Britain is often at the mercy of Mother Nature. Here, with farm insurance providers, Lycetts, we advise how Brits can prepare for, and then recover from, certain types of natural disasters:
It’s certainly a case that we use a lot of water 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. Of course, this water will go into the UK’s mains water supply whether there is rain to replace it or not. Therefore, 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.
How to prepare
It’s important to make water conservation practices a part of your usual everyday as that way, you will be familiar with using less water in the scenario that water limitation measures are brought in across the country. With this in mind, look to use spare water on indoor plants or a suitable outdoor area of your workplace instead of just pouring it straight down the drain after its initial use. 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 plant both native and drought-tolerant shrubs across your land alongside trees, grass and ground covers. This is because 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.
How to recover
Thankfully, your life will, on the whole, get back to normal pretty quickly following a drought. 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.
Unfortunately, though, your lawn may take longer to adjust back to normal. 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.
Post-drought, the Environment Agency also monitors 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.”
In the UK, flooding is increasingly becoming a concern. 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.
How to prepare
As there are usually a lot of updates and warnings, you should have plenty of time to prepare for a flood. 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. Is it likely flooding is going to hit where you’re based? 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.
If you are told you should leave your business until the threat of flooding has passed, be sure to switch off the mains power so that there is no risk of being electrocuted from floodwater. Also, shut and lock every window and door to protect your property and to give an extra barrier from floodwater getting inside. 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.
How to recover
Make sure you dispose of any food that has been in floodwater immediately. This is since floodwater is at risk of being contaminated with sewage. Until your water supplies company gives your tap water the all clear, you should only boil tap water or use bottled water. 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.
It’s also vital that you contact your insurance company as soon as possible. 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.
Storms are another threat to the UK. 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.
How to prepare
Start with the basics if a warning has been announced in your location. 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 you have any trees and tall structures near your business, check that they aren’t damaged or 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 also important to get to know certain aspects of your business’ surroundings, too. Checking the elevation level of an area will let you know if it’s prone to floods, for instance, while being aware of nearby dams and levees will allow you to assess whether these could cause a hazard to you during a storm.
How to recover
Don’t head outdoors until it’s absolutely safe to do so. 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.
If you notice any tress that have blown down, don’t move them yourself. Instead, report the issue and any possible obstruction they are causing to your local council. 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.
Winds are officially labelled as a gale when they reach speeds of between 32 and 63 miles per 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.
How to prepare
It sounds obvious, but securing loose objects is vital. 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 of your workplace will be among the most exposed parts when its hit by severe gales too, so carry out an inspection of it before the wind speeds gather pace. 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.
How to recover
Look around your workplace’s indoors and outdoors areas once the wind speeds have eased. 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.
You may find that your electricity supply has been lost during the severe gales, too. 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.
Phoning your local council is a good idea. They will endeavor to check vulnerable buildings that are undergoing extensive structural work, remove debris which has found its way onto highways, and close roads (where necessary) after severe weather has travelled across a region.