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We no longer provide sandbags. Homeowners, tenants in private rented houses and housing association properties and businesses are responsible for protecting their own property from flooding.

Residents and businesses are strongly recommended to make provision, in advance against the risk of flooding. This is especially important if you live in a property or area that is known to flood. Or if you have requested sandbags from your former district council in the past.

Top tips

Make an emergency plan to keep your property, yourself and your loved ones, pets and animals safe in the event of a flood.

Your plan should include:

  • A list of useful contacts and security details. For insurance and utility companies, your bank, medical and veterinary facilities as well as for your Parish Council and Somerset Council.
  • An action plan for things to do before a flood happens. For example, turn off gas and electricity or move important items to a safe place.
  • Depending on the scale of the flooding, it may be some time before the emergency services can get to you. So, we also recommend you put together a flood kit before you need it. It could include important documents, warm clothing and waterproofs, torch, drinking water and food, medicine, phones, devices and chargers, toys for children and nappies.

You can find out more about creating a home emergency plan on the Somerset Prepared website.

Consider all measures available to protect your home

This could be as simple as making sure that you have adequate insurance but can also mean doing maintenance on exterior of the property, investing in a stock of gel and sandbags or installing flood doors. These are just a few of the steps you can take.

Check out the Flood Hub website, which has lots of useful advice and suggestions of what can be done and points you towards suppliers.

Useful information


Information on preparing for flooding, the latest flood warnings and what to do after a flood can be found on the GOV.UK Flooding and extreme weather section

If you are concerned about flooding, please contact Flood Line on 0845 988 1188 or visit the GOV.UK Website for the latest information for your area.

The Environment Agency has both national and regional Twitter accounts which provide timely and accurate information. The South West regional feed can be followed here: @EnvAgencySW.

You can register to receive Environment Agency flood warnings here: GOV.UK – Sign up for Flood Warnings

You can check whether your property is at risk of flooding here: GOV.UK – Long Term Flood Risk

You can find out about the Somerset Levels and Moors 20-year action plan here: Somerset Rivers Authority

General sandbag information

Sandbags are effective against short duration flooding or wash from vehicles travelling through floodwater but are not effective against longer duration flooding. Water will naturally make its way through the sandbag, so you should consider more permanent kitemarked flood protection products if your property is at risk of flooding. Using plastic sheeting placed behind sandbags will improve their efficiency.

Traditional sandbag suppliers

Most local builders’ merchants supply sandbags and sand. Residents are advised to take action before flooding is forecast as stock levels in builder’s merchants can be quickly reduced once flood warnings have been issued. Local sandbag suppliers can be found by contacting builder’s merchants directly.

You can buy bags, filled or empty from most local builders’ merchants or from the following suppliers:

Modern sand-less sandbag alternatives

A modern type of sandbag is now available which does not contain sand. Sandless sandbags work by using super absorbent polymer technology to provide an alternative to traditional sandbags. They can absorb over 200 times their own weight in water. Several companies offer this type of modern sandbag and can be found on the internet.

How to use sandbags

There is lots of flood protection guidance on the Environment Agency  and  National Flood Forum websites.

When using sandbags:

  • it is essential to fill and lay sandbags correctly
  • do not overfill them (no more than half to three-quarters full)
  • when laid, stamp them down well to force the upper bags to mould themselves to the lower bags
  • build up the layers like brickwork with the bottom row butted up tight to each other, end to end, well stamped down before laying the second row on top
  • if the wall is more than two sandbags high, use a double line of bags for the first two layers and a single line on top

If you cannot obtain ready-made sandbags, you can improvise.

  • First, put down a plastic sheet to act as an extra seal
  • Make your own using compost bags, carrier bags or pillowcases filled with sand or earth
  • Use rolled-up mats or carpets
  • Use bags of garden compost
  • Use timber boards (possibly screwed to door frames and sealed with mastic)

Disposal of sand or gel flood bags

At home 

Where possible, sandbags and gel bags should be dried out for reuse. The best way to do this is to raise them off the ground while they dry to help prevent mould forming. If this is not possible, you can remove the contents by splitting the bag and distributing or burying the contents in your garden.

The outer sacks can then be put in your refuse bin – the gel used in the bags is harmless and fully biodegradable.

At recycling sites

You can take bags, of sand or gel, to any of Somerset’s sixteen recycling sites (link) and you should put them in the ‘landfill/non-recyclable’ skip.

If the sandbags have been exposed to, or contaminated with raw sewage, take care with their disposal. Wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after handling. Please ‘double-bag’ by putting them in at least two bags.

Last reviewed: March 18, 2024 by Jenny

Next review due: September 18, 2024

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