High repair costs but also people’s wellbeing and even health are consequences of flooding. The cost of damages in homes alone are expected to rise by 50% over the next 20 years which will affect the home insurance premiums and, in some cases, the ability to insure homes at all.
All the 329 (UK Environment Agency).
Driven by ever increasing insurance claims, caused by frequent floods, the insurance industry in the UK threatened to stop covering homes in high risk areas or to increase insurance premiums at prohibitive high levels. They considered it the Government’s responsibility to protect homes from flooding either through planning (prevent developments in high risk areas) or through investing in resilient measures and flood defences. After negotiations between Government and insurance industry, and a lot of anguish between homeowners, they have come to an understanding to ensure flood insurance remains widely affordable and available.
Traditionally, insurance companies would pay to replace like-for-like which does not decrease the future flood risk of already flooded properties. The new scheme would mean that risk would need to be managed more effectively and perhaps a more sustainable approach would be for the new financial subsidy to replace conventional material of flooded properties with property level protection measures, especially for high risk areas.
Such measures include raising of floor levels (ideally above flood defence level), installing flood barriers that temporarily keep the water out of the building, select low permeability materials for walls, floors and doors, and locate all fittings, fixtures and services above design flood level . The above measures could significantly minimise damages caused by flooding and decrease the long term costs to recover and repair flooded homes.
The Great Flood of 68 - Bath, Somerset Lower Bristol Road Bath after the rainstorm 1968 (Flickr © Paul Townsend)
Across Europe, flooding has been traditionally managed by large scale engineering solutions, such as the Thames Barrier in London, where whole cities are protected by flood defences. Although this large scale defence structures are still important there is also an increasing need for smaller scale flood risk management solutions, at community and property level, as those highlighted above.
The financial difficulties Greece is currently facing means that a lot of people treat home insurance as of low priority expense and in the past that would have been an acceptable risk. But recent flood events in Athens and Rhodes (and globally) are confirming scientists’ claims that flooding occurrences will become more frequent and more severe as a result of changes in global climate. This could mean that damages from flooding will not be able to be immediately recovered with consequences in Greek tourism industry which is currently of huge importance in the economic recovery of the country.