RMS Says One in Four UK Homes at Risk from Floods

June 25, 2008

According to Risk Management Solutions as many as one in four homes in the UK is at risk of flooding caused by excessive rainfall and overflowing rivers. RMS conducted a “spatial analysis of British properties – using high-resolution satellite imagery. The results projected that “approximately £600 billion [$ 1.181 trillion] of residential building value is exposed to flood risk.”

However ,RMS also found that “many people are unaware their home is at risk because the Government’s flood maps, provided by the Environment Agency, do not include the probability of drains being overwhelmed by extreme rainfall, which accounted for some two-thirds of the damage caused by last year’s floods. ”

Dr. Alice Stuart-Menteth, European flood model manager at RMS, explained that the “Environment Agency’s maps only tell part the story about flood risk in Britain. When you take into account surface water flooding, the picture becomes more alarming because thousands more homes are exposed than the Government suggests. Last summer’s events clearly demonstrate that flooding from heavy rainfall in areas with inadequate drainage or from minor streams can have devastating consequences.”

As an example RMS noted that the city of Hull, one of the most badly affected areas from the floods in June 2007, had been classified as threatened only by tidal flooding, despite its also being exposed to surface water flooding. “People need to know the likelihood of their home being affected by all types of flooding,” Stuart-Menteth added. “They can then invest in making their property more resilient, like through raising the floor or waterproofing the electrics, or at least react quickly when a flood does occur.”

In addition RMS said that “using the Environment Agency’s maps, it is currently not possible to assess how one catastrophic flood could simultaneously impact different locations, which has consequences for emergency response planners, owners of major utility companies, and insurers.” As a result, disaster plans developed on a local scale could be “severely stretched” if a flood affects a number of areas.

“Multiple locations can be immersed during a catastrophic flood, which puts pressure on emergency response teams. Last year, an electricity blackout which could have affected some 600,000 homes over several days was only narrowly avoided in Gloucestershire as the flood water was pumped out in time,” Stuart-Menteth explained.

She warned that the “loss of two or more electricity stations across the country at the same time could create an evacuation situation similar to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Disaster plans need to take account of a range of possible scenarios, so if people have to be evacuated they can be accommodated away from the high-risk areas.

“If water and electricity are cut off during a flood, the buck often stops with insurers who have to pay some part of these failings, for example through business interruption costs or paying for temporary accommodation. Unless they are aware of these potential scenarios, they could face an unexpected deluge of claims after an event.”

RMS noted that it has submitted a response to Sir Michael Pitt’s review of flood risk in the U.K., highlighting the need for a more comprehensive view of flood risk and recommending that the Government and its agencies work with the insurance industry to devise mutually beneficial strategies for dealing with flood risk.

Source: Risk Management Solutions – www.rms.com

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