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Flooding frequently asked questions

We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to provide you with more information about flooding.

Floodline in Scotland is operated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). It provides live flooding information and advice on how to prepare for or cope with the impacts of flooding 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Our telephone service and website can be accessed by everyone, but by registering with us you can receive free flood messages for your area of interest direct to your phone.

Floodline provides live information and advice so you can take action to protect and prepare yourself and your home in advance of flooding, reducing its damage and disruption on your life.

Even if your property is not at risk of flooding, local roads and transport networks could be affected, restricting your ability to get to work, schools or essential facilities.

You can sign up to floodline for free and it only takes a few minutes.

A flood alert is an early indication of potential flooding from rivers, the sea and surface water. It is issued for larger geographical areas – usually the boundaries of local authorities.

If a flood alert is issued for your area, you should remain alert and vigilant and make early preparations for potential flooding.

Flood warnings advise that flooding is imminent. Immediate action is required – take measures to protect yourself and your property.

Our flood monitoring scheme issues targeted flood warnings for properties located in affected areas if the residents are signed up. The inclusion of any property within a flood warning area does not specifically imply that the individual property is at risk of flooding, but helps to identify the area at risk.

When you register, Floodline will check your address to see if you can receive flood warnings for your local area. Even if your property is not within a flood warning area, you will automatically be registered for flood alerts.

Yes – as long as you know the postcode for any additional property, you can add it to your account and receive messages relevant to each and every property.

Yes – if you have the postcode for the area, we can check to see what service is available in that area.

You can add several contact numbers to your account when you sign up to the Floodline service, prioritising them in order of importance.

We recommend nominating your most likely point of contact – which may be your mobile, work or home telephone – as your ‘Priority 1’ number. This is the number that the service will contact in the first instance in the event of flooding messages being issued.

If you do not answer the phone or the messages cannot be delivered, the system will try your choice of additional numbers in order of priority, up to a maximum of three times. An answering phone service will be treated as a delivered message.

Due to the nature of flood alerts and flood warnings, messages are only useful if they can be received and read quickly.

With emails we cannot guarantee that they have been received and read so delivering our messages through phone and text message provides more certainty that they will be received in a timely manner.

Call Floodline on 0345 988 1188. If you call from your registered telephone number, you should be taken directly to the detailed information for your area.

If calling from an unregistered phone, simply enter your quick dial code or codes to access the specific information for your area.

Alternatively, you can view our live flood updates online.

You can find out your quick dial code or codes online or by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188.

The cost of calling Floodline varies depending on your service provider, your call package and whether a landline or mobile is used.

All public bodies are encouraged to use 03 numbers, which are charged at the same rate as calls to 01 and 02 geographical numbers and must be included within free call bundles in phone packages.

SEPA works in partnership with the Met Office through the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service to generate data 24 hours a day.

This helps us to predict the likelihood and timing of river, coastal and surface water flooding.

Flooding occurs most commonly from heavy rainfall. When the ground is saturated, water runs off the land and into water courses which increase a river's flow and level. When a river can’t cope with more water, flooding happens.

Flooding also happens along our coastlines when there are storm surges associated with a high tide coinciding with higher than normal river levels or from surface water.

We can’t predict flooding from drains and sewers. However, we have produced a national surface water flood map to help you identify if your area is at risk from the combination of flooding from rainfall and overwhelmed drainage systems.

Our flood maps don’t show individual properties, but they can tell you if your area is at risk of flooding.

If you live or travel through an area at risk of flooding, you can be impacted by flooding such as closed roads, school closures or disruption to community services.

Your local council is responsible for the construction and maintenance of any flood defences in your area. If you would like to know what flood defences there are in your local area, contact your local authority directly.

More information on the responsibilities of each organisations is available of the responsibilities for flooding page.

The Scottish Flood Forum provides information on flood protection products.

The Scottish Flood Forum (SFF) advises that traditional sandbags have many limitations:

  • They may not hold back water unless a waterproof sheet is placed under them.
  • They can be expensive, heavy, difficult to transport and labour intensive to assemble into flood defence barriers.
  • They are prone to leakage, rot very quickly after use and contain viral and bacterial infections often present in flood water.
  • They require proper environmental disposal.

Alternative products, such as barriers, often provide more effective long term protection, are more easily deployed and have greater reliability when fitted correctly. Find out more information about flood protection products.

Please note that some insurers may require flood defence products to be industry-approved and certified.

Visit Floodline or phone 0345 988 1188 to get advice on how to be prepare for or deal with flooding.

The Scottish Flood Forum also offers independent advice to communities who have been affected from flooding.

Unfortunately SEPA is currently unable to support the development of bespoke data licences for academic use.

This is a short term position pending the licensing of data directly to Edina which will therefore increase the availability of SEPA data to our academic audience in the future.

SEPA has a statutory responsibility to produce flood maps to inform the people of Scotland about flood risk. As our flood maps are available under Open Government Licence, there are no restrictions on their commercial use and it is possible that insurance companies may use our flood maps to help determine insurance premiums, however they have not been explicitly designed for this purpose.

Insurance companies set their own rules for assessing flood risk and setting premiums. These range from indicators such as distance from a watercourse, history of previous flooding claims in an area, and some also have their own flood maps. They may well review their rules, which can affect insurance premiums year on year.

In general, it can be worth shopping around. Perhaps using an insurance comparison tool. Different insurance providers have different rules for determining what constitutes flood risk to a property. If you are unhappy with any part of the insurance process, you can raise it with the financial ombudsman service.

We would recommend to people who have difficulty in obtaining insurance cover to directly contact insurance companies to discuss the issues with them and consider using an insurance broker. The British Insurance Brokers Association ( can help identify a range of brokers who can quote for flood insurance, whether as a stand-alone policy or as part of a bundled, household policy.

It is worth shopping around for quotes. If you can demonstrate that you have taken steps to minimise potential flood damage (for example, by installing flood protection products), then insurers may take this into consideration when calculating risk.

Flood Re is a joint government and insurance industry initiative created to help provide affordable insurance to those households at highest risk of flooding.

The Scottish Flood Forum can also provide advice on finding insurance.

We do not issue flood risk reports for properties.

If you wish to develop an area of land, you may have to submit a flood risk assessment – the planning section of our website provides more information on the planning process and flooding.

Affordable home insurance for eligible properties which are at risk of flooding is now available through Flood Re. Flood Re is a joint government and insurance industry initiative which was launch in April 2016.

Across the strategies there are 42 prioritised flood protection schemes or engineering works. The schemes will contribute to reducing flood risk within a number of communities. The development and delivery of the proposed flood protection schemes are however dependent on receipt of funding and resources available. We have collated the list of prioritised flood protection schemes into one document for ease of viewing.