London Fire Brigade

Flood warning for Christmas holiday-makers

20 December 2011

Fire chiefs are today warning Christmas holiday-makers that they are at risk of returning home to a house flooded by frozen pipes.

New research from the London Fire Brigade reveals a direct link between the temperature dropping below zero and a dramatic increase in the number of flooding incidents firefighters get called to. The most common cause is pipes freezing, causing water to expand and pipes to burst.

On the 18 December last year, when the average temperature across the country hit minus one, firefighters were attending, on average, one flooded house every 12 minutes. Last winter, when temperatures were the coldest since 1981, fire crews dealt with over 2,600 floods in people’s homes.

With warnings of freezing temperatures set to hit the UK over the Christmas period the London Fire Brigade is urging people to give their pipes an ‘MOT’ by following five top tips:

• Insulate your loft and the sides of your water tanks.
• Insulate all your pipes.
• Open the loft trap door on cold days to let heat in.
• If you're away over Christmas, spending winter somewhere warmer perhaps, then ask a friend or relative to check on your home and make sure pipes haven't burst or frozen.
• Put washers on dripping taps because if the water  freezes it will block the pipes.

Jim Knighton, London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Operational Procedures, said:

“Many people will be leaving their home empty this Christmas while they visit family or get away on holiday but nobody wants to come home to a house under water. With the weather likely to get colder over the coming weeks, people need to make sure their pipes are in good shape. 

“Frozen pipes can cause devastating damage to people’s properties and possessions. Our firefighters are ready to respond to any flooding call outs we get but by that stage it’s often too late and the damage has been done. People need to make sure they check their pipes before heading off for the Christmas break.”

The Brigade has four specialist flood response kits, each of which contains rigid flood rescue boats and paddles and rigid floating pontoons, which can be used to make bridges and walkways to rescue people. They also contain protective drysuits and boots to be worn by fire crews when rescuing people from flooded areas.

Six high volume pumps are stationed at strategic locations across the capital. These can be used to pump large amounts of water away from flooded areas.

Notes to editors:

LFB attended 2,600 flooding in homes between November 2010 and February 2011.

If people’s homes do flood, the London Fire Brigade has three pieces of advice:

1) Put people before property.  Move your family and pets upstairs.
2) Turn off gas, electricity and water supplies when flood water is about to enter your home if safe to do so. DO NOT touch sources of electricity when standing in flood water.
3) Flooding can be extremely dangerous as flood water can rise quickly. Don’t go out unless you have to. Remain calm and call 999 if you are in danger.