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Why young people should be more aware of flooding


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With looming deadlines, lectures to attend and nights out at the Student Union, preparing for flooding might not be at the top of your priorities. Prior to penning this piece, I would have probably agreed, but here's why we should all care about flooding.

Extreme weather events are on the increase. According to the Environment Agency, the government organisation responsible for flood risk management in England, intense bouts of flooding are set to become more frequent. Met Office records show that since 1910 there have been 17 record-breaking rainfall months or seasons, nine of which occurred since 2000. As well as an increasing number of rainstorms, sea levels are rising due to climate change, which greatly contributes to flooding in the UK.

The risk is real. There are 5.2 million homes and businesses in England at risk of flooding. The impact of a flood can be devastating - from damage to properties and infrastructure, physical and mental health challenges and sadly even loss of life.

Despite the science and the high risk in some areas, not enough people, particularly students and young people, are informed or prepared for the worst. 

Every year, the Environment Agency launches the Flood Action Campaign to empower young people on actions they can take to better prepare for flooding. This year it is aimed at 18-34-year-olds as research reveals that this group are least likely to perceive flood risk in their area, know how to protect their properties or know where to go for information. This group is also at highest risk of fatality as they are less likely to perceive their personal risk. 

Among this age group, young renters are more vulnerable to flood risk as they tend to have less connection to the local area and fewer triggers to access flood risk info (e.g. buying a house, getting a mortgage or building insurance).

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, said "Climate change is likely to mean more frequent and intense flooding. Floods destroy - lives, livelihoods and property. Our flood defences reduce the risk of flooding, and our flood warnings help keep communities safe when it threatens. But we can never entirely eliminate the risk of flooding. Checking your flood risk is the first step to protecting yourself, your loved ones and your home." 

Recent years have brought about the most severe floods on records. In the summer of 2012, a lengthy drought was ended when intense rainfall increased the risk of flooding from rivers and surface water for long periods. Almost 8,000 homes and businesses were flooded across the country, the south-west being the most affected. The winter of 2013 to 2014 became the wettest in 250 years, starting with a coastal surge and record sea levels on the north and east coasts, followed by 12 storms in succession and the flooding of 11,000 homes. This was followed by December 2015, which became the wettest month ever recorded, with named storms Desmond, Eva and Frank that brought widespread flooding to 17,000 properties across the North of England.

Last year, the Met Office published new research which found that for England and Wales there is a 1 in 3 chance of a new monthly rainfall record in at least one region each winter. Professor Adam Scaife, who leads this area of research at the Met Office, said "The Met Office supercomputer was used to simulate thousands of possible winters, some of them much more extreme than we've yet witnessed. This gave many more extreme events than have happened in the real world, helping us work out how severe things could get."

The threat of flooding is real and increasing and has been listed as one of the nation's major threats. The growing threats mean a growing risk to the lives of young people who are not prepared to deal with the procedures. By reading the Flood Action Campaign more people will learn about what to do in the event of a flood and be able to help themselves, as well as others, in the situation. While flooding can't be stopped, knowledge and preparation are extremely important in minimalizing the damage and ensuring the safety of others.

How you can prepare for a flood

Head to the Flood Action Campaign website to:

- Check if you're at risk of flooding 

- Sign up for free flood warnings here

- Download and complete a free flood plan

Flood fails

Never drive through flood water

- Driving through flood water is the number one cause of death during flooding

- Avoid driving through flood water - just 30cm of fast flowing water is enough to move your car

- 3 out of 4 cars damaged by flood water are written off

Avoid "storm selfies"

- Posing for "storm selfies" could put your life in danger 

- Take extreme care on coastal paths and promenades - listen to the advice of the emergency services

- Don't walk through flood water - it could contain hidden hazards such as missing drain covers or potholes

Is it up to the landlord to protect you from flooding?

A lot of students and young renters may mistakenly think it's up to their landlords to take precautionary measures to protect them from flooding. Landlords should play their part but it's your personal responsibility to prepare yourself for a flood.

Follow the Environment Agency on Instagram @envagency and on Twitter @envagency.

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