Here in the UK, we don’t experience the scale of natural disasters that many other countries experience. However, disasters do happen and we are going to look at two of the most common disasters here in the UK.
By far, the most common natural disaster that the UK face is flooding and at least once a year this country witnesses it on a large scale. Even with this happening, I am still surprised by how ill prepared this country is. Here are just a few examples:
- In 1947 the UK was hit with what is widely believed to be the worst floods. Record snowfall followed by a sudden thaw culminated in heavy rain. Over 100,000 homes were directly affected and over 750,000 hectares of farmland submerged. It was so bad that the UK actually received international aid, most notably being food parcels from Canada. The damages at the time totalled to around £12 million, which is estimated at £300 million in today’s economic climate.
- In 2000 we had what is known as the ‘wet autumn’. We received such heavy rainfall that the Met Office quoted it the wettest Autumn on record. 10,000 homes were affected and there was an estimated £1 billion worth of damage.
- Storm Desmond struck the UK on December 5th, 2015. That month was recorded as both the wettest and the warmest since records began in 1910. This volatile weather caused peak river flows in England’s Tyne, Lune and Eden, resulting in a volume of water large enough to fill London’s Royal Albert Hall in less than a minute! 16,000 homes were affected, with an insurance bill of £1.3 billion.
From the history of this country’s flooding, there is one thing that is very clear. Our national flood defences are unable to protect everyone, so it is left to the individual to protect their property.
What Causes the Flooding
It loves to rain here in the UK, there is no doubt about that. Flooding is largely attributed to climate change, which has been accelerated by global warming as a result of the way that we live our lives. This is what they ‘experts’ say anyway though this is not certain and research is ongoing.
At present, there are over two million homes and 185,000 businesses that are at risk of flooding, based solely on their geographical location.
There are the most obvious threats that come with flooding such as people drowning but flooding can also cause extensive damage in a very short space of time.
Flash flooding develops rapidly and can be extremely destructive. It can destroy buildings, swallow up cars and people, and destroy transport networks.
Many people can be left homeless following floods and it can take several months or even years for them to sort out insurance claims and start rebuilding their lives.
There are two reasons as to why flooding costs the UK so much money:
- The Government have to pay to rebuild the areas affected by the floods
- They must also cater for the people that have been affected by the flooding (finding them shelter and ensuring they have access to food and water and basic services.)
There isn’t a whole lot that this country can do to prevent flash flooding but we do have the technology to save lives by alerting people to the threat of flooding.
In this country, most homes are built on strong foundations using durable materials; this makes them more resistant to damage from natural disasters.
Those more at risk are houses located on the flood plains or rivers, coastal communities and those located on low ground. You do have the option of installing flood barriers or defences to protect your property but they are not cheap.
Check out how to prepare for a flood for more information on protecting your property.
The second disaster we need to look at is fires which are a constant threat not just in the home, but in the environment as well. They can spread quickly and destroy homes in a matter of minutes, leaving a trail of destruction.
I mentioned on this site before about our electrical fire at home that we had on New Years Day 2018. It caused massive damage in no time at all and over a year later, the work is still not finished.
From the 24th of June 2018 and continuing through the summer, a record-breaking series of wildfires burned across the United Kingdom. The two largest fires, burned over 7 square miles (4,480 acres; 18 km2) each. The Saddleworth Moor fire has been described as the largest English wildfire in living memory. A wildfire started on the Staffordshire Moorlands on 9 August and, despite rain, had spread to cover 219 acres by 11 August.
There are many reasons as to how a fire could have started. Environmental fires are usually started as a result of small agricultural fires that get out of hand, arson, campfires and as a result of lightning. Fires in the home are usually caused by cigarettes, cooking incidents, open fires and deep fat fryers.
The effects of any fires can be devastating. They can completely destroy a home in a matter of minutes, damage possessions and harm people; many people die each year from being caught in house fires. They also produce harmful gases, which can cause breathing difficulties.
Environmental fires cause millions of pounds worth of damage to farmland, forests and transport networks; forest fires can spread very quickly and may destroy homes; many people may also lose their lives as a result of environmental fires.
Fires can be particularly dangerous when chemicals are involved; for example, when a tanker catches light or a building containing explosive or corrosive chemicals catches fire; the gases that are produced as a result of the fires are particularly harmful and the intensity of the fire will often be extreme in these situations; this means it is much harder for fire services to contain and control the fire and it can make the environment they have to work in extremely dangerous.
Most, but certainly not all fires could be prevented if people were a little more responsible.
- In the home – take care when cooking, if you smoke then make sure that cigarettes are fully stubbed out and ensure smoke alarms are tested on a regular basis
- Environmental fires – people that deal with harmful chemicals should have the necessary training and expertise to deal with these substances. Fires in open environments spread very quickly so it is important that the fire is dealt with as quickly as possible. Fires that are started on farmland and bonfires should be controlled carefully; if the fire gets out of hand it could spread quickly, especially if the land is dry.