Flooding Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Floodline
General Flooding
Flood maps
Insurance
Reservoirs

Floodline

How do you predict flooding?
Our flood 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 take.

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 Warning?

  • 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 flooding.
  • 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 property.
  • 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 property address?
Yes, if you know the postcode for each property you can add it to your account so you will receive messages for both properties.  

What is a Priority number and why is Priority 1 so important?
The 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 message.

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 email?
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 Floodline?
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?
You can find out your quick dial code by visiting our website or calling Floodline on 0345 988 188.

General flooding

What causes flooding?
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 water.

Can you predict flooding from drains and sewers?
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 flooding?
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 defences?
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 products?
You can find information on flood protection products here.

Are sandbags effective for flood protection?
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 them
  • 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 marked approved.

Where can I get further advice and support?
Visit Floodline 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 from flooding.

Flood maps

What do the new flood maps show?
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 maps?
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?
The 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 purposes?
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 purpose.

The flood maps indicate that my property is located in an area at risk of flooding, what should I do?
There are some easy steps you can take to help reduce the impacts of flooding on you and your family including signing up for flood 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.

Insurance

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. The Scottish Flood Forum can provide more advice on finding insurance.

My insurer has asked for a flood risk report – can you provide this?
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 website

Reservoirs

Will all reservoirs be affected by the new Reservoirs (Scotland) Act 2011 legislation?
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 regulation.

Who is responsible for regulating reservoir safety?
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 reservoir?
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 engineer.

How do I register my reservoir?
The 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 reservoir. 

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 the process.

How do I keep up to date on developments?
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 reservoirs@sepa.org.uk.  Further information on the reservoir industry is available from Scottish Government, the British Dam Society and the Institution of Civil Engineers.