The French government has produced a set of guidelines aimed at keeping people safe as flooding becomes a more frequent occurrence in France.
Cars can easily be swept away in flood waters. Photo: AFP
Anyone who lives in a flood prone area is advised to take precautions in advance including;
Create an emergency kit that you can take if you need to evacuate including any essential medication, identity papers and a flashlight
Familiarise yourself with how to turn off electricity and gas
- Sign up to flood alerts through the Météo France site Vigicru and check with your local mairie where flood alerts and evacuation notices will be published in the case of flooding. Find out in advance where reception centres are likely to be and make sure you know how to get there.
If flooding does strike in your area, you should follow the advice of local authorities and emergency services but there are also some general precautions you can take. Keep an eye on you local newspaper's website or listen to local radio to get updates.
If the flood waters are approaching your house, switch off electricity and gas at the mains
Make sure any toxic products are placed high up and in a sealed container to avoid pollution
Follow instructions from local authorities and emergency services if you are told to evacuate
If you cannot evacuate, you are almost always safer in your home than going out – move to an upper storey and take with you supplies of food, water, warm dry clothing, medication and food for children and babies, any important paperwork, a flashlight, a radio with batteries and a mobile phone.
Do not get in the car – several of the people who died this weekend were in cars swept away by flood waters. If you are walking or driving on a flooded road, 30cm of water is enough to get swept away, so if you are travelling always abide by road closed signs and diversions.
Do not go into tunnels or underground car parks as these can fill with water very quickly
If your children are in school it is better that they stay where they are – all schools have emergency protocols for flooding.
- Follow the advice of emergency workers and once you have left your home do not go back for pets or forgotten belongings.
The clean-up operation has its own dangers. Photo: AFP
After the flood waters have subsided and you go home you need to be aware of several dangers if your home has been flooded. These include;
Electricity and gas – if they have got wet they may malfunction when turned back on, get them checked by a qualified professional first
Tap water – water may be polluted and unsafe to drink and any food that has touched flood water should be thrown away. Likewise any food that has been in a fridge or freezer if the power has failed
House collapse – the foundations of your house may have shifted and there is a risk of collapse as it dries out – get a home safety assessment from a qualified professional on any structural risks
- Animals – any animals that have died in the flooding should be placed in plastic bags away from your home. Notify the mairie who will arrange for the collection of the bodies.
If your home has been damaged you will need to claim on the insurance, so make sure you take photos of all damage.
If the flooding was severe it is likely that your local authority will declare an état de catastrophe naturelle (state of natural disaster) which speeds up insurance payments and limits your excess.
You have 10 days from the date of the declaration to contact your insurance company and send the claim by post, including as much detail as possible, photos and invoices for damage repairs.
If a natural disaster is not declared in your area, you will have to make an insurance claim the usual way under multi-risk insurance.
For more information, check out the French government's advice site on flood risks.