Flooding Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you predict flooding?
forecasting system is kept updated by our team of Flood Warning
Duty Officers, based at SEPA offices across the country, who are on
call 24 hours a day. The Officers are experienced hydrologists who
use weather forecasts, rainfall data, river level data and tidal
forecasts to predict the likelihood of flooding.
What is Floodline?
- Floodline is your live source of river and coastal flooding
information and advice.
- It is a telephone and website service operated 24 hours a day,
seven days a week which anyone can access by calling 0345 988 1188
or visiting www.sepa.org.uk/floodingupdates.
- Through Floodline you can
sign up to receive free flood messages direct to your mobile
phone or landline.
- If flooding is predicted for your area you will be sent a
message to notify you of this, it will direct you to the Floodline
help number to get further advice on what action you should
Why should I sign up to Floodline?
- Floodline provides live information and advice so you can take
action to protect and prepare yourself and your home in advance of
flooding, reducing its damage and disruption on your life.
- Even if your property is not at risk of flooding, local roads
and transport networks could be affected restricting your ability
to get to work, schools or essential facilities.
- You can sign up for free and it only takes a few minutes.
What is the difference between a Flood Alert and a Flood
- Flood Alert - Flood Alerts are issued for
larger geographical areas, usually representing Local Authority
boundaries. Flood Alerts are early warning messages about possible
flooding. They prompt you to remain alert and vigilant and
provide you with time to make early preparations for potential
- Flood Warning- A Flood Warning area is
where SEPA operates a formal Flood Monitoring Scheme to issue
targeted Flood Warning messages for properties located in this
area. The inclusion of any property within a flood warning area
does not specifically imply that the individual property is at risk
of flooding, but helps to identify the area at risk. A Flood
Warning message advises that flooding is imminent. Immediate action
is required, take measures to protect yourself and your
- When you register, Floodline will check your address to
see if you can receive Flood Warnings for your local area. If your
property is not within a warning area you will automatically be
registered for Flood Alerts.
Can I sign up to receive warnings for more than one
Yes, if you know the postcode for each property you can add it to
your account so you will receive messages for both
What is a Priority number and why is
Priority 1 so important?
Floodline service will try to issue flooding messages to your
Priority 1 telephone number. If you do not answer the phone
or the messages cannot be delivered the system will try your choice
of additional numbers in order of priority, up to a maximum of 3
times. An answering phone service will be treated as a delivered
Can I register for a property which isn’t my own – for
example my workplace or school?
Yes, if you
have the postcode for the area we can check to see what service is
available in that area.
Why can I not receive flood messages via
Due to the messages containing information
that is useful only if delivered in a timely way email
dissemination is not an appropriate method as it cannot guarantee
that the message will be received in time. Flood messages can only
be sent by SMS or recorded voice messages.
What should I do when I receive a message from
Call Floodline on 0345 988 1188. If you
call from your registered telephone number, you should be taken
directly to the detailed information for your area. If calling from
an unregistered phone, simply enter your quick dial code(s) listed
to access the specific information for your area. Alternatively,
you can visit www.sepa.org.uk/floodupdates to
view the information. If your on the go visit our new mobile website.
How do I get my quick dial code?
find out your quick dial code by visiting our website or calling
Floodline on 0345 988 188.
What causes flooding?
occurs most commonly from heavy rainfall. When the ground is
saturated, water runs off the land and into water courses which
increase a rivers flow and level. When a river can’t cope with more
water, flooding happens. Flooding also happens along our coastlines
when there are storm surges associated with a high tide coinciding
with higher than normal river levels or from surface
Can you predict flooding from drains and
SEPA can’t predict flooding surface water
which includes drains and sewers however we have produced a
national surface water flood map to help you identify if your area
is at risk so you can take action and be prepared. Contact Scottish Water, which
is responsible for drainage and the water network, if you see
an area flooded due to an overloaded drain.
How do I know if my property is at risk of
Our flood maps don’t show individual
properties but they can tell you if your is at risk of flooding. If
you live or travel through an area at risk of flooding you can be
impacted by flooding such as closed roads, school closures or
disruption to community services.
Who is responsible for flood
Your local council is responsible for the
construction and maintenance of any flood defences in your area. If
you would like to know what flood defences there are in your local
area contact your local authority directly.
Where can I find flood protection
You can find information on flood protection products
Are sandbags effective for flood
The Scottish Flood Forum (SFF)
advises that traditional sandbags have many limitations and there
are many other flood protection products available which may be
more flexible and suitable for use around your property. They
advise that the traditional hessian sandbags may:
- not hold back water unless a waterproof sheet is placed under
- be expensive, heavy, difficult to transport and labour
intensive to assemble into flood defence barriers
- are prone to leakage, rot very quickly after use and contain
viral and bacterial infections often present in flood water
- require proper environmental disposal
SFF also advises that alternative
products, like barriers, often provide more effective long term
protection, are more easily deployed and have greater reliability
when fitted correctly. They also note that much of the insurance
industry requires flood products for property protection to be kite
Where can I get further advice and
Scotland or phone 0345 988 1188 to get advice on how to be
prepared for flooding. We can also give you some information on how
to deal with a flood and the Scottish Flood Forum also
offers independent advice to communities who have been affected
What do the new flood maps
Information on the new flood maps can be found
here, including what’s new and how they were developed. If you have
questions about using the map try our help questions accessible
from the map itself or contact
us on 01698 839028.
Why do the maps show that I live in a flood risk area
yet my property has never flooded?
The maps don’t show flood risk to individual properties but instead
identify areas which, as a whole, are at risk of flooding and its
impacts. If your property is in an area that has a likelihood of
flooding you may be at risk from a range of impacts from property
flooding or vehicle flooding to flooding on access routes or
disruption to community services.
Can I get access to the data used to create the
Unfortunately we can’t share the data used to
create the maps. This is due to the information coming from many
sources and SEPA having licences and agreements in place with the
providers on how we use and share the data.
How often are the maps updated?
mapping of flooding is a dynamic process. As we develop and improve
our data, methods and techniques the maps will be reviewed and
updated. SEPA will continue to work with responsible authorities
and partner organisations to improve our knowledge, understanding
and the representation of flooding across Scotland. Map creation
dates are available from the flood map so you know when the
information was last updated.
Can the maps be used for commercial
No. The flood maps must not be used for
commercial purposes such as the development of commercial products
or setting insurance premiums. The flood maps can inform where
further assessment and more detailed work may be required (such as
a flood risk assessment). Acknowledgement of use of the maps should
be clearly referenced in any publications or reports. This will
help SEPA to ensure the maps are being used for their intended
The flood maps indicate that my property is located in
an area at risk of flooding, what should I do?
are some easy steps you can take to help reduce the impacts of
flooding on you and your family including signing up for
messages, preparing a flood plan, putting together a
family flood kit and considering flood protection products which
can be fitted to your property. Remember that the actual risk
of flooding has not changed just because it is included on the map
and not every property in the highlighted areas is at risk of
flooding but being prepared means reducing the impact flooding can
have on your life.
Will my insurance premiums go up if my property is in an
area you have identified a flood risk?
Our flood maps
should have no influence on insurance premiums. All visitors
to the flood maps must agree to terms and conditions before viewing
information and these do not allow the maps to be used for
commercial purposes. Some insurance companies have their own flood
maps which are used to assess flood risk in the UK.
My policy excess has increased significantly after being
flooded – what can I do?
It is worth shopping around for quotes. If you can
demonstrate that you have taken steps to minimise potential flood
damage (for example by installing flood protection products) then
insurers may take this into consideration when calculating risk.
Flood Forum can provide more advice on finding insurance.
My insurer has asked for a flood risk report – can you
SEPA does not issue flood risk reports
for properties. This is different from England and Wales,
where our equivalent body (the Environment Agency) does issue flood
risk reports. For development you may have to submit a flood risk
assessment. Information on how to do this is available from the
planning section of our
Will all reservoirs be affected by the new
Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011
The new legislation affects more
reservoirs by reducing the threshold for regulation from those
capable of holding 25 000m3 to structures that can hold
more than 10,000m3 of water above the natural level of
the surrounding land, the equivalent to four Olympic sized swimming
pools. If your reservoir is currently regulated under the
Reservoirs Act 1975 you will also be regulated under the Reservoirs
(Scotland) Act 2011 when it supersedes the existing legislation. A
phased implementation will then take place to increase the scope of
Who is responsible for regulating reservoir
Local authorities currently regulate
reservoirs in Scotland under the Reservoirs Act 1975 and will
continue to do so until the new legislation, Reservoir (Scotland)
Act 2011, is implemented. This is expected to be in 2015 and this
is when SEPA will become the regulator. Until we take over as
regulator for reservoir safety please continue to work with your
local authority as regulator of reservoirs.
What does risk designation mean and how will my
reservoir be assessed?
When SEPA becomes the
regulator we will be using a risk-based approach to manage
reservoir safety. This means reservoirs will be regulated in a
proportionate way based on the potential adverse consequences of an
uncontrolled release of water and the probability of such a
release. From data supplied by local authorities, panel
engineers and Reservoir Managers, we will produce inundation maps
which will be used as the basis for assigning a designation of
high, medium or low to the reservoir.
Do I need to have an engineer for my
Currently, under the Reservoirs Act 1975
all reservoirs that hold more than 25 000m3 should be
inspected by a panel, supervising and inspecting engineer. It
is the Reservoir Manager’s responsibility to appoint a panel
How do I register my reservoir?
registration process has not started yet. When we take over the
regulatory role for reservoir safety we will promote the
registration process and let you know how to register your
Is SEPA working with the reservoir industry to implement
the new legislation?
We are working closely with the
reservoir industry to develop a regulatory system which is fair,
efficient and effective. The Scottish Government has
established a Reservoirs Safety Stakeholders Group where
stakeholder organisations can share their views on the new approach
and provide advice and guidance to SEPA. We also engage with
technical experts to provide a peer review for technical aspects of
How do I keep up to date on
For further information on what is
happening with regard to the implementation of the Reservoirs
(Scotland) Act 2011 please visit our reservoir pages on the website. For
specific enquiries please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further information on the reservoir industry is available from
Government, the British
Dam Society and the Institution of Civil Engineers.