UK householders fear flood risk is increasing

Article date: 2 November 2005

But most fail to act to reduce damage

One in three UK flood victims fear the threat of flooding isincreasing, and nearly half believe their property will be at riskagain, new research reveals.

Despite this, 80% of homeowners said they would notconsider making changes to their homes to provide better protectionagainst flood damage. This is why Norwich Union is launching theUK’s first flood resilient demonstration house to show thesteps people can take to limit the impact of a flood.

Norwich Union’s flood resilient home demonstrates thatprotective measures are relatively easy to install. Theydrastically reduce the time taken to make the property habitableagain and lower the cost of repairs.

The Flood Resilience Research report is the largest piece ofresearch ever conducted amongst UK flood victims. The reportquestioned over a thousand people who have been flooded in therecent past. The report aims to ensure property owners knowresponsibility for improving resilience to flooding lies with them.Currently however, over half of those affected by flooding chooseto restore their homes exactly as they were before.

The research reveals that the disruption to family life is themost difficult aspect of flooding to deal with according to two outof five (40%) respondents, followed closely by the loss of propertyand possessions (27%).

Mark Spybey lives in Northumberland with his wife Elaine. Theywere totally unprepared for the storm and floods which hit northeast England during the winter of 2004/2005. He said: "When wereturned to our home after the flood it was devastating, the waterwas more than two feet deep and had saturated everything fromkitchen cabinets to wooden objects and soft furnishings. And itisn’t just as simple as drying it out. Anything made ofreconstituted wood, for example kitchen cabinets, disintegrates andoften you need to stop things drying out too quickly or elsematerials like plaster crumble and wood bows.”

Faced with this level of disruption to family life and thedestruction of so much of their property, the Spybeys were keen tomake sure they did everything they could to limit damage to theirhome and belongings in the event of another flood.

Mr Spybey added: “We chose to install flood resistant andresilient measures. We fully expect the work to pay for itself inthe event of another flood – where hopefully we should notsustain anywhere near the same level of damage as we did previouslybecause of the resilient adaptations. Also, because we can prove wehave taken these steps, our insurance costs reflect the reducedlevel of risk to our property.”

Norwich Union’s revolutionary digital flood map is thefirst map to pinpoint flooding to individual houses instead of bypostcode. It shows that the Spybeys home is likely to flood againwithin the next 50 years.

John Wickham, senior claims manager, Norwich Union commented:“The Spybeys were amongst the luckier ones. They were able toreturn to their home just a week after the storm and live upstairswhile most of the restoration work was going on. This was mainlybecause the flood water had not been contaminated by sewage.

“But nearly a fifth of those we spoke to said it took thembetween three and six months to get back into their homes after aflood, whilst over a quarter took nearly three months. If floodresilient measures had been in place, this time could have beenhalved.”

More than two thirds (69%) of those affected are yet to take anyaction to protect their homes from future flooding. And over half(52%) restore their homes exactly as they were before.

John Wickham continued: “Implementing measures to makeyour home flood resistant or resilient are relativelystraightforward, and there are a number of optionsavailable.”

Measures that can be installed include:

  • Flood boards which can quickly and easily be erected arounddoors to keep out flash flood water for several hours
  • Pump-and-sump systems which are installed below floorboards toremove water faster than it can enter the house from belowground
  • Replacing perishable materials such as floorboards, woodenfittings and gypsum plaster with concrete, ceramic, plastic orcement alternatives
  • Moving expensive items above possible water levels –such as boilers, service meters and electrical points
  • Installation of one-way valves into drainage pipes to preventsewage backing up into the house.

Mary Dhonau, from the National Flood Forum, said: “It isimpossible to quantify the emotional toll and strain caused by aflood. We would strongly advise anyone to research the potentialflood risks in their area and seek advice about how this mightaffect their property.”

If flood protection has been put in place, costs for restorationcould be lowered from £48,564 to as little as £8,560 per household.And because damage is on a lesser scale families can return homemore quickly.

The flood resilient demonstration home has been undertaken aspart of Norwich Union and Norfolk County Council’s FLOWS*project - a jointly funded scheme to encourage householders to seethe benefits of protecting their homes from floods.

Alison McErlain from Norfolk County Council explains: "Therecent research shows that only one in ten householders understandthat they have a responsibility to protect their homes againstflooding, incorrectly believing it is the remit of localgovernment, the Environment Agency, or water companies.

“Unfortunately it is householders who ultimately sufferthe brunt of the costs from flood damage. Through the FLOWS projectwe wanted to show how people at risk can protect their homes eitherby doing resilient work when they are planning to make changes totheir homes or following flooding.”

Norwich Union supported by Norfolk County Council has developeda website that contains a host of information about flood resilientand resistant repairs -


For further information pleasecontact Adam Cracknell, Norwich Union on 01603 684916 / 07800 699517 or,Charlotte Ruddlesdin or Charlotte Speedy, QBO Bell Pottinger, on020 7861 2424 or

Notes to editors:
The flood resilientdemonstration house is in Lowestoft – images and tours areavailable on request.

About the research
Research was carriedout in July 2005 by ICM Research. Results are based upon 1086face-to-face interviews unless otherwise stated. For a full summaryof results please contact QBO Bell Pottinger.

About the FLOWS Project*
FLOWS stands forFloodplain Land-Use Optimising Workable Sustainability and isfunded by the Interreg North Sea Programme. It has been set up todevelop sustainable and practical approaches to dealing withflooding and flood risk. The aim is to raise public awareness offlooding issues, improve techniques of mapping and modelling floodrisk and strengthen consideration of flooding in planningdecisions. An important aspect of FLOWS is sharing knowledge andexperience between different regions of the EU. European partnersinclude Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The FLOWSproject is led by Cambridgeshire County Council and the other UKpartners are the Environment Agency, Lincs., Northants and SuffolkCounty Councils. Funding partners are ODPM, EEDA, EMDA and NorwichUnion.

About the National Flood Forum
TheNational Flood Forum is a community network formed by people whohave firsthand experience of the trauma, loss and frustration thatgoes with flooding. It is dedicated to helping all those at risk offlooding to cope with their situation and then to improve thatsituation by reducing both the probability and consequences offlooding.

About Norwich Union

  • Norwich Union is supporting Norfolk County Council’sFLOWS project in conjunction with Suffolk County Council and theCotman Housing Association.
  • Norwich Union is one of the UK’s largest insurers.
  • With a focus on insurance for individuals and smallbusinesses, Norwich Union insures:
    • one in five households
    • one in seven motor vehicles
    • more than 800,000 businesses
  • Norwich Union products are available through a variety ofdistribution channels including brokers, corporate partners suchas banks and building societies and Norwich Union Direct.
  • Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of imagesare available from Aviva’s internet press centre at

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