Every time it rains: British Red Cross research on flooding in the UK

Flooding has devastating consequences for people, communities and infrastructure across the UK. 

Our report, Every time it rains: British Red Cross research on flooding in the UK, explores the experiences of communities impacted most severely by flooding in the UK and those who may be at risk in the future. We highlight the need for improvements in policy and practice that will ensure people are better prepared for, and can recover more quickly from, flooding in the future. 

We have also developed a Community Resilience toolkit. This has been adapted from the Community Resilience in Urban Areas (CRUA) project, an EU-funded two-year project (2015/2016) led by the British Red Cross Emergency Response team in Northern Ireland.

For more information, contact Ellen Tranter, senior policy and advocacy officer, on etranter@redcross.org.uk

Key findings 

  • Awareness of flood risk among those living in areas that are at risk of, and highly vulnerable to, flooding is low.
  • Awareness of how to access information on flood risk is low, but slightly higher among those who have previously experienced flooding.
  • Ensuring adequate flood insurance is key to preparedness, but there are barriers preventing many people at risk from gaining cover.
  • Many people are unaware of actions they can take to prepare, including those living in areas that are at risk of, and highly vulnerable to, flooding.
  • Flooding can have a devastating effect on people’s lives. The impacts are multiple and varied, and can interact with and exacerbate one another. They include impacts from physical damage to homes and properties; loss of sentimental items; effects on mental and physical health; and disruption to family life and community cohesion.
  • Establishing and improving community networks through participatory and place-based approaches can help to build community resilience.

Priorities for action

Information and awareness is not all that is requited for individuals and communities to be prepared, respond to and recover from floods,

The relationship between awareness and preparedness in relation to flooding is complex. 

Finding solutions requires an understanding of the barriers faced by people in at risk areas, particularly those with high social flood risk, and strong and inclusive engagement with communities. 

We have identified nine priorities for action for national and local governments across the UK. The priorities for action are based on the findings of this research, including the priorities identified by the people we spoke to living in at risk communities. 

Building awareness

  • National and local governments across all 4 nations should prioritise increasing awareness of, and providing specific support to, high ‘social flood risk’ areas (those which are at risk of, and highly vulnerable to, flooding)
  • Local Resilience Forums and their devolved equivalents in areas that are at high risk of surface water flooding should take specific steps to prepare for surface water flooding, including promoting increased awareness of the risk within their areas.
  • Each government should explore ways to improve the reach and effectiveness of early warning systems, particularly among those individuals and communities most at risk.
  • Local authorities should explore ways to improve engagement with at risk communities. This could include investment in specific roles, such as community development officers, who can engage with communities through community hubs and create the spaces and mechanisms for community participation and partnership working.

Improving preparedness

  • National and Local governments should work with local partners, including VCS organisations and community groups, to increase awareness and uptake of property flood resilience (PFR) measures.

Reducing impact

  • The UK Government should work with regulators and industry to ensure that adequate and affordable insurance against flood damage is available to every household, particularly those most at risk.
  • National and local governments should ensure appropriate psychological support is available for those who experience negative mental health impacts due to flooding.

Supporting community impact

  • Local authorities should work with their communities to develop community led groups that have ready access to flooding experts and local decision makers across the country.

Prioritising resilience building at a national level

  • Key government resilience plans, including the National Resilience Strategy, should  set out how to build institutional and infrastructure capacity and resilience across the UK to ensure a coordinated and comprehensive approach to preparing for and responding to emergencies, including floods.