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In the event of a flooding emergency the City Council will if possible respond to requests for sandbags. Experience has shown however that during severe storms roads may become blocked, and the call for help may exceed the available resources resulting in delays in response. In many cases, there is also often very little warning of localised flash flooding, giving the Council no time to deliver sandbags if this occurs. It is wise therefore if you feel that you may be at risk from flooding, to have an emergency plan for your property, if possible working with neighbours. Indeed it is the responsibility of landowners to protect their properties from flooding.

If sandbags form part of your emergency plan be aware that they have a limited shelf life. If you are making such provisions, therefore, it is wise to observe the following guidelines ;

  • Keep empty sandbags in stock. They can be obtained from several large builders' merchants. Keep them dry and in a convenient place, out of sunlight.
  • Ensure that when calculating how many you will need you consider air bricks, doors leading off garages that may flood inside, cat flaps, low level letterboxes etc as well as obvious doors.
  • Keep sand separate but be sure that you have the means at hand to fill the sandbags should they be required. Sand can again be purchased from builder's merchants and, again, should be kept dry and out of sunlight. This will help prevent the polythene from breaking down under ultraviolet light making the bags difficult to move when needed.
  • When filling sandbags ensure that they are not overfilled. They become heavy quickly. Use appropriate personal protection equipment such as gloves etc and bear in mind that it is a two-person job unless you have prepared a frame to support the bags when filling them.
  • Be aware that sandbags do seep water even when well stacked and trodden into place. Also consider whether water can get around your defences, for example around doorframes or under doorsteps. There are sealants available, again from builder's merchants and hardware stores that can be fitted at a convenient time well in advance of a problem. Always read the instructions on such products.


  • Sandbags, particularly after use, will rot or break down and become unusable over time.
  • They may become contaminated and should be treated as such after use.
  • They are much heavier when wet and should be handled with care.
  • Builders' merchants may not be open or may have insufficient stocks when you need them.

More detailed advice on sandbags and other methods of damage limitation is available from the Environment Agency Floodline on (0845) 988 1188.

How to place sandbags; Lift the sandbag by the neck and place horizontally with the neck twisted and tucked underneath. Make sure it is stamped down and well bedded in. Layer the sandbags in brick formation, ensuring that joints are staggered.

A new policy on sandbags is going to consultation in August 2011 and will be found on the BeHeard consulatation website. This site is expected to be updated with the new policy in October 2011.