flood plan

Preparing your business for flooding

Bad weather and flooding go hand in hand.  We can no longer rely on the seasons; climate change and temperature fluctuation means there doesn’t seem to be a time of the year where we can escape the threat of flooding.

If we close our eyes we can all relive emotive video footage of people whose lives have been unexpectedly turned upside down following a surge in water levels; it is an ill wind that blows in the rains that cause such turmoil.

For those people that also have businesses in flooded areas it can be doubly traumatic; business premises devastated along with their home, family matters to manage alongside the need to continue trading, with the likelihood that staff have similar issues to contend with.

According the ABI, 15-16,000 properties were affected by the floods of late 2015, early 2016 with a claims bill reaching nearly £5 billion.

So what is to blame? Climate change? Poor Local Authority planning? The desperate need for new homes no matter where? Whatever the reason, there are some good initiatives coming through, both nationally and locally that will help to protect and provide support to those affected by flooding. Nationally for some individuals, the FloodRe scheme is a positive step forward for accessing affordable insurance and the UK Government has recently announced £12.5 million is being invested into new temporary defences, with four times more temporary flood barriers in place than last year. At a local level, the Watermark Calderdale scheme is raising money to ensure there is access to sufficient funding for local businesses and households if and when future flooding hits. There are a number of other local schemes in place to help homeowners and businesses in flood risk areas and it is highly advisable to access these schemes early on.

The advice of Angus Dodds, head of restoration services with ServiceMaster, is to prepare, prepare, prepare.

“Here at ServiceMaster, our network of trained flood, and fire, restoration experts have been involved in flood restoration for decades. We’ve mobilised scores of our signature yellow vans to work across the length and breadth of the country and the most notable thing we’ve found is that so many are unprepared for the worst.

“Over the years the insurance industry has provide figures on the percentage of business that never recover from a major business interruption event. The message is clear “fail to plan, plan to fail” and when your business is your livelihood you must plan ahead.

“In general businesses will have fire alarms and sprinkler systems but flood or water damage is rarely considered. Business owners should incorporate flood in the wider context of a ‘Business Continuity Plan’ (BCP), which should also include fire and other unforeseen events.

The Environment Agency state that by preparing in advance for flooding, most businesses can save between 20 to 90 per cent of the cost of lost stock and moveable equipment.

“Our advice is simple, prepare your business for a flood; create a BCP that is understandable and practical and ensure that everyone in your business is familiar with the plan. It will be the document that helps you steer through your predicament. You’ll need to access it quickly in an emergency, 365/24/7,  whether you are inside or outside of your business premises; you just don’t when a flood might hit.

“So what does a flood plan look like? In short it is a risk assessment based upon the impact that the hazard (flood water) could have on your business. As with any risk assessment, once the hazard is identified it becomes practical to consider what risk control measures you can deploy.

“What can you do to eliminate the risk? A tall order as the immediate geography may not be within your control. For some, groundworks and physical barriers may be a viable option. How will you reduce the risk of loss? Some simple changes to the workplace may be affordable; ensure roofs, downpipes, gullies and drains are suitably maintained; water will always find the path of least resistance.

“How will you protect your most valuable assets? The location of machinery, finished goods and raw materials are critical. Most businesses are IT dependent so safeguarding your systems and commercial data on two independently located servers is a logical step – we have seen businesses where back-up data and main systems are stored side by side!

“So you are now starting to think business continuity, this means minimum disruption; keeping your customers happy, or simply keeping your customers and maintaining your cash flow.

“It is possible to be better informed in advance of severe weather and escalated flood alerts. The Environment Agency offers a great service called ‘Floodline Warnings Direct’ or you can use alert services from the Met Office.

“This will give you time to mitigate your losses and ensure the safety of your people. Having plans for your premises, where services are located, shut-offs, whether there is, or isn’t, asbestos in the structure. You’ll need to know where external drains and man holes are – you may remember the tragic footage of a man whose limb was trapped in a drain and drowned in rising flood water. This is all vital information for you and subsequent contractors working in the property.

“Your plan should identify where your services are for water, gas, IT and electricity and instructions on how to disable these if required.

“Your plan needs to include the necessary steps to ensure that any hazardous materials are controlled during a flood event; waterborne contaminants are unwelcome enough without adding to the toxic mix.

“Critically you will gather all the important contact information together; your insurers, including policy details, your local disaster restoration company, your electrical, gas and building contractors and emergency staff contact numbers.

“Having covered all this ground, you may well decide to take the BCP you have created to your insurer or broker to discuss how your preparedness would help reduce your premiums – or to ask what else you could do to reduce them further.

“We hope you’ll never need your plan or to use the services of ServiceMaster Clean but we are here for advice, support – but we will work to mitigate your losses if you do.”