What do the UK flood warnings mean?

Posted by CleanSafe on 10/01/18 in Emergency Cleaning and Flooding

It’s hardly new information that the weather in the UK can be a little disappointing. Rain never seems to be far away, and in the winter months it sometimes feels like it never stops. Heavy or persistent rain can often lead to flooding, and the Met Office issues flood warnings to help residents to better prepare for the risk.

There are three types of flood warning currently in use, as well as alerts to inform the public that the risk has passed. You may have seen these warnings, but what exactly do they mean, and what should you do if you are in the flood area?

Flood Alert

What does the flood alert mean?

“Flooding is possible. Be prepared.”

When is a flood alert issued?

This warning is issued anything from two days to two hours in advance of potential flooding.

It is triggered when weather forecasts indicate high tides, surges or strong winds, or intense rainfall for rivers that are prone to flooding.

What impact could flood alert conditions have?

The expected weather conditions may lead to:

  • Flooding of fields, recreational spaces and car parks
  • Flooding of minor roads
  • Coastal spray or wave overtopping

What should you do if there is a flood alert?

  • Plan ahead and be prepared to act on your flood plan if necessary
  • Monitor local weather information for the developing conditions in your area
  • Prepare a kit of essential items
  • Avoid walking, cycling or driving through flood water
  • Find the latest flood information through the Environment Agency or call Floodline on

    0845 988 1188

Flood Warning

What does the flood warning mean?

“Flooding is expected. Immediate action required.”

When is a flood warning issued?

This warning is issued anything from one day to half an hour in advance of potential flooding.

It is triggered when forecasts indicate heavy rainfall likely to cause flash flooding, high tides coupled with strong winds, or river flooding.

What impact could flood warning conditions have?

The expected weather conditions may lead to:

  • Flooding of homes and businesses
  • Flooding of railways
  • Flooding of roads with heavy impact
  • Significant coastal spray and waves
  • Extensive inundation of floodplains

What should you do if there is a flood warning?

  • Protect yourself and your family, and assist others
  • Move your family, pets and valuables to somewhere safe
  • In the event of a flash flood, move to higher ground
  • Put flood protection measures in place
  • If it is safe to do so, turn off your gas, electricity and water
  • Find the latest flood information through the Environment Agency or call Floodline on

    0845 988 1188

Severe Flood Warning

What does the severe flood warning mean?

“Severe flooding. Danger to life.”

When is a severe flood warning issued?

This warning is issued when flooding poses a significant risk to life or extensive disruption to communities.

It is triggered when observations from flooded locations show that conditions may pose significant threat to life, such as when there has been a breach or failure of flood defences.

What impact could severe flood warning conditions have?

The expected weather conditions may lead to:

  • Deep and/or fast-flowing water
  • Dangerous debris and/or contamination in floodwaters
  • Potential or actual collapse of buildings, bridges and other structures
  • Isolation of communities by floodwaters
  • Large-scale evacuation

What should you do if there is a severe flood warning?

  • Remain in a safe place with a means of escape
  • Be prepared to evacuate your home
  • Cooperate with the emergency services
  • Ring 999 if you are in immediate danger
  • Find the latest flood information through the Environment Agency or call Floodline on

    0845 988 1188

Flood warning no longer in force

Once the risk of flooding has passed and sea levels have dropped below warning levels, the warning will be lifted.

While no new flooding is expected, there still may be standing water, flooded properties and damage to the infrastructure, so you should use caution. Some waters may be contaminated and should be avoided.

If your home or property has been flooded, you should speak to your insurance company and a professional flood aftermath cleaning company as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

For more information about flooding, take a look at our article explaining the different types of flooding.