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Taking four steps together towards effective flood risk mitigation

Flooding is one of the world’s costliest and most destructive natural hazards. Due to climate change creating more volatile and extreme weather events, its impact is predicted to get worse. To make a real impact in the fight against this, a mix of proactive planning, cutting-edge science and practical action is needed.

A 2018 study in the journal Nature Climate Change claimed that European countries could face up to $1.1 trillion in annual damages by 2100 if they fail to adapt to increasing flood risks. The study singled out the UK as being the hardest hit in this future scenario, experiencing a fifth of the damage.

In the UK most systems miss the biggest cause of flooding.

Indeed, while the UK government has committed to pressing ahead with its record £5.2 billion investment in flood defences between 2021 and 2027, this has been welcomed by many, but it is a drop in the ocean when set against those potential damages of £220 billion per year.

While the efforts from the UK government and the Environment Agency are important and commendable, the real issue is that they are overwhelmingly focusing on trying to mitigate coastal and river flooding, when the biggest cause of flood damage in the UK is surface water flooding.

According to the Environment Agency, there are 5.2 million properties in England at risk of flooding with 1 in 3 business properties also at risk. These are alarming figures especially when one learns that long-term mental health problems are up to nine times more likely for flood victims and that 40% of SMEs never reopen following a flood.

Flood warning systems need to become more responsive if the UK is to have any hope of mitigating flood damage at scale in the years ahead. This is why Previsico’s real-time forecasting and nowcasting technology was developed over two decades, originally at Loughborough University.

Effective flood risk mitigation

There are four key steps to effective flood risk mitigation:

  1. Firstly, it is vital to understand the risk profile of assets in the fight against flooding. This information can be retrieved by a risk assessment.
  2. Secondly, an action plan needs to be in place, so that in the event of a flood everyone involved knows what to do. Guidance for this can be found on the Government website:
  3. Once the risks are understood and a plan is in place, it is, thirdly, important to invest in resilience measures to minimise the risks as much as is feasibly possible, within resources available, whether they be from the Government, the Environment Agency or business and homeowners.

This is why Previsico partnered with Watertight  – the UK’s market-leader in designing, installing and maintaining property flood resilience which include the likes of temporary flood doors, flood barriers etc providing the correct solution to help mitigate the risk of flooding at one’s property. This promotes ‘preparedness’ and the approach follows the UK Government’s Property Flood Resilience (PFR) industry Code of Practice, supported by insurers across the industry, including Flood Re, Aviva, Zurich, Lloyds Banking group and Sedgwick.

  1. With all of these three things in place, the last magic, fourth, ingredient is Previsico. Using the most accurate weather forecasts available, combined with our cutting-edge data-science and on the ground IoT devices, we predict the time and depth of flooding down to property level, with up to 48-hours-notice, enabling property owners and residents to respond with their flood action plans.

Consumer education is vital to accelerate adoption

Insurers have a vital role to play in accelerating the adoption of this approach. After all, they benefit in many ways from timely flood warnings and flood resilience measures in properties. Not only does it help them to mitigate claims costs and improve underwriting performance, it also helps them to support customers at their time of need.

The only downside to all this is that progress remains slow – or slower than it should be. Even though most UK residents are well aware of the risk of flooding in principle, only a third of those at risk of flooding in England believe their property is at risk. Further, many are unaware that the average cost of flood damage to a home is £32,000.

We all have a role to play here – we at Previsico, our partners at Watertight, P&C insurers with large books of home and contents insurance business are best placed to spread the word. Given the benefits to their bottom line – and to society at large – of encouraging action, now is the time to educate and take action together with these four vital steps.