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What to do in a flooding emergency

The British weather has been very cruel to areas of the country this winter with widespread and recurrent flooding taking place across the UK. So what should you do when your property floods? Is your water safe to drink? Where should you store water? CIPHE Operations Manager Danny Davis takes you through our most frequently asked questions when it comes to flooding.

If it is safe to do so and you are planning to stay in your property Danny has the following advice:

Where should I store clean water?
“Fill up any spare bottles, pots and pans and the bath (presuming it is away from any flood water on an upper floor) with cold tap water. You should boil any open stored water prior to using it to be on the safe side. Water kept in a clean sterile container that has a close fitting lid can last for a number of days if kept cool.”

How can I flush the WC?
“Don’t use your stored tap water – it is too valuable. Flush your WC by taking the lid of the cistern and filling it with flood water/rain water (using a suitable container) to flush the toilet. If you have any cuts on your hands wear waterproof gloves while handling flood water as it will be contaminated.”

If my home is flooded should I turn off the boiler straight away?
“If your home is flooded the electricity to the property should be isolated immediately, this would turn off the boiler. When the flooding has subsided the complete electrical installation should be checked by a competent electrician, and the boiler isolated until it is checked by a Gas Safe/ OFTEC / HETAS registered service engineer (the type of engineer will be dependent on the fuel used to power the boiler).”

When the flooding has subsided how difficult will it be to get my boiler working again?
“I know you’ll be desperate to get the heating on to help dry out the house and your belongings but you need to wait until the system is safe. If the 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.”

I have no water now but when the water does come back on, will it be safe to drink straight away?
“Once again it is best to err on the side of caution. We would recommend that your plumbing system should be flushed out to eradicate any debris and any possible contaminants – flood water will be contaminated so you really don’t want to risk that there is any in your system. 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, for instance 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.”

The CIPHE has more flooding advice online at: http://www.ciphe.org.uk/professional-members/public-health/flooding/