HOMEOWNERS in flood-risk areas of Edinburgh are being urged to collect sandbags from fire stations to prepare for severe winter weather.
Fire chiefs have launched the service this weekend and are warning residents to be ready for possible rain or snow in the months to come.
The free sandbags are available at more than half a dozen fire stations across the city.
John Dickie, local senior officer for Edinburgh at Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue, said: “Every year people are affected by flooding and it can cause significant disruption and damage for householders.
“Preparing a plan for what to do if flooding strikes will mean you are better able to react quickly in an emergency.”
Heavy downpours in July flooded Inverleith Park and the Stockbridge Colonies, forcing residents from their homes.
In recent years, a number of Edinburgh and South Queensferry neighbourhoods have also been affected by extremely heavy rainfall, which led to the severe damage of some homes.
Among the residents whose homes were flooded during the summer was Jim Wolff, who lives in an upper floor Colony and works in advertising.
He said: “I hadn’t realised but the Water of Leith had actually burst its banks, so it wasn’t long before the water was at waist height. Our home was OK as we were upstairs, but everyone on the ground floor was faced with flooding.
“While sandbags did eventually arrive, it took a while for them to get there as there had been flooding all over the city.
“There isn’t much you can do to stop the water flow when severe rainfall like that occurs, but we could have definitely been better prepared. I certainly wouldn’t just ignore it and go back to bed again.
“I now keep an eye on the weather forecast and wouldn’t hesitate to move my car to higher ground if heavy rain is on its way. We also have some sandbags ready in the area so we are prepared before the cavalry arrives.
“It really made me stop and think about how severe weather can affect us. With winter on its way I’ve already started getting ready for it at home – I’ve pulled together an emergency kit with things like a wind-up torch, water supplies and even a household plan.”
Lesley Hinds, the city’s environment leader, said: “The fact that residents can now collect sandbags at their convenience will make it easier for them to feel confident that their homes are protected.”
She also urged people to “protect their properties effectively” with the bags.