It is a property or business owner's responsibility to protect their premises from flooding.

Sandbags are one of the several options that can be used to help protect a property from flooding. The flood management team can also provide advice to residents and businesses about how to protect their properties from flooding.

Reduce the risk of flooding

Please contact us for more advice.

Where and how the council decides where sandbags will go

The council maintains a very limited stock of sandbags to primarily prevent flooding of the highway. It has an overarching priority to protect the public at large.

Individual homeowner requests

Homeowner requests for the supply of sandbags will only be considered to protect occupied residential properties that are in imminent danger of flooding.

  • They will not be supplied in advance (to meet customer requests) because it is very difficult to know which properties will actually flood. No two flood events are the same.
  • This is to ensure our limited supply of sandbags are being deployed to properties where they will be needed.
  • A request will be prioritised based on vulnerability and it is unlikely all requests will be met.

Known flooded communities

As part of our emergency tactical response to a severe weather rain event, we may consider advance deployment of sandbags to known flooded communities.

  • This depends on the advice and intelligence we have at the time, including the Met Office warning on the likelihood and impact of a flood event.
  • Advance deployment can be helpful to reduce pressure on operational demands on the day(s) of the rain.
  • We will work our best, but do not guarantee delivery.
  • Sometimes we get little notice of a Met Office warning for rain, giving no time to plan or meaning supply routes get blocked. Therefore, homeowners should plan in advance to protect their own properties.

How sandbags work

Traditionally, sandbags have been used to block doorways, drains and other openings into properties. They have also been used to to weigh-down manhole covers, garden furniture and to block sink, toilet and bath drains to prevent water backing up.

  • They can keep water out for short periods. This can be improved by using them along with plastic sheeting.
  • They can filter out some muddy sediments found in flood waters.
  • They are cheap and easy to get.

However, sandbags are relatively ineffective when compared to purpose-designed flood protection products.

Pitfalls of using sandbags

  • They take time to fill (approximately one hour to fill 12 sandbags).
  • They can be difficult to handle.
  • Laying them can be very time-consuming.
  • It is difficult to place sandbags in water and particularly in running water.
  • They seep water even when well-stacked and trodden into place.

As a result, we strongly encourage residents and businesses to use purpose-made flood protection products, such as flood boards, non-return valves for plumbing and air brick covers.

How to use sandbags

You can buy unfilled sandbags and a supply of sand from most DIY stores and builders merchants. Remember that if there is a flood expected in your area demand may exceed supply as people rush to buy them.

  • Each sandbag will need approximately need 15kg of sand. You should use sharp, not soft, sand.
  • This is a two-person job: one to hold the bag open and one to fill.
  • Do not fill bags more than half full.
  • Building a sandbag wall is a physically demanding activity. It is important that all those involved are fit enough to carry out the work. Use safe manual handling techniques.
  • You need at least 6 sandbags to keep out 20cm depth of water for a standard door opening.
  • A high sandbag wall will require expert advice as it will need to withstand large water pressures. Failure or collapse of the sandbag wall could pose a danger to the structure of the house or anyone nearby.

What to do when placing sandbags

  • Clear any debris from the area where the bags are to be placed.
  • If you can, put a large sheet of heavy-duty plastic between the sandbags and the wall of your house.
  • Place the bags lengthways, tucking the open end under the filled half of the bag and position it pointing into the direction of water flow.
  • Place bags in layers. Like a brick wall, make sure that in the next layer each bag overlaps the one below by half.
  • Stamp bags firmly into place to eliminate gaps and create a tight seal.
  • To lay sandbags in a doorway, it may be necessary to empty some of the contents out or shape the sandbags to achieve a good fit without overlapping.

Disposal of sandbags

Sandbags tend to retain contaminants such as sewage and oils when they come into contact with floodwater. Ensure you wear gloves and wash hands thoroughly when handling.

If your sandbag has NOT come into contact with flood water

We encourage you to keep unused sandbags in a dry shady place so they can be used again if needed in the future. Sacking material is normally biodegradable and will perish if left in place for a long time. You can also:

If the sandbag HAS come into contact with flood water

Report flooding

Contact us for more advice

Was this information helpful?