It’s rare, but natural disasters can happen in the UK. And, when they do, many are 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:
Drought and its impact
We use plenty of H2O in the UK. 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.
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.
A great tip is to try and minimize the amount of water you use. This means that 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.
If you’re green fingered, use any water that you’re going to throw away on your 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!
Try to think about planting plenty of native and evergreen shrubs. 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.
Try to get back to normal as quickly 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 forwards.
Any greenery could take some time to return to normal, though. 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.
After a drought in the UK, The Environment Agency will monitor recovery. 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.”
Flooding is something Brits have started to become more aware of. 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.
Hopefully, if any flooding does occur, you should receive ample warning with weather reports in the UK regularly updated. 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.
If flooding is likely to hit 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.
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.
Empty any food that has come into contact with the water. This is because floodwater is at risk of being contaminated with sewage.
Remember to continue to boil your water until you’re told it’s safe not to. Your water supplies 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.
Do contact your insurance company asap. 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 UK is used to storms. 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.
Be aware of 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.
If your property is surrounded by trees then, 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.
It’s obvious – but don’t venture outside until the storm has passed. 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.
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.
In a severe gale – wind speeds can be anywhere from 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.
Secure all outdoor belongings. 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.
The roof can be a particularly problematic area. 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.
Once things have calmed down, inspect your property. 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.
If you have experienced a power cut – 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.
Article by Lycetts, specialists in insurance for farms.