialists), but also provides access to live UK Flood Warnings from the Environment Agency. In addition, a property-specific Flood Report can also be purchased from within the app for more detailed analysis (including an ‘Insurance Statement’ that advises whether purchasing specific home flood insurance would be useful or possible).
It offers a range of guidance, maps and tools that anyone can use to pinpoint their risk and prepare accordingly.

The Property Care Association Flood Protection Group
The Property Care Association (PCA) this year celebrates its 85th birthday. It is well known for its rigorous application process for contractors and manufacturers, and has since incorporated the former trade body, the ‘Flood Protection Association’ (and as such the group will now sit within the Association as the ‘Flood Protection Group’).
Many PCA members are specialists in flood recovery of buildings, so extending the trade body to include those who specialise in Flood Protection systems that can help protect properties from the devastating effects of flood damage in the first place, will offer a one stop shop for the consumer.

This is highly specialised work and the correct specification for your individual property is extremely important to reduce future risk of flooding. Applications to the Flood Protection Group will be carefully vetted and contractors – as well as manufacturers providing flood protection products – will need to measure up to strict criteria and standards in areas including technical competence, financial probity, training and customer service. By creating challenging standards the trade association says it will be able to signpost consumers to accredited specialists able to deliver reliable flood resistance and resilient solutions for homes and businesses across the UK.  

I believe the move will also help people to avoid historical problems with poor workmanship, carried out by unregulated trade’s people with little knowledge of how flooding works.

I am fully aware that this has in the past created heartache for many homeowners affected by flooding. For too long, people without any training or experience of this type of work have been allowed into people’s homes and businesses to carry out repairs.
Now, the Flood Protection Group will give consumers certainty in getting the right products for the right property – with future resilience features built-in. This will provide insurance companies, property professionals and householders with access to consultants, manufacturers and contractors offering a recognised and reliable approach to prevent the flooding of buildings.
The PCA is noted for its training and technical expertise, with an industry‑recognised training programme and a renowned technical panel able to share best practice and guidance with members. It is also a scheme operator of Trustmark, the government-backed scheme which aims to help consumers find reliable and trustworthy tradesmen when making improvements or repairs to their homes.

Flood Free Homes Campaign
Earlier this year I was invited to speak at the launch of the Association of British Insurers ‘Flood Free Homes’ Campaign at the House of Commons. The campaign is supported by Know Your Flood Risk, the Property Care Association’s Flood Protection Group, Friends of the Earth, National Flood Forum, and the BRE Centre for Resilience.
The campaign is soon to be highlighted again at an ABI Parliamentary Welcome Reception and is calling for an investment of £1 billion per year by 2025 to be spent managing flood risk in order to keep pace with climate change. It is also aiming to adopt a zero tolerance of inappropriate new developments in areas at risk of flooding and plan a cross party consensus on ambitious long‑term solutions that manage all types of flood risk.
As I mentioned at the start, it has become my personal mission to raise awareness of flood risk, and I hope, with the extensive work being undertaken by the varied flooding campaigns, the environment, independent groups, industry associations combined with local authorities, the levels of flood awareness and preparedness within our communities can only continue to increase.

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