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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.

Preparing for flooding

Householders can prepare for flooding by taking the following actions:

  • Assemble a flood kit with warm clothes, torch with batteries, a battery-powered radio, food, water, mobile phone (charged), first aid kit, important personal documents such as passports, bankcards and insurance details, medication and baby food if you need them. Households should keep their flood kit upstairs or in a high place downstairs.
  • Make a list of useful numbers such as the emergency services, insurance company and Floodline 0345 988 1188.
  • Talk about what you would do in the event of flooding with other family members/housemates.
  • Make sure you know how to turn off the gas and electricity supply.  Ensure you switch it off if you need to evacuate your house.
  • Move people, pets, valuable items upstairs or in a high place downstairs.
  • If possible, move electrical equipment upstairs. Any furniture that you cannot move upstairs, try to raise off floors.
  • Think about moving your car to higher ground if possible.
  • Block doorways, air bricks and cellar vents with bricks or a sandbag.
  • Alert neighbours and assist vulnerable people and those with young children.
  • Avoid walking and driving through floodwater, there could be hidden hazards.
  • Call 0800 80 70 60 to report flooding to the Environment Agency
  • Never run a petrol or diesel generator or pump without a Carbon Monoxide detector installed near the equipment (follow manufacturers guidance)

Response in the event of a flood

In the event a property is flooded householders should:

  • Turn off the electricity, gas and water supplies if it is safe to do so.
  • Keep dry and out of flood water if possible.
  • Stay in a high place with a means of escape such as a window you can open.
  • Avoid sources of electricity.
  • Do not walk or drive through floodwater. Flooding can cause manhole covers to come off - if you have to walk or drive through flood water, expect hidden hazards under the water and take extreme care.
  • Flood water can contain sewage, chemicals and animal waste always wear waterproof outerwear, including gloves if possible. Wash your hands thoroughly if you come into contact with flood water. Seek medical assistance if any health issues appear.
  • Dispose of all food that has been in contact with flood water including defrosted food.
  • Keep listening to the local news and weather forecasts.
  • Be prepared to evacuate when advised by the Emergency Services.
  • If you leave your house remember to lock it. 
  • Only return to evacuated buildings if you are told it is safe by the emergency services or a council officer.
  • If your property or belongings are damaged, contact your insurance company.  Ask their advice before starting to clear up.
  • Clean taps and run them before use. If there is a requirement to boil water properties will have been notified by the water company.
  • Ventilate your property but take sensible security precautions. Petrol and diesel generator pumps and driers produce Carbon Monoxide which can be deadly when used indoors.

Response in the event of evacuation

In the event that householders are asked to evacuate you should:

  • Try to stay calm and don’t panic.
  • Be aware that police officers or other officials will try to visit all properties at risk to advise on the requirement to evacuate.
  • If road conditions permit, move vehicles to unaffected areas and ask friends/families if you can share their parking facilities.
  • Expect to hear about the evacuation point for transport and the location of the reception area either verbally or by leaflet.
  • Try to check that any elderly or vulnerable family members and neighbours know about the evacuation.
  • Try to tell family and friends where you are going.
  • Listen to the advice of the authorities and follow any instructions to leave a property (and where to head to if emergency rest centres have been set up).

Recovery advice for people affected by flooding

What to do if your property has been flooded:


  • Don’t re-connect or use your gas and electricity until your Network Operator has checked their equipment and told you it is safe to do so.  A qualified electrician needs to check any electrical equipment and circuits that have been exposed to floodwater.
  • Boil all tap water if required to do so by your water company.  When you do run the taps silt may be present in the system so you should run the taps until the water runs clear.  If you think the water might be contaminated ring your water supply company for advice.
  • Wash taps before you use them.  Wash yours and your children’s hands frequently with bottled water if your supply has not been declared fit for use. Disinfect children’s toys. 


  • Contact your insurance company as soon as you can and follow their advice. Don’t start any repair work or throw away damaged goods until the insurance company agrees. Check with your insurance company before cleaning up.  They may pay the costs or be able to recommend reputable firms. 
  • Take photos of any damage.
  • Mark the level of the floodwater on the wall as a record.
  • Don’t turn on any electrical or gas appliances until they have dried out and they have been checked by a qualified electrician or GasSafe engineer.
  • Beware rogue traders and workmen who arrive on your doorstep unannounced offering to do work for you. Only use reputable companies registered with a trade association or a scheme such as 'Square Deal Trader', 'Buy with Confidence' and 'CustomerFirst'. These have received national recognition from the Office of Fair Trading and are members of the Local Authority Assured Trader Scheme Network, which sets minimum standards for local authority good trader schemes. Ask for references.  Obtain a written quote on headed notepaper with a landline contact number and address.  If you have any concerns contact Trading Standards on 0845 404 0506

Washing surfaces

  • First wash with hot water and strong detergent/ disinfectant
  • Then wash again with warm water and a chlorine bleach solution of 2 capfuls to a bucket.  This will reduce the presence of bacteria and viruses.
  • Once you have finished cleaning the property will need to dry out.
  • Flood water may be contaminated with chemicals, food waste, sewage and other hazardous material.  Always wear protective clothing, heavy-duty rubber gloves, and rubber boots.  
  • Cover any cuts with a waterproof plaster.
  • Look out for broken glass and other debris when you are cleaning up.
  • Remember to ventilate your home and unblock any airbricks and doorways, whilst being mindful of security.
  • Dispose of all clothes, all food (including tinned, packaged and defrosted), soft furnishings, books, and soft toys that have come into contact with floodwater. 
  • Do not throw rubbish and damaged items outdoors.  Wait for an organised collection.


  • If you live in rented property your landlord is responsible for repairs.
  • If you own your home or pay a mortgage on it, you are responsible for repairs.
  • If you need advice on re-housing contact your local authority Housing Team

Coping and recovering from flooding

  • It can be difficult to deal with the effects of a flood, and all too easy to become overwhelmed. Take things slowly and get advice. Call Citizens Advice or speak to your doctor. If your children are having difficulties, talk to the doctor and their school.
  • Hardship funds and emergency loans may be available for people in serious need. However it is likely to be restricted to people who are most vulnerable – such as elderly people, families with young children and people with mental or physical disabilities – but not for people who simply didn’t have household buildings and contents insurance. Alternatively, a crisis loan may be available from the Department for Work and Pensions for more information see for more information. The Salvation Army may be able to help with clothing and furniture.
  • If you think you qualify for a reduction in your Council Tax because your home has become unusable, contact your local authority.
  • If you think the value of your home has been affected by the flooding and you feel you are in too high a council tax band, or the rateable value on which your water supply company bases your bill is too high, contact your local authority.

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.