Protect people at risk: Water survival guidance for people in buildings

Control Measure Knowledge

This control measure should be read in conjunction with:

It should be safer for people to remain in the property and await rescue, rather than attempt to self-evacuate. However, due to the risks of water entering the property this should not be considered a safe place.

When providing advice to callers, it is important to use the situational awareness gained as well as professional judgement to decide if the advice is relevant.

Where water has not entered the building and is a significant distance away, callers can be directed to flooding information and advice on how to prepare or cope with the impacts of flooding from the following agencies:

  • Floodline – England
  • Floodline – Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • Natural Resources Wales
  • Northern Ireland Direct

Isolate power supplies

Isolating gas and electric supplies should reduce the fire risk as well as the risk of electrocution. Power should only be isolated if it is safe to do so; it is likely that this will not be possible after water has entered the building. Power should be isolated at the gas emergency control valve and the electricity fuse box. However, when providing this advice, consideration should be given as to whether these are inside or outside the property.

Due to the risk of possible gas leaks or electrocution, if water has entered the property and the gas and electric supplies have not been isolated, people should not:

  • Enter the water
  • Use naked flames or electrical lighting; however, torches or mobile phone lights can be used
  • Attempt to operate any electrical equipment or appliances

People should not attempt to isolate the electricity when standing in water or with wet hands, or if there are signs that the electricity has already been compromised by water, such as arcing or overheating.

Block water inlets

The risk of water entering through drainage systems can be reduced by:

  • Placing plugs in sinks and baths and weighing them down with sandbags or other heavy objects where possible
  • Disconnecting and isolating any equipment that uses water, such as washing machines and dishwashers
  • Using towels or cloths to plug water inlet pipes or other areas where water is entering

Pack a flood kit

People may be required to remain in their property for some time to await rescue. Once they have been rescued, they may need essential items with them. If possible and safe to do so, people should be advised to pack a flood kit containing essential items.

Flood kits should be kept to a minimum, but may include items such as:

  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Phone numbers, insurance documents, bank cards and money
  • Medicines and medical devices, hearing aid batteries, spectacles and contact lenses
  • Essential items for children and babies such as nappies, baby food or feeding equipment
  • Drinking water in a suitable container as flooding can cause disruption to the supply of clean water. Consideration should be given to including food where any medical conditions may require

Move away from the water

If water has entered buildings, people should be safer the higher they are in the property.

When advising people to move to a higher location in the property, consideration should be given to the ability for them to be rescued from that location. If possible, people should be advised to await rescue in a room where there is access to a window or other means of rescue.

If the caller is unable to remain on the phone when moving to another location, consideration should be given to:

  • Advising the person to redial 999 from the new location so that water survival guidance can be continued
  • Providing sufficient water survival guidance before allowing the caller to hang up the phone

If buildings only have one floor, alternative advice may need to be provided. Standing on kitchen worktops or furniture can keep people out of the water for longer, while they are waiting to be rescued. If people are forced to enter the water, survival guidance should be given in relation to the water conditions.

If it is safe to do so, people can be advised to collect valuables and move them to a higher location in the property.

Gather together

If there are several people at risk in a building, it may be advantageous for them to gather in one location for the following benefits:

  • Water survival guidance can be passed from fire control personnel to a single person, who can relay the advice to others
  • It may reduce the likelihood of multiple water survival guidance calls being received by the fire control room from a single location
  • It supports easier and quicker rescue of multiple people from a single location
  • Multiple people in a room may help them to keep warm

This guidance may not be appropriate for large, complex or tall buildings; for example, in tall buildings it may not be safe for people to move between floors or flats. People at risk should not move into one room or location if doing so exposes them to additional risk.