In 2009, the whole country experienced severe flooding and storm damage.
It was called the worst event in 50 years – indeed, some suggested it was the worst in living memory. Global warming was blamed for the damage or, at least, for having contributed to it. Bad planning and development were also highlighted as causes for many of the properties affected.
Today, only 6 years later, things are as bad as ever – worse indeed, given that the proportion of properties having flood insurance cover is much lower now than it was in 2009.
Following the flooding in 2009, many buildings were repaired with the money paid by Insurers making buildings habitable, comfortable and usable again. Little thought was put into preparing for similar occurrences happening again and certainly not only 6 years later.
This is a tragedy.
Clearys have come across numerous cases of flood damage where there is no insurance cover this time around. TV programmes and interviews are highlighting the extremely difficult circumstances this type of slow, insidious, destructive damage has inflicted on many unfortunate householders, farmers and businesses. Others in vulnerable areas, though not yet affected, are fearful for the future.
Securing assistance from the state is a possibility but the funds available to successful applicants are very low. Even at that, compensation is available only to those who do not have insurance cover and have suffered clear and specific damage. The Irish Red Cross are also distributing funds and humanitarian aid to people exposed to flooding but similar limitations apply to that scheme.
After the 2009 event, there was much work done by the state, through local authorities and the Office of Public Works. Defined areas which would be categorised as flood zones for national flood mapping purposes were identified. The insurers then availed of this service and either withdrew flood cover for property in these areas or hiked premiums for those who were “lucky” enough to be offered cover. Of course they would – what would you do?
The ball was then dropped by the state. No planning was put in place to deal with the obvious: what would happen to all those areas and their inhabitants, businesses and farm owners when flooding returned? Far fewer of them would have insurance cover next time around.
The Irish solution to this Irish problem was for government to call a meeting with the insurance industry after the horse had bolted. Clearly, for many unfortunate victims of recent events, there was no access to funds, allied to which they had the worry and stress of possible further recurrences with no prospect of cover being reinstated. Even if cover was available, it would be prohibitively expensive.
It appears to me that a possible solution for the state, property and business owners, insurers and, indeed, charities is to define a plan for residents and businesses that are in this “Catch 22” situation: Let the state assist them in buying insurance cover going forward and stop all future development, without appropriate flood protection, in these areas.
This scheme could include loss of profits cover for farmers and businesses. Cover could be capped so the potential recoveries deal with ‘humanitarian’ issues if they arise. The claims would be dealt with by the insurance industry. The state would have no involvement in the process nor would the charities.
Ultimately, it should be clear to everyone that continuing to reside in flood zones carries a risk and that, over time, people should have the choice and wherewithal to move away from them.
Such a scheme would mean that the cost to the state could be evenly spread over time and insurers could remain on the pitch with all the structures to deal with this problem at no additional cost to them.
Follow these tips to help prepare for high winds and freezing temperatures this winter.
When strong winds are forecast:
Make sure that the property is well maintained and drains are cleared regularly
Roofs should be inspected regularly for loose slates/tiles and poor guttering.
Trees should be maintained and dead/vulnerable branches should be removed.
Outdoor items such as patio heaters, furniture, barbeques, bins and animal feeders should be secured or securely stored.
Gates, doors, sheds and fences should all be closed and locked.
What you should do after a storm:
Contact Clearys Loss Assessors on 1850 28 1850 to register any claim for damage and any discuss repair work required.
Do not re-enter structurally damaged buildings until advised that it safe to do so.
Preparing for freezing temperatures:
A burst pipe in your attic, if unaddressed, can be as devastating as a flood through the front door. It probably represents the greatest risk posed to your home by freezing conditions. Freeze thaw action can also cause structural damage.
How to prepare for the freeze:
Lag/insulate outdoor pipes, attic tanks and supply pipes.
If a property is unoccupied, the water should be shut. Run the hot taps to drain the attic tank. If your home is unoccupied for any period during cold weather, leave the heating on to protect pipes from freezing and bursting.
Open the attic door to allow heat into your attic. This helps to prevent the pipework and tanks in your attic from freezing.
Leave the underside of the attic tank un-insulated to allow warm air to reach the tank.
In the event of a burst pipe:
Turn off the water supply immediately.
Turn off water dependent appliances including your boiler.
If the water leak is from the attic/above ceiling level, turn off the water supply and turn on all hot taps to drain remaining water out of attic tanks as quickly as possible.
Engage a professional immediately to stem any flow and make repairs to prevent further damage.
Report the incident to Clearys Loss Assessors immediately and do not effect any permanent repairs until all damage has been assessed and repairs are agreed with us.
If appliances are affected, turn off the power at the mains board if safe to do so.
In the event of a leak:
Retain all damaged material as it may be crucial to establishing the nature of loss, assessing damage and validating your claim.
Contact Clearys Loss Assessors on 1850 28 1850 to register any claim for damage and to discuss repair work required.
Ventilate, gently heat and dehumidify the property.
Do not re-engage utilities until they have been checked by a competent and qualified professional.