Flooding UK: how to prepare for floods

Advice for before, during and after a flood.

Flooding in the UK

This page is available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

Flooding can pose a danger to yourself, your family, and your property. Millions of people in the UK live and work in areas at risk of flooding.

Some people will have experienced flooding before and know they live in flood-prone areas. But it's important to remember flash flooding can happen in other areas and take you by surprise. Flash floods are unpredictable and it's a good idea to think about what actions we can take to be prepared.

Take these steps to help keep everyone safe.

British Red Cross support line

If you need help, our support line volunteers can provide (where possible) free and confidential emotional support and signposting to local services.

Call 0808 196 3651

(Open 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 8pm on Wednesday.)

How to prepare for a flood

Before a flood warning

Make sure you can download flood warnings:

  • Download the British Red Cross Emergency App and set emergency alerts for your area.
  • Familiarise yourself with the government's alert systems
  • Make an evacuation plan for your family and pets. Work out how you'll take medication and other essentials with you.
  • Prepare an emergency kit in case you need to leave quickly. Use our guide to prepare your emergency kit. Your kit could contain a mobile phone charger, medication, drinking water, emergency contact and support numbers, something to wear, and waterproof clothing.
  • Check your home insurance policy. Make sure you have a policy that meets your coverage needs for potential flood damage inside your home. See if you are eligible for support with flood insurance
  • See if you're at risk of flooding in your area
  • If you live in an area at risk of flooding, let your neighbours know, especially those that are elderly or vulnerable, and help them to prepare too.

Floods can pose a danger to your health. You can take a Red Cross first aid course, or download our free First Aid apps, for adults and children to help prepare.

For more information about the health risks related to flooding read Public Health England's advice and guidance.

After a flood warning

  • Follow the advice on your British Red Cross app or government alert
  • Shut and lock all windows and doors but ensure you have an easily accessible escape route from the property. This will protect your property and may reduce the volume of floodwater entering the building.
  • Take photographs around your home. This may help with insurance claims.
  • Move sentimental and important items/documents upstairs.
  • Move vehicles to higher ground so they won’t be caught in rising floodwater.

What to do during a flood

  • If the flood is posing a threat to your safety, call the emergency services immediately.
  • Don't walk, swim, or drive through floodwater. Six inches of fast-flowing water can knock you over. Two feet of water can float a car.
  • Don't walk on sea defences or riverbanks.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater. It may be contaminated with sewage. If you’re exposed, wash your hands and clothes thoroughly in clean water.
  • Don't allow children to play in or near floodwater.

More advice about what to do during a flood and how to stay safe can be found on the National Flood Forum (Wales, England, and Northern Ireland) or Scottish Flood Forum (Scotland) websites.

Need to leave your home and have nowhere to stay?

Your local council will help. Initially, you may be housed in an emergency shelter. But if you cannot return home for a long period, your council can help you find something more suitable. Find the website for your local council.

  • If you need to evacuate, turn off the main power before you leave. You can be electrocuted in floodwater if the power remains switched on.
  • Take all pets with you when you leave so they aren’t trapped by rising water.

After a flood

  • Dispose of any food that may have been in floodwater.
  • Boil tap water or use bottled water until supplies are declared safe.
  • Flooding is a stressful experience. You can find information on crisis support services by phoning 111 (NHS 111 number). You can also call the British Red Cross support line on 0808 196 3651 between 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 8pm on Wednesday.
  • Follow the UK government's advice on how to keep safe while cleaning up after a flood.

More support

Mental health and wellbeing support

Flooding can have a huge impact on people's lives. Both in terms of short-term and long-term impact, the effects of flooding can be felt for months and years after. Take a look at our guidance to help adults and teachers manage difficult situations. 

Get advice on: