Flooding and Flood Protection

Flooding is one of the most common emergencies. Find out how to prepare and what to do in the event of a flood.

Flood Warnings

The Environment Agency operates a flood warning system, giving information to the public, media, emergency services and local authorities. If flooding is forecast, warnings are issued using a set of four easily recognisable codes. The following codes are used:

  • Severe Flood Warning - Severe flooding. Danger to life
  • Flood Warning - flooding is expected.Immediate action required
  • Flood Alert – Flooding is possible. Be prepared
  • Warning no longer in force - Flood warnings and flood alerts that have been removed in the last 24 hours

The Council's Flood Plan

The Council's flood plan explains how the Council responds to flooding within the borough. It is not a flood prevention plan and only covers the Council's response from the time flood warnings are issued by the environment agency.

Use the link to the Planning section (in Related Information) for information on the Council's policy on building within the floodplain.

Sandbag Policy

The Council's Sandbag Policy (attached below) explains the circumstances when sandbags will be deployed.

Although we try to deploy sandbags when flooding is forecast, we cannot guarantee it - we strongly advise that you make your own flood protection arrangements so you are ready to protect your property if you live within a floodzone.


Most local builders merchants supply sandbags and sand. We advise you to take action before flooding is forecast as stock levels in builder’s merchants can be quickly depleted once flood warnings have been issued.Using plastic sheeting behind sandbags will improve their efficiency. You can find local builders merchants in Yellow Pages or other directories.

PLEASE NOTE : Although sandbags provide effective protection against short duration flood events or wash from vehicles travelling through floodwater, they are not effective if the floods last longer as water will naturally make its way through the sandbag. If your property is at risk of flooding you should consider more permanent kitemarked products. For more advice on using sandbags visit the Environment Agency website - link below.

Sandless Sandbags 

Sandless sandbags use superabsorbant polymer technology to provide an alternative to traditional sandbags. Superabsorbant polymers (similar to those used in babies nappies) can absorb over 200 times their own weight in water.

The advantages and disadvantages of different types of sandbag are listed in the table below

Advantages Disadvantages
Traditional Sandbag (Hessian)

Cheap as low as 20p per bag
Can be stored “unfilled” dry for many years
Can be filled with garden soil etc. and when used with Polythene sheets can be an effective barrier

Weight – Heavy and difficult to transport/deploy/dispose
Very difficult to store due to size (when filled)
Hessian rots easily (less than 12months) when wet
Also rots when stored dry due to moisture content of the sand

Traditional Sandbag (Polypropylene)

Cheap as low as 20p per bag
Can be stored in the dark (away from Ultraviolet Light/Sunlight) for 20+ years without rotting
Can be stored wet without rotting
Can be filled with garden soil etc. and when used with Polythene sheets can be an effective barrier

Weight – Heavy and difficult to transport/deploy/dispose
Very difficult to store due to size (When filled)
Will rot if stored in sunlight

Modern (Sandless) Sandbag

Weight – very light and easy to deploy
Size – very small (same as an unfilled sandbag) so very easy to store
Excellent for small terraced properties in the floodplain with no space to store traditional sandbags
Disposal – The polymer within the bags can be mixed in small quantities with soil to assist with moisture retention in summer months (i.e. hanging baskets)

Expensive – unlikely to be less than £2 per bag
Weight – Heavy once energised with water and exactly the same problems as a normal sandbag when transporting once energised
Must be stored indoors in the dry

You can find suppliers of sandless sandbacks by searching the internet.

Kitemarked Flood protection products

Kitemarked products have been tested to a recognised standard to show they can provide effective flood protection - you can find a list of kitemarked products on the Environment Agency's website - link below 

Non-Kitemarked Flood products

Many companies offer non-kitemarked flood protection products. These products are listed in the National Flood Forum's blue book (link below). Although these products may work well, because they have not been tested/certified to the Kitemarked standard this cannot be independently verified.

Living next to a river

If you own land or property next to a river or other watercourse, you need to know your rights and responsibilities as a riverside owner. This is known in legal terms as a riparian landowner.

  • You are responsible for maintaining the bed and banks of the watercourse (including trees and shrubs growing on the banks), and for clearing any debris, natural or other, including litter and animal carcasses, even if it did not originate from your land. The Council can give you advice on the removal of animal carcasses.
  • You have to pass on water flow without obstruction, pollution or diversion affecting the rights of others and you must not cause any obstructions to the free passage of fish.
  • You are responsible for keeping the bed and banks clear of any matter that could cause an obstruction, either on your land or by being washed away by high flow to obstruct a structure downstream. Rivers and their banks should not be used for the disposal of any form of garden or other waste.
  • You have to accept flood flows through your land, even if caused by inadequate capacity downstream.
  • You have to keep clear any structures that you own such as culverts, trash screens, weirs and mill gates.
  • You may have flood defences such as walls and embankments on your property, which are vital for the protection of both yourself and others. You should discuss the maintenance of such defences with your local Environment Agency office.
  • You are responsible for protecting your property from seepage through natural or man-made banks. Where such seepage threatens the structural integrity of a flood defence, it may become the concern of the Environment Agency.

Preparing for a flood

If you live within a flood zone you can prepare by:

  • gaining adequate household insurance
  • signing up for Flood Warnings Direct or calling the Floodline Service on 08459 88 11 88
  • keeping outside drains clear to let surface water escape
  • directing water flow away from property if possible
  • using sandbags or rubbish bags filled with earth to protect doorways and low air vents
  • switching off gas and electricity supplies and having emergency provisions ready
  • protecting food and valuables by moving them upstairs
  • prepare a family emergency plan. This should detail what your family will do during flooding

During and after a flood

If you have been hit by a flood then you should do the following:

  • refer to your emergency plan
  • listen to weather and news bulletins
  • stay by a window and try to attract attention
  • do not switch on gas or electricity supplies until they have been inspected
  • do not use food which has been in contact with flood water
  • contact your insurance company

Severe Weather Warnings

Flooding is usually triggered by heavy rainfall - The Met Office issues Severe Weather Warnings so it is a good idea to check their website regularly (link below).





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