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Winter Weather & Floods

Our area experiences extremes of weather throughout the year - whether winter storms or summer downpours. Staying alert and preparing for the worst can help keep you, your family and your property safe.

During extreme weather, we prioritise calls where lives may be at risk through a risk of fire or other emergencies.

For example when flood water is affecting electrics in buildings, where a building or structure has become dangerous to passers-by or when there has been a road traffic collision.

Where lives are not at immediate risk, a number of other organisations may be better placed to help.

What ESFRS can do

  • will rescue people who are at risk and assist with evacuations of buildings.
  • can pump out water from buildings although this may not always be appropriate. For example if the flooding is linked to the water table or the high tide, the water will return. In these cases we may return after the water levels have dropped in order to assist with recovery
  • will give advice about making properties safe and secure
  • will work with other organisations such as electricity companies to ensure public safety.
  • will work with the Environment Agency to protect important sites such as hospitals and power stations.

On the roads

Before you leave

  • If the weather is bad and you don’t have to travel, please postpone your journey.
  • Check for problems on your route before setting out and favour major roads which are more likely to be cleared and gritted.
  • Ensure that your vehicle is road worthy. Make sure that your tyres have sufficient tread and that they are inflated in line with the manufacturer's guidelines. Make sure your lights and windscreen wipers are fully working and that you have enough fuel in case of delays or diversions.
  • If snow is forecast, pack a snow-kit which should include items such as a shovel, a flash light, food and non-alcoholic drink, blanket or sleeping bag and a first aid kit.
  • Allow extra time for your journey and to get your car ready.
  • Make sure you properly clear all your windows of ice and snow. Be aware snow on the roof of your vehicle could slip down onto the windscreen while driving.

On the move

  • Remember to slow down and keep your distance from the car in front of you - stopping distances can be ten times long in snow and ice, and fallen leaves can be just as slippery and treacherous for motorists as driving on ice.
  • Stay alert to the danger of fallen trees - it is possible more may come down after the heavy rain softened the ground - branches and leaves can also make the roads more treacherous.
  • If your vehicle loses its grip, or "aquaplanes" on surface water take your foot off the accelerator to slow down. Don't brake or steer suddenly because you have no control of the steering or brakes.

Flooded roads

  • Avoid driving through floodwater - you don't know how deep it is or whether there are hidden obstacles.
  • If you have to drive through floods, drive slowly, use a low gear and try to keep the engine revving at a high rate. Move forward continuously to avoid stalling the engine. In driving an automatic vehicle engage and hold in a low gear. The deepest water is usually nearest the kerb.
  • Call for help, remove seatbelt and release any children from their seats.
  • Turn on all the lights and sound the horn to attract attention (only if this won't delay your escape).
  • If the water level is low - open the windows and stay in the car.
  • If the water level is high - escape out of the windows, sunroof or doors onto the roof of the car. Stay with the car. If the car starts to move quickly with the water flow, get off the car, stay upstream from the car, and swim vigorously to safety.
  • If the water is entering the car - escape out of the windows, sunroof or doors (breaking windows if necessary). Stay upstream from the car, and swim vigorously to safety.
  • If you cannot escape call and signal for help. Turn on all of the lights and sound the horn

High winds

High winds can cause considerable damage to property. Keeping your home or business property well maintained throughout the year can reduce the chances of being a victim of a storm.

Before the bad weather hits, secure or stow away items such as garden furniture or shop signs. Do not attempt to do this in gale force wind - stay inside.

High-sided vehicles are particularly affected by windy weather but strong gusts can also blow a vehicle, cyclist or motorcyclist off course. This can happen on open stretches of road exposed to strong crosswinds, or when passing bridges, high-sided vehicles or gaps in trees.

Rivers and beaches

  • If you see someone in trouble in the water - call 999 immediately. Do not risk your own safety to reach them.
  • If you have a boat, make sure you stay up to date with weather warnings and do not take risks.
  • Stay away from flooded rivers - the water may be moving much faster than you think
  • Big waves on beaches can easily get knocked off your feet and dragged into the water. Keep your distance.
  • If you have dogs, keep them on a lead if you go near rivers or the sea so they stay safe as well.

For more information about personal safety near water:

Flood prevention and safety

Floods can happen quickly so don't wait until it is too late to think about preparation.

Do some research to find out:

  • Whether your area has flooded before and if there is any specific flood advice for your area
  • How to turn off your electricity and gas supplies
  • What is covered by your insurance
  • Who you can call if you need assistance (link to useful contacts list)

While it's impossible to completely flood-proof a property, there are lots of things you can do to reduce the damage flooding can cause.


Sandbags can keep water out for short periods which can be improved by using them in conjunction with plastic sheeting.

However sandbags do seep water even when well-stacked and trodden into place.

As a result, the Government strongly encourages people to use purpose made flood protection products, such as flood boards, non-return valves for plumbing and air brick covers.

Blocked drains

Rising water levels

Put your safety first. Stay alert, events can change very quickly during a flood; listen out for any warnings on the radio and the TV.

Move people or pets upstairs or to higher ground, identify a place where you and your family can keep away from the floodwater.

Useful contacts



Environment Agency

  • Flood alerts
  • Floodline number 0845 988 1188 (24 hour service)
  • You can also find them on Twitter at @EnvAgencySE and on Facebook

Met Office

Sussex Police

Contact on 101 when it is less urgent than 999. We would urge people to call the police when:

  • there is a dangerous obstruction in the road
  • collisions
  • if you see a crime taking place "We wouldn't want you to become a repeat victim"


East Sussex County Council

Brighton and Hove City Council


East Sussex County Council

Brighton and Hove City Council

Advice about personal safety

Information for seafarers

Severe Weather Contact List

We have produced a handout which has lots of useful contact details.

We've left space for you to fill in details of who you should contact for blocked drains and to get help from your local council.

After a flood

  • Make sure the property is safe before you enter and start to clear up.
  • Arrange for services, such as gas and electricity, to be turned off. The electricity and gas supplies should remain off until you are sure it is safe to turn them back on.
  • Remember, items that have been in contact with floodwater may be contaminated and contain sewage, therefore make sure that anything that has been in contact with the water is safely cleaned.
  • Open your doors and windows to ventilate your home.
  • Be prepared, have a torch at hand when entering the property and do not use candles.
  • Do not go near any exposed wiring, as it may still be live. Do not attempt any electrical repairs or connection of temporary supplies yourself - always use a registered electrician.
  • Do not use any mains powered electrical appliances in the areas affected by the flood until advised that it is safe to do so. Find out more about electrical safety.