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Is your home flood ready?
As experts predict heavy rains this spring, here’s how to prepare your home for a flood.
Victorians should get ready for potential flooding this spring, according to the Victoria State Emergency Service, with the La Nina weather effect expected to bring above-average rainfall.
Tim Wiebusch, the Victoria State Emergency Service’s chief officer, says Victoria could be hit with heavy rain in late September and October with increased risk of river, overland and flash flooding due to La Nina – a cyclic climatic phenomenon associated with increased rainfall.
Floodwaters surrounding a house in Wangaratta. Many parts of Victoria were devastated by flood waters in September,2010, when heavy winds and rains caused the worst flooding in over a decade.
He says the current climate outlook is similar to that in September 2016 when torrential rain caused floods across Victoria and South Australia, damaging dozens of homes and closing roads and schools. “At its worst, we could even see similar to what occurred in 2010 and 2011 – that was the last significant La Nina event and the flood impacts had devastating consequences right across Victoria.”
Experts say flash flooding often comes with little warning so it’s important to prepare well in advance, while there is usually more warning associated with river or overland flooding, enabling people to better protect property and possessions.
It’s not just riverside properties and those in seaside suburbs like Elwood and Frankston that are at risk. According to RACV business partner Landchecker, an online portal containing details, including flood-zone information, on thousands of properties across Victoria and New South Wales, several inner-metropolitan suburbs including Hadfield, Collingwood and Clifton Hill are also prone to flooding.
So what can you do to protect yourself and your home against flooding?
Ensure you’re covered
The worst time to find out that your home and contents insurance doesn’t cover flood damage is when you need it, says RACV’s head of home insurance Zoe Malempre. She says that while flood cover is standard with RACV policies, not all insurers cover flood damage automatically. “It’s a very simple thing to do before bad weather sets in – ring your insurer and make sure you have cover for flood damage,” she says. “A five-minute phone call may see you switch insurers but safeguard your biggest assets: your home and contents.”
Check your property
RACV’s general manager home Darren Turner advises homeowners to ensure that all gutters and drains around the house are clear of leaves and other built-up debris. It’s also worth checking downpipes for blockages caused by rogue items such as tennis balls and making sure there are no loose or broken tiles on your roof. If you’re nervous about climbing ladders to check drains or repair tiles, Darren suggests booking a qualified tradie through RACV’s Home Trades and Services before bad weather strikes. He says during the heavy rains that buffeted Victoria from 22 to 24 August, there was a 400 per cent increase in emergency callouts to RACV’s Emergency Home Assist service to fix ceiling leaks compared with the first three weeks of August, and a 60 per cent increase in total EHA callouts. Many of these could have been avoided, he says, if some basic preventative maintenance work had been done.
Check your risk
A free Landchecker Property Report will tell you if your property has a planning overlay that indicates it may be in an area more prone to flood. If you wish to significantly alter or re-develop your property the overlay may outline conditions for you to follow in order to get planning permission from your council.
The SES says flash flooding can occur quickly due to heavy rainfall and people need to be aware they may not receive an official warning. It advises monitoring weather warnings and forecasts at the Bureau of Meteorology website, and warnings through the VicEmergency app. If you are caught out, the SES warns never to drive through flood waters – it can take just 15 centimetres of water to float a small car.
If there’s a major flood threat
When there is a threat of major river or overland flooding, SES advises affected householders to “Bag It, Block It, Lift It and Leave”. “Bag it” by laying sandbags where water may get into your home such as around doors. “Block it” by covering your toilet and drains to prevent back-flow and then “Lift it and Leave” by shifting valuables onto tables and benchtops and leaving early to go to family or a friend’s house on higher ground. SES advises this is permissible under COVID-19 restrictions.
If a flood warning is issued, RACV’s Zoe Malempre advises packing important items including documents, jewellery, photos and other valuables in a waterproof bag and keeping your mobile phone with you. She says it’s a good idea to have an emergency kit with first-aid items, a torch, water and canned food, as well as a list of emergency numbers.
The Red Cross says while we can't stop disasters and emergencies from happening, we can reduce how they affect us by being prepared. It suggests four simple steps to prepare for emergencies:
- Know about your risks, where to get information, and how to manage stress
- Identify emergency contacts, meeting places, and people who can help
- Organise important documents, medical information, insurance and pet plans
- Pack with a list to help you survive and personal items that are important to you
Red Cross has a range of resources to help including Get Prepared app, developed in partnership with RACV, which allows you to locate local emergency services contacts and where to find information, identify a safe meeting place for your and love ones and create checklists of what to do and what to pack. It's available on iOS, Android and redcross.org.au/prepare.