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Ed Barsley asks 'are we ready for that rainy day?'

Context is key when it comes to the design and development of any Property Flood Resilience (PFR) strategy. That includes considering the particular flood risk context, property setup and end user preferences. But, selecting and specifying a contextually appropriate PFR strategy is only half the battle. Its performance will depend on the manner in which measures have been installed, operated, repaired and maintained over time.

The Code of Practice for Property Flood Resilience (CoP) sets out the process through to follow in this regard and when it comes to making sure that PFR measures have been installed correctly, these kinds of checks feature within the ‘Commissioning and Handover’ stage. A ‘Post Installation Audit’ for example can be undertaken to ensure PFR measures have been fitted and operate as intended and that all relevant parties have the information they need to implement and maintain the measures.

This maintenance may well need to be a collective effort and a joined-up approach to PFR necessary, particularly for those properties with shared party walls. Claire for example, who we heard from in episode one of Our Flood Resilient Home does regular practice run throughs of their flood plan with her neighbours to ensure they know what to do in the event of a flood and check measures are working. Katie, in episode two even mentioned that her and her family regularly inspect the automatic airbricks around their home and clean out any cobwebs to reduce the risk of their performance being impaired. So, we do need to be cautious, considered and conscious of not just which PFR measures we have in place, but whether at this moment in time they’re in an appropriate condition to function correctly. As flooding can occur at any time of day or year and you may not have time or the opportunity to act and adapt. On most occasions, the extent and characteristics of flood events will vary, and we can’t just assume that the flood conditions and consequences of our PFR setup will always be the same.

So, it’s vitally important we check, maintain and practice the operation of any PFR measures. For example, if there’s not been a flood for 10 years, would you know where your flood barrier is stored? How to fit it? Or whether your sump and pump is in full working order? If you have ‘Active’ PFR measures (i.e., ones which requires someone to manually fit them) such as deployable flood barrier, it can be important to consider not just where they’re stored, but also that the people who will be fitting these know how to do so and would when the time comes be able to lift and fix them into place. Even with ‘Passive’ PFR measures (i.e., those which are fitted into the building already) such as flood doors, it’s important to do regular checks on the seals to ensure there’s not be degradation or damage over time.

Now, it might seem there’s an endless list of things to remember. But the property owners/end-users should (at the time of measures being commissioned) be passed on a ‘Handover pack’. This will provide a detailed and clear specification of which PFR have been installed, their hierarchy/interconnectedness and alongside any ‘Flood Recovery Plan’, make clear the actions that are needed to be taken before, during and after a flood.

This kind of joined up approach to the installation, operation and maintenance of PFR measures is crucial, as with the frequency and severity of flood events set to increase as a result of climate change, we may well see our PFR measures being tested more often and more intensely. So, we need to be ready for that rainy day.

Ed Barsley

Founder of ‘The Environmental Design Studio’ and ‘Hazard + Hope’

Author of ‘Retrofitting for Flood Resilience: A Guide to Building & Community Design’