Floods across the North West and Yorkshire have affected thousands of people over Christmas, with many left without power or even evacuated from their homes. If you need help or to claim on your insurance, here are some key tips on what to do next.

There are currently nine severe flood warnings in place, mostly in the York and Croston areas, and 42 further flood warnings across England and Wales. Leeds and Rochdale town centres were some of the worst hit locations, inundated with up to six feet of water on Boxing Day.

Storm Eva has caused the Christmas flooding, the second major storm this month after Storm Desmond – and further bad weather is forecast with Storm Frank expected to hit on Tuesday evening. Some insurance firms are providing emergency support to victims – here's what you need to know if you're claiming, and see our Cheap Home Insurance guide for more info on cutting renewal costs.

What emergency help are insurers offering?

The Association of British Insurers says insurers are doing "everything possible" to help those affected. This includes running 24-hour emergency helplines – it adds "where needed they [insurers] will make emergency payments and arrange temporary alternative accommodation or business premises".

All home insurance policies should include alternative accommodation – some policies will also provide emergency payments for items such as baby food and clothes. Here are a few currently offering emergency payments (though always check your own policy):

  • Aviva
  • LV
  • Co-op Insurance
  • Zurich

Aviva says it has teams in Yorkshire and Lancashire helping affected customers.

NFU Mutual says it's activated its "emergency plans" to support those worst affected, while LV says it's drafted in additional claims people to help process high priority claims.

Co-op Insurance has been contacting all its customers within a 250-metre radius of areas at risk asking if they need assistance.

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What do I need to submit for an insurance claim?

The British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA) says you should provide full details of the circumstances surrounding anything lost or damaged, plus any evidence of that. Take photographs of the damage to your home, its contents or your car, or film the footage. This may help provide proof.

How can I claim if vital documents are damaged or destroyed?

Often, when claiming, key documents or proof of possessions may have been washed away or damaged. So seek copies from the relevant provider, such as the DVLA for motoring documents, brokers or insurers for duplicate insurance documents, or utility providers and the Passport Office. Check Gov.uk for details on how to replace birth certificates.

What will insurers accept as evidence of ownership if items are really badly damaged, say, if personal possessions have washed away?

BIBA says any photographs of you with that item when undamaged, or held by friends and relatives, will demonstrate you owned it, and receipts, credit card bills or bank account statements that show purchases can also help.

Importantly, don't throw away damaged possessions without first discussing it with your claims adviser, as they will need to be assessed.

How long do I have to make a claim?

BIBA says this can vary by policy, but typically it's 180 days. It's always best to act as swiftly as possible.

Who can people turn to for help? 

A broker should help, as will the insurer and its loss adjuster. You may appoint a loss assessor at your own cost for a larger claim. If there are any disputes, you can complain to the independent Financial Ombudsman Service. 

What about protecting my home against a future flood?

With Storm Frank due to hit on Tuesday evening and the likelihood of further flood damage, insurance firm LV has provided the following tips for those most at risk:

  • Move possessions and important documents to a safe area (preferably upstairs) and move all electrical goods and valuables off the floor.
  • Put irreplaceable photos in waterproof bags and move them to dry areas if possible.
  • List useful contacts – keep important details such as your home insurance provider's phone number and policy number to hand.
  • Have disaster supplies readily available including flashlights, batteries and a first aid kit.

The British Red Cross has launched a free Emergency app providing real-time updates and severe weather warnings, along with practical advice for before, during and after a flood. It's worth keeping up-to-date with weather warnings in your area, too, by entering your postcode on Gov.uk.

BIBA also suggests signing up to the Environment Agency flood alerts so you have time to turn off the electricity, move cars, rescue pets and move property if necessary.