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Melting snow means flooding emergency for many

The British weather has been very cruel of late, but more is set to come. With the big thaw often comes flooding, so what should you do when your property floods? Is your water safe to drink? Where should you store water? Paul Harmer, Lead Technical Consultant of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering (CIPHE) takes you through the need to know questions should the worst happen to your beloved home.

“While you may think that being swept away is the most obvious risk, there are a number of hidden dangers when it comes to flood water. Flooding is an enormous public health issue, as water is likely to be contaminated with a number of harmful substances, anything from sewerage to fertilizer from fields. That is why your highest priority has to be access to clean, safe, drinking water.”

If you have been told it is safe for you to stay in your property, this is what you need to do:

1) Turn off gas, electricity and water supplies when floodwater is about to enter your home.

2) Fill up any spare bottles, pots, pans and the bath (presuming it is away from any floodwater on an upper floor) with cold tap water prior to turning the water off.

3) Boil any openly stored water prior to using it. Water kept in a clean sterile container that has a close fitting lid can last for a number of days if kept cool.

4) If handling floodwater always use waterproof gloves – water will be contaminated, meaning contact with any cuts or grazes can put you at considerable risk. Keep any stored floodwater out of reach of children.

5) Don’t use your stored tap water to flush the toilet – it is too valuable. If you have access to the WC’s cistern, take off the lid and flush your WC with flood water/rain water (using a suitable container) to flush the toilet. Once again, be careful how you handle floodwater.

6) When the flooding has subsided, your complete electrical installation should be checked by a competent electrician. Though your first thought will be to turn the heating on to dry your property out, do not use the boiler until it is checked by a registered engineer; either Gas Safe for work on gas, OFTEC for work on oil fired boilers or a HETAS for solid fuel.

7) Paul advises “Let me make this absolutely clear, if your boiler has come into contact with floodwater, it must be checked by a Gas Safe/OFTEC/HETAS* registered service engineer. If any electrical components within the boiler have been submerged they will probably need replacing. Any insulation with the combustion chamber should be checked and replaced if damaged.”

8) It’s wise to have your plumbing system flushed out to eradicate any debris and possible contaminants.  If you are concerned about contamination, a competent plumber can disinfect the system. If after flushing, you still have concerns regarding the colour of the water coming out of the tap, e.g. it is a milky colour, this is probably due to turbulence in the main causing aeration of the water. Leave the water to settle in a glass, whereupon it should clear after a couple of seconds.

For more flooding advice visit www.ciphe.org.uk/flooding or for a list of professional plumbing and heating engineers to help get your home back on its feet, visit www.ciphe.org.uk, phone 01708 472791 or email info@ciphe.org.uk

*The type of engineer will be dependent on the fuel used to power the boiler.