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by the NFCC

Control measure

Pumping out floodwater

Control measure knowledge

Floodwater may need to be pumped out to prevent or reduce damage to properties and infrastructure. Pumping water may be achieved using fire and rescue service equipment, including:

  • Mobile pumps
  • Vehicle mounted pumps
  • High volume pumps (HVP)

Environmental agencies also maintain a range of pumps at locations in the UK. An adaptor has been developed that allows the connection of HVP delivery hose to environmental agency trailer-mounted pumps. These can be operated alongside or in combination with fire and rescue service HVP to support, supplement or replace fire and rescue service pumps, especially at protracted incidents.

For more information refer to Foundation for environmental protection – High volume pumps.

Any decision to pump water should consider:

  • Why pumping out is being considered and whether damage will be prevented
  • Where water will be moved to and what impact it will have, including whether it will affect any undamaged or unaffected areas; this could include:
  • Water treatment plants
  • Settlement tanks
  • Whether conditions are likely to worsen or reflood a structure, and whether any reasonable action can be taken to prevent this from occurring
  • The duration that pumping activities will be required to continue for
  • The effect of lateral pressure on a structure; the combination of scouring, water damage and the pressure differential created by lowering the internal water level by pumping, may cause unnecessary structural damage
  • The effect removal of water from temporary or unstable structures will have on stability, if water pressures have stabilised
  • Whether the movement of water to unaffected areas will affect biosecurity or harm the environment

When making the decision to move large volumes of water, downstream conditions and development of the flood should be considered; this may require obtaining specialist advice. This assessment should include the time lag for water to arrive and probable duration of pumping activities.

It may be appropriate to wait for water to subside, rather than pumping out structures during a flood. When floodwaters begin to recede, pumping out flooded properties may speed the process but should form part of a structured recovery plan.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Establish what resources can be requested to provide pumping out of floodwater

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Consider the effects of pumping out structures, including temporary or unstable structures

  • Request appropriate resources if pumping out of structures is required

  • Consider the impact of pumping out on biosecurity and the environment, including to undamaged or unaffected areas

  • Consider delaying pumping out structures until the floodwater is receding