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Flooding is the most frequent natural disaster in the UK. Every year many businesses only realise when it is too late that they do not have adequate protection against flooding. Widespread flooding is now expected to happen at least once every year and statistics reveal that there is no sign of a let up. One chilling statistic is that January 2014 was the wettest January since records began almost 250 years ago. We don’t have to think very far back to remember the major disruption caused by Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis. The effects of flooding can be devastating and, in some cases, catastrophic to businesses, with damage not only to equipment and stock but also to the property itself. In a worst-case scenario, there can be danger to the lives of both staff and customers.

More likelihood of businesses being flooded than being destroyed by fire

The Environment Agency reports that since 1998 there has been at least one serious flood every year. Businesses are in fact more likely to be flooded than destroyed by fire. It also reports that more floods are expected due to the extremes of weather that we are now experiencing. Flooding is totally unpredictable and can happen at any time and sometimes with little warning. It’s therefore a good policy to have preparations in place to protect your business.

Preparing a flood plan

A flood plan is a written document that outlines how your business will respond to a flood. It will help you to identify and allocate tasks if flooding occurs. This can minimise damage and works in a similar way to a fire drill. It determines if the plan of action you are putting in place would operate efficiently and ensures that your employees fully understand what to do. If you have a large business, you can establish a muster point, which will make it easier to know if all employees are out of the building and that everyone has been accounted for. Make sure you review your flood plan annually as an absolute minimum.

What to include when making a flood plan:

  • List of important contacts – insurance company, Floodline, customers, suppliers, staff evacuation contacts, building services
  • A map showing locations of key equipment and protective materials and where electricity, gas and other services shut-off points can be found
  • Actions to take to protect your property
  • What to do to minimise business disruption and assist recovery
  • Training and procedures for employees

Floodline is the flood warning and information service in the UK. It issues flood warnings to businesses using data from rain, river and coastal gauges combined with weather forecasts to predict the timing and likelihood of flooding. The service is free and you can be alerted via phone, email or text message if your business is at risk of flooding.

Protecting equipment and products from flooding

Taking precautions may enable your business to continue operating or minimise the length of time you are out of action. Special protective measures should be taken with computers, paper files, electrical items, computer files and databases.

  • Try to store important documentation in a safe location and make copies
  • Raise items above ground level where possible
  • Purchase flood resistant items
  • Move items to a safer location such as a higher floor or to another location
  • Invest in flood stopping devices – sandbags, hydrosacks, flood gates, water extraction and clean up equipment
  • Flood protection items – tools, wood, plastic sheeting, pallets, emergency generator

Staff training in the event of flooding to your business

In order to respond quickly and appropriately in the event that your business is flooded, your employees will need flood training. This is vital to not only protect individual staff members, but also to help anyone else who may be on the premises including customers, suppliers and contractors. Quick actions may minimise the potential damage that flooding causes to your business. Staff will need to know what constitutes a flood warning and what to do if one is issued. The potential dangers of flooding should be recognised by employees and they should know how to evacuate the business premises.

Take action to minimise damage

Depending on the size of your business, you may want to appoint flood wardens. They can be trained in shutting down the business, the use of any flood protection equipment you may have and most importantly the safe evacuation of the building. Part of the evacuation training should include information on which roads that will stay open during a flood and locations where staff can take shelter. Remember if you have warning that a flood is imminent, there may be actions that can be taken to prepare your building and contents to minimise damage and the costs of repair and restoration.

Types of insurance to cover your business if you are flooded

In essence, there is no specific ‘flood damage insurance’. Flooding can be covered in buildings cover and contents cover. Buildings cover covers the financial costs of repairing or rebuilding the physical structure of a building in the event of damage through flooding. Contents cover covers possessions in the event that they are damaged or destroyed by a flood.

However, it is worth checking your policies carefully as many don’t cover losses resulting from floods. You might be thinking that if you live in a low-risk flood area, it’s cover that you really don’t need to take out. However, it’s not just business premises located in river basins or coastal areas that can be subject to floods.

Business Interruption Insurance

You should also consider business interruption cover, which is designed to help compensate you for any financial losses that you may incur if you cannot operate your business for a period of time. This could be the result of flooding. It can support you while you are getting your business re-established and include cover for loss of turnover, compensation for lost profits, help towards paying employees’ wages and temporary relocation costs.

Stock and Contents Insurance

Stock and contents cover is designed to protect the equipment and possessions in your work premises and covers items in the event that they are damaged by flooding. In general, this covers fittings, fixtures, furniture, portable equipment, appliances and personal belongings of staff and customers.

What to do if you do experience flooding

The most important thing is to ensure that everyone stays safe and this will probably mean moving away from the flood area as quickly as possible. Don’t forget that floodwaters are extremely powerful and can be contaminated and hazardous to health. Only take photographs when it is safe to do so. Also, do not start the clean-up operation until your insurance provider has approved your claim.

  • Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible
  • Take photographs of the damage
  • Don’t clean up until your claim is approved
  • Prepare for next time

Checklist for protecting your business against flooding

  • Know if your business is at risk – access to flood warnings
  • Prepare a flood plan
  • Train your staff – safety and evacuation
  • Protect your property where possible
  • Check your business cover protects against flooding

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