Londoners at risk from rising floodwaters after weeks of hot weather

Between May and September 2021, London Fire Brigade recorded almost 1700 flooding incidents across the city. Westminster, Havering, Kensington and Chelsea, and Waltham Forest were the worst affected boroughs in 2021, accounting for almost half the flooding calls the Brigade responded to.

Recent thunderstorms saw parts of the North Circular in Golders Green submerged by rising water. Flooding also spread to homes and businesses in the area, causing disruption. A large number of calls received by the Brigade’s Control Officer led to them implementing batch mobilising to certain incidents. This means flooding calls where there is a risk to life are prioritised and crews then attend other calls as non-emergencies when they can.

Thunderstorms can be incredibly localised, whilst one borough could experience heavy rain and flooding, the neighbouring borough could remain completely dry. This makes providing warnings for specific areas of the city hard.

Assistant Commissioner Charlie Pugsley explained, “Hot weather and heatwaves will dry out and crack soil. This makes it harder to absorb and soak up a sudden and heavy downpour. Couple this with torrential rain and we could see streets and homes flooded in minutes.”

During the warm weather, London’s firefighters and Control Officers are training and testing their response in preparation of the floods that may follow.

Assistant Commissioner Pugsley added, “It might be hot and dry one day, but the risk of heavy rain and flooding is round the corner. Recent storms have shown how quickly a flash flood can inundate a street. Our firefighters know what they need to do in a flood, but it’s important Londoners know as well. We’d encourage you to follow our flooding advice.”

Our top tips for flash floods

If your property is flooding, you should:

  • Call 999 if you are in immediate danger. Follow the advice of the operator and if you are told to evacuate, do so
  • If you don’t evacuate when you are told you may be putting yourself and those people attempting to rescue you in greater danger
  • If you do evacuate, make sure you bring your grab bag with you. This should contain the essential items you’d need if you left your home
  • Turn off your gas supply, water and electricity supply, if it is possible and safe to do so

The Brigade has a range of equipment which can be used to help rescue people trapped by flood water, pump water away and protect properties. Fire rescue units are equipped with water rescue equipment such as inflatable rescue boats and the Brigade has specialist flood response kits, each containing rigid flood rescue boats and paddles and rigid floating pontoons, and flood barriers. They also contain protective dry suits and boots to be worn by fire crews when rescuing people from flooded areas.

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