North Wales has become the latest area of the country to suffer severe floods; about 500 homes were hit by floodwaters in St Asaph when the river Elwy burst its banks, breaking through defences and turning streets into rivers. Tragically a 91 year old woman died as a result.
It is three years since Cockermouth experienced devastating floods and two years since Cornwall was hit. Once again this year the South West has been adversely affected by unseasonal rainfall causing rivers to breach natural and man-made defences.
Of course Local Age UKs can help and were able to make a real difference in Cockermouth where flood support workers played their part during the evacuation. For older people, flooding can cause particular difficulties, preventing them from reaching essential services, such as hospitals, GP’s or just the local shops. And the problems do not end when the flood waters recede; many homes remain uninhabitable for months afterwards.
It was therefore welcome to hear the recent announcement of £120 million in new funding to speed up the delivery of flood defences that could protect up to 60,000 homes in England. It is undoubtedly the case that more homes are becoming susceptible to flooding and changing weather patterns may mean we have to live with the problem for many years to come.
But at a local level too, communities can play their part in increasing their resilience to flooding and preparing for future bad weather. It is worth checking whether your home is at risk through the Environment Agency’s website, as they now estimate that 1 in 6 households are vulnerable and Age UK also advises people to check that they have the right insurance and a plan in case of flooding.
There are other simple measures you can take, such as finding out if family or friends can offer you a place to stay when flooding is threatened. If you have a disability you should contact your local authority social services and ask them how they will help if you are at risk from flooding.
Be prepared; plan your escape route, particularly if you are in a bungalow. If you live in a house and have window locks, always keep a key upstairs. Find out from your local authority where you would be evacuated to and let family and friends know.
Finally, make a list of useful numbers and keep it in a safe place. It should include:
- Floodline 0845 988 1188
- Your local Age UK
- Family and neighbours who can help including people who can look after your pet, if you have one
- Your local authority; look in your phone book
- Your insurance company claim and emergency numbers