UK Natural Disasters: Preparation

  • Guest Blog
  • 1 month ago

It’s often unexpected when natural disasters strike home — with many left wondering what they should do in such circumstances. We take a look at how Brits can prepare for, and then recover from, various types of disasters which can all prove very problematic:

The impact of drought

You can’t deny that we use a lot of water here in Britain. In fact, Water UK states that over 17 billion litres of water is delivered to the nation’s mains water supply per day. This water will cater for more than 60 million consumers, with 150 litres used by each of us on a daily basis on average.

Whether there is rain there to replace it, a lot of this will end up in Britain’s main water supply. Therefore, a drought will officially be declared in the country if we experience 15 days of minimal wet weather — under 0.2mm of rain. In the UK, we tend to witness a drought once every five to ten years.

Preparing

One tip to prepare for such circumstances is to limit how much water you use at home because when drought does occur, and you don’t have access to water, it won’t be a great problem as you haven’t previously been completely reliant.

As well as this, instead of pouring spare water down the sink — use it for your outdoor plants! An instant hot water heater should be installed onto your sink too, while dripping faucets should be repaired by replacing the water — for this last point, bear in mind that a single drip per second will result in 2,700 gallons of water being wasted per year!

Have you considered planting native and drought-tolerant shrubs and grass? This could be lifesaving as they will adapt to the local climate and not need too much water once established; not to mention often surviving a sustained dry period without watering. Mulch should also be used to retain moisture in the soil, with the added benefit being that mulch controls weeds which compete with other plants for water.

Recovery

Once the drought is gone, your life should resume as smoothly as possible. Any hosepipe bans which were enforced will be swiftly lifted, for instance, so that you can go back to cleaning the exterior of your business and watering plants as normal. Any restrictions on water use will be eased too, though it’s still best to keep up the water conservation practices advised above as a way of life moving forward.

But on the other hand, your green may take some time to recover. If it’s being subjected to a drought for a long period, turf grasses may have turned brown and stopped growing completely. While most of the lawn will often recover in time with renewed rainfall, you should look to carry out renovation and repair work in the autumn for particularly problematic areas. Over-seed areas which are sparsely-grassed — this guide by the RHS will help — and refrain from using lawn weed killers on turf that has been affected by drought throughout the autumn.

Don’t worry about what the future holds, as the Environment Agency monitors recovery in Britain after drought has occurred. In its Drought response: our framework for England report, the organisation states: “Once a drought recedes, it’s important to continue environmental monitoring to assess recovery of sites and identify any long-term environmental damage. Our area analysis and reporting teams are responsible for establishing and carrying out a drought recovery monitoring programme. Drought monitoring will normally continue until the ecology has recovered to normal conditions.”

The impact of a flood

Among the recent years, Brits have become more frightful of floods than ever before. Between November 2015 and January 2016, for instance, the UK experienced the most ever rainfall for that date period. Not too earlier than that, the wettest winter on record for the UK was recorded during the winter of 2013/14.

Preparing

If previous floods are anything to go by, you should have quite some time to prepare as local weather updates are regularly released. This page of GOV.UK  should also be monitored, as it informs you if your area is either at an immediate risk of flooding, at risk anytime in the next five days or is seen to be a long-term risk area.

Will a flood affect your town? Then you should get an emergency kit prepared (there are different ones for when you’re at a facility, on the move, or in your car, which Red Cross details here), as well as purchase some sand and sandbags in good time — these are likely to be in high demand once a flood strikes.

Make sure that when you know a flood is about to take place, that you switch off all power both in your home and across your business. Take up-to-date photographs around the interior of your workplace too, as they may prove very useful in the event you need to make an insurance claim.

Recovery

If your property has been victim to flooding, make sure to empty all of the food that has interacted with the water. This is because floodwater is at risk of being contaminated with sewage.

Boil your water until your water supplier informs you that yours is safe to use. Your water supply company should be contacted if your tap water’s colour, smell or taste has changed as well. Gas or electrical items should also not be switched on until they have been checked by a qualified technician, as they may have got wet during a flood.

Although many people will be contacting insurance companies at the same time, it’s important that you contact yours as early as possible. Make sure to take photographs ahead of starting any cleaning up too — which can be coupled with the photos taken when preparing for a flood as a before and after snapshot — and only discard any items once it’s been cleared by your insurer.

The impact of a storm

There’s been a lot of storms here in the UK. Between September 12th,2017 and January 24th, 2018 alone, there were nine named storms across the UK. Many people are sure to still have the ‘Beast from the East’ fresh in their minds too, where a mixture of blizzards, drifting snow, strong winds and bitterly cold temperatures cause huge problems and resulted in the Met Office issuing a rare red weather warning — the organisation’s most severe alert.

Preparing

If you have been warned that a storm is coming your way, know the basics. Any rubbish bins and exterior furniture should be moved indoors — perhaps in a garage or underground section of your workplace facilities — so that they are not able to cause damage to cars or surrounding property if they are blown over when a storm hits. On the topic of cars, you should move your vehicle into a garage or somewhere that is sheltered too so that they can’t receive damage from flying debris.

Is there a lot of trees around your premises? Before a storm arrives, have a look to ensure they aren’t damaged and not likely to be blown over when the bad weather rolls in. If you are concerned, get in touch with your local authority, as leaving the problem may result in it damaging your property or putting people in danger. Trees and shrubs can also be trimmed to make them more wind-resistant as well.

Checking the elevation level of an area will let you know if it’s prone to floods, for instance, while being aware of nearby dams and levees will allow you to assess whether these could cause a hazard to you during a storm.

Recovery

Remember to stay indoors at all times until the storm has gone. Even when it is safe to go outside and begin the storm clean-up process, be extra vigilant, as the wet and windy weather may have caused more damage than you can see. Trees and tall structures may now be unsafe, for example, so keep your distance until they can be accessed.

If you come into contact with any problems in the street, report them to the council. Photos and notes should also be taken of any damage that has been caused to your business from the storm, with this being followed up by a phone call to your insurer to make them aware of all issues.

The impact of severe gales

If as gale is severe, the speed of wind can reach somewhere between 32 and 63 miles an hour. However, the UK has been subjected to much more powerful gusts of wind over the years. On March 20th, 1986, for example, a gust of 173mph was recorded at the Cairngorm Summit. It’s not just at higher levels where strong winds cause problems though; a gust of 142mph was recorded at Fraserburgh, in Aberdeenshire, on February 13th, 1989, wind speed of 124mph was marked at Kilkeel in County Down on January 12th, 1974 and winds of 118mph were felt at Gwennap Head, in Cornwall, on December 15th, 1979.

Preparing

Before the gale arrives, you should make sure that all of your outdoor belongings are secure — even put some inside! Crumbling brickwork and broken fences should also be tended to before severe gales arrive, as waiting until after the wind has eased could result in you having to fork out more money for the repairs — not to mention the issues posing risks to your property and workers based there while the gales are blowing fiercely.

It’s important to carry out regular inspections of your roof because if the condition isn’t at the correct standard, it could prove to be extremely problematic. Any mould, sagging material, loose sheathing, areas which are leaking, and rusted nails should be reported to a specialist for them to rectify ahead of the problematic weather.

Recovery

As the winds calm down, carry out inspections around your property to make sure that everything is fine. Attempt to make your facilities as safe as possible again too, though it’s best to leave the complicated repairs to the experts. When inspecting your property, also be on the lookout for any fallen cables, loose masonry and weakened trees, keeping your distance if any of these are identified.

As well as this, you may experience a power cut during this time. Don’t attempt to restore power yourself, but instead get in touch with your electricity supplier to make them aware of the issue and to get details about when the power will likely be restored.

This article was provided by Lycetts, specialists in woodland insurance.

Sources:

https://www.water.org.uk/consumers/drought

https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/3849208/drought-hosepipe-ban-britain-cape-town/

https://www.ready.gov/drought

https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=417

https://nerc.ukri.org/planetearth/stories/1849/

https://www.redcross.org.uk/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/how-to-prepare-for-floods-and-flooding

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/barometer/uk-storm-centre

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24693145

http://evaq8.co.uk/Emergency-Preparedness-Storm-how-to-prepare-for-a-storm.html

https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/top10facts/546895/Top-10-facts-about-wind

http://home.bt.com/lifestyle/house-home/home-hacks/gale-force-winds-how-to-protect-your-home-from-severe-weather-11364015728647

https://www.calderdale.gov.uk/v2/council/emergencies/preparing-emergencies/be-prepared-severe-gales