Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA) has hundreds of professional removal vans on standby to remove furniture and valuables from homes at risk of flooding this winter.

The insurer is monitoring flood forecasts from the Met Office, so it can be prepared to take out furniture before a property floods.

R&SA is also compiling a database of customers' mobile phone numbers, so they can be warned about the risk of flooding before it happens.

R&SA claims team manager Bob Fitzsimmons said: "We are currently in talks about how we can provide this service without causing policyholders unnecessary aggravation. There needs to be a balance and sound advice, so we do not panic people."

He added the initiative should help cut the cost of claims and limit the loss of sentimental items and
heirlooms in cases of flooding. Emptying the property will also help to speed up the drying out and repair process.

R&SA already has a relationship with Pickfords, which it uses to remove furniture after a claim, in cases such as subsidence claims.

The Environment Agency recently sent out a warning that water tables were dangerously high for this time of year and more flooding was imminent in parts of the UK.

Fitzsimmons said: "Water levels have been unusually high for the whole summer, meaning in many parts the ground is like a big sponge half-full with water."

He added insurers were still concerned that not enough had been done by the government to improve flood defences. "We are giving this two years. We are still insuring people, but can't keep on taking hits year on year," he said.

"Flood defences have been put in place in some places, but not in others and people living in areas that were badly affected by flooding last year, such as Lewes, are getting concerned."

However, he said flood-predicting technology was becoming more sophisticated, allowing insurers to take action more quickly.