Residents are being warned not to hesitate to leave their homes if they are at risk of winter flooding, in spite of fears over COVID-19.
The warning comes from the Environment Agency (EA) after last February was the wettest on record and thousands of homes were flooded.
Winters are generally likely to get wetter because of climate change, although the Met Office said it is too soon to say how the rain will fall and how severe it will be in the UK in January and February next year.
Planning is under way in case flooding causes a threat to life during the pandemic, and there are plans for how to move people in a COVID-safe way, the EA said.
Some 25 miles of temporary flood barriers and 250 high-volume pumps are ready to be deployed, while 1,500 military personnel and 6,500 EA staff are trained to handle any floods this winter.
Local emergency response teams have also planned for managing evacuations in a COVID-safe way.
During previous floods when people have been asked to leave their homes, emergency shelters have sometimes been set up in local buildings such as village halls and sports centres.
Under coronavirus rules, you are allowed to find shelter with others in the event of a flood.
John Curtin, executive director of operations at the EA, warned: “What we don’t want is people’s hesitancy to leave if their life is in danger from an immediate flood, worrying what the COVID risk is.
“If you need to go and stay with family or friends temporarily due to flooding you will not be in breach of coronavirus laws which allow for exceptions including to escape the risk of harm.
“You should still take precautions to try to minimise the risk of transmission of the virus during this time, but if your stay is necessary no action will be taken against you.”
He urged people to check if they are at risk from flooding and to protect any keepsakes such as old photographs in advance.
Will Lang, who is the head of civil contingency at the Met Office and advises the government on severe weather, said he believes going through such a rare occurrence as a pandemic has generally made people more risk-aware.
“I think it’s probably down to what we’ve been through with COVID,” he said.
“People in general are probably more aware of their own risks and risk to families and communities.
“They probably have more understanding of risk as presented by government and science and actually we may be in a better position to understand it and that could well include weather and flood risk in the future.”
#1 Football Souvenirs & Merchandise Store
West Ham United