Flooding isn't a new phenomenon, but it has become a more frequent one. In February this year alone the Association of British Insurers stated that damage from flooding exceeded £360m across the UK following the ravages of Storms Ciara and Dennis.
Yet every flooding episode seems to be greeted with a level of surprise despite the warnings from far and wide. Quite simply, we have remained focused on trying to solve the problem when in reality we should be developing resilience against extreme weather events.
Whilst engineered flood defences, flood warnings, upper catchment measures and a wide range of other flood risk management interventions are making a real improvement to the number of households and businesses impacted by record flood events, there is increasing need for resilience to be built into individual properties through the installation of property flood resilience measures, significantly reducing the damage and cost - the average of which is £32,000 - to householders.
Property Flood Resilience (PFR) is a means of minimising damage by preventing or reducing the amount of water that enters a property in a flooding event, and ultimately reduces the costs associated with building restoration.
PFR has been gaining support as an important tool in flood defence and it is now widely accepted that in cases where flooding cannot be prevented, it can reduce the impact.
There is an opportunity for government to adopt a more resilient approach in how it responds to flooding events, and with Northern Ireland set to receive some of the £5.2bn committed by the UK Government to improve flood defences, it is essential that we adopt strategies that deliver long-term results and represent effective government spend.
In Northern Ireland homeowners can apply for a Flood Protection Grant of up to £10,000. However, once the measures are installed, there is no requirement for maintenance and upkeep. Where we would service our car every year to check it is still safe and functioning, this isn't a requirement when it comes to the maintenance of flood measures on our homes.
This is a gap that Watertight are working with stakeholders including the Environment Agency and Defra to address, and which we hope will be extended to Northern Ireland. Whilst it will not stop the flooding events from happening, delivering a resilient approach will mitigate against the worst excesses of flooding, reducing damage caused to homes and livelihoods, and empowering communities to take measures to protect themselves.
Gareth Boyd is director of Flood Control, which trades as Watertight, based in Bangor, Co Down