AS a major incident is declared after Devon was hit by flash flooding and mud slides, leading rural insurer NFU Mutual advises those at risk of flooding to take steps to mitigate avoidable damage and disruption.

Storms and heavy rainfall yesterday saw localised flash flooding across Devon and Somerset, as NFU Mutual put its support network and local Agencies across the region on alert to rapidly assist those impacted.

With the region having experienced flash floods, the leading rural insurer is concerned that more rain could cause further flooding, damage and disruption.

Jon Bird, Property Claims Manager at NFU Mutual, said: 'Flooding is hugely worrying and damaging for those impacted, with average costs of over £20,000 to homes and over £26,000 to farms in 2022.

'With the South West having experienced a wetter spring in 2023, we’re preparing for more reports of floods as the rain continues to fall.

'NFU Mutual is ready to support members to arrange repairs and make immediate payments, but we’re also urging home and business owners to follow our guide to mitigate the risk where possible.

'Move valuable possessions and electrical items to higher ground and move your car to a safer position if you are able to do so. Likewise, farmers should move livestock to higher ground if they can.

'Prepare a flood or extreme weather pack, including a torch with batteries, phone power banks, first aid equipment, warm clothes and blankets, bottled water, medicines and extra food for vulnerable members of the family like children or elderly relatives. 

'Notify your insurance company as soon as you can and request alternative accommodation if your house is no longer safe, and maintain contact with family and friends. Likewise, business owners should remain in contact with employees and customers to avoid unnecessary risk-taking.

'When it’s safe to enter the flooded area again, make a record of all damaged items for insurance claims and seek advice from your insurance company.'

Make your property flood resilient with Government-backed schemes

If you do suffer from flooding, you might be eligible to receive support to make your property more resilient to flooding – as well as measures you can take yourself.

Jon Bird added: 'If you have suffered flooding, we recommend checking whether you can repair with flood resilient measures. Since 2017, NFU Mutual has offered its Flood Resilient Repair scheme to all home insurance customers. As part of the scheme, customers who suffer flood damage above £10,000 receive a contribution from NFU Mutual to implement repairs which will help protect the property from future flooding.

'With more insurers also now offering flood resilient repairs under the Government-backed ‘Flood Re’ Build Back Better scheme, it is worth checking if you can access extra help if you suffer a flood.'

Flood resilient repairs are repairs carried out following flood damage which help prevent extensive damage in any subsequent flood. Common examples are:

- Raising electrical sockets and white goods away from floor level.

- Replacing flooring with waterproof tiling and grout.

- Installing flood-resistant, self-sealing air bricks.

- Fitting valves to drains to prevent backflow flooding.

- Replacing doors with waterproof doors to prevent floodwater spreading

In terms of being prepared for when flooding hits, NFU Mutual created an easy checklist:

- Check if your property is at risk of flooding on the Government website.

- Sign up for flood alerts on the Government website – these can be sent by text, email or delivered by phone call.

- Put a flood plan in place, including: Moving valuables – including electric items – to a safe space

- Thinking about vulnerable members of your household and neighbours

- Noting down useful numbers like gas and electricity suppliers, the National Grid, local council and insurer

- Ensuring you know how to switch off your mains electricity and gas supply; Consider procuring sandbags or other flood defence systems

- Prepare a flood or storm back, including: Bottled water and snacks; Food for vulnerable household members like babies, children, and elderly relatives; Pet food; Torches with charged batteries; Mobile phone power banks and chargers.

What to do if your home is flooded:

Make safety your priority. Keep your family and pets away from the flood water and move to another part of the property.

Call your insurer immediately, asking about alternative accommodation if your property is unsafe.

Contact family and friends.

If you can, switch off mains gas and electricity supplies in the affected area.

Have a pack with essential items like prescriptions, other medicines and food, paying particular attention to items like baby food.

Have a torch and charged mobile phone on hand in case of power cuts.

When it’s safe to enter the flooded area again, catalogue all damaged items for insurance claims and begin clearing and drying out the area, seeking advice from your insurance company.

Business owners should remain in contact with employees and customers.