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What can I do to be prepared for an emergency?

The first thing to do is to make sure that you are adequately insured, and that you keep your insurance documents safely. You can also take precautions to limit the chance of being in an emergency, or of minimising its effect on you:

Fit and maintain a smoke alarm. Plan escape routes if there is a fire and you can’t get out of your building by the normal way. Remember in a fire, if a door feels hot it probably means that the fire is on the other side, so don’t open that door. If you are trapped in smoke, stay near to the floor where the air will be cleaner.

If you have gas appliances, fit and maintain a carbon monoxide alarm. This will give you immediate warning of a gas leak, and the opportunity to get out and contact National Grid (the owner of the gas infrastructure) to come and repair the leak.

Know where to switch off the gas, electricity and water supplies into your home – you might need to turn these off to prevent further damage to your home in an emergency. If you would be particularly vulnerable to electricity and / or water supply failures, UK Power Networks and Thames Water have special schemes that can give you priority status in such circumstances.

If you have a mains electricity powered telephone, be aware that this will not work if the electricity supply fails. If possible, also have a phone that you can plug straight in to the landline socket, as this will use the power in the telephone lines instead. Note that an electricity failure will also affect mobile phones as the telephone towers only have around one hours’ back up battery life.

Check if you are in a flood risk area. Go on to the Environment Agency website or phone them on 0345 988 1188 and check for the risk of flooding for your post code. If you are at risk, register for early warnings to your landline, mobile and / or email address from their free “Floodline Warnings Direct” service. Then decide what you would do if you got such a warning – would you evacuate the area, or would you go upstairs; would you move valuable and / or sentimental items out of harms way?

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