How to protect your business from flooding risk

Blogs 22 Mar 2022

Around 4 in 10 businesses do not reopen after suffering a catastrophic loss due to flooding because they do not have suitable contingency plans in place.

This article was first published in First Voice. Written by Simon Crowther, CEO of FPS Group.

Approximately 30 per cent of commercial properties are at risk of flooding in the UK.

The media tends to show us the devastation that extreme weather can cause to people’s homes, but what is often overlooked is the effect it can have on businesses. Around four in 10 businesses do not reopen after suffering a catastrophic loss due to flooding because they do not have suitable contingency plans in place.

There is no denying that extreme weather and flooding is becoming increasingly common. Government data shows that over half (57 per cent) of UK firms believe their business will in some way be affected by climate change over the next 10 years. However, despite the concerns and risks, very few businesses (20 per cent) have put together continuity plans should the worst happen.

Even after a business has recovered from the short-term effects of flooding, it doesn’t mean it has recovered. The time spent cleaning up debris, completing insurance claims, sorting through loss of stock and potentially not being able to trade may all result in hefty costs. There are also potential property issues, such as mould and dampness which if not detected and treated will cause bigger problems in the future.

It is essential that all business and property owners are aware of their flood risk and can prepare for it. This includes taking precautions to assess a flood risk prior to moving premises, and managing any existing risk. The following tips will help you do this:

Assess the risk

The quickest and easiest way to check if your property is prone to flooding is to check a flood risk map. In England, the Environment Agency provides freely available maps which give information about long-term flood risk to properties. 

Explore insurance options

In 2016, the UK Government introduced the FloodRe Insurance scheme. The scheme created a collective fund worth £2.1 billion that reduces insurers’ costs to cover people living in flood-prone areas. Unfortunately for businesses, FloodRe isn’t available for insurance for commercial premises.

FSB Insurance Service has been looking into ways businesses can protect themselves from flooding. They have partnered with a special scheme underwritten at Lloyd’s to help businesses in high-risk areas acquire flood insurance if they weren’t able to get cover elsewhere. FSB Insurance Service also have a partnership with an event-based insurer called FloodFlash, an exciting disruptor in the flood insurance industry.

Mitigate the risk

Flood risk mitigation for existing buildings fall under two options: flood resilience and flood resistance.

The main difference between flood resistance and resilience is that resistance aims to prevent water entering a building, whereas resilience aims to reduce the damage that is done when water has to enter a building and speed up the recovery process.

Flood resistance measures aim to prevent water entering a particular area of a building. These can include options such as:

  •  Aperture protection: flood doors or flood barriers
  •  Backflow protection: non-return valves to prevent sewer surcharge
  •  Other: Self-closing airbricks or water pumps

Flood resistance may even include internal bunds around expensive machinery, defending it from flood waters. It is important to instruct a survey prior to investing in measures to ensure they are suitable for the construction, risk and client.

Flood resilience is where emphasis is placed on making a site recoverable from a flooding event as quickly as economically as possible. Often, it includes allowing buildings to flood internally. This option is often used where the prevention of flood water cannot feasibly be achieved. This may include a flood action plan, along with resilience measures.

These could include:

  •  Raise internal apparatus: Where possible, any internal apparatus that is not designed to resist water ingress should be raised above flood level (for example, office computers could be wall-mounted as opposed to towers on the floor). Any electrical sockets should also be raised
  •  Impermeable floors: Flooring should be made of materials that can be easily cleaned and washed down, such as concrete or tiling
  •  Isolate/disconnect equipment: Any equipment which is used daily and is mobile should be raised and stored at a higher level prior to flooding occurring
  •  Raised storage: The storage of any equipment or materials should be permanently located above the flood level, reducing the requirement for its movement prior to a flood event occurring
  •  Back-up data off-site, for instance through cloud storage

Create a flood action plan

In order to efficiently prepare for a potential future flood event, it is advantageous to prepare an all-encompassing flood action plan, to include the following:

  •  Register to receive up-to-date flood warning information
  •  Identify all apparatus and vehicles that would be require movement prior to flooding occurring
  •  Identify any key areas or items which could not be moved and are vital to protect. An internal bund/barrier could be created to encircle and protect key assets (rather than the whole building). Puddle pumps or sumps would be recommended in these areas
  •  Appoint responsible staff to enact all actions prior to flooding occurring
  •  Contact list of all supply chain partners that may need to be temporarily called off during a flood event
  •  Create a flood recovery plan outlining in detail the clean-up operation required to get the site back up and running as soon as possible

The emphasis is to minimise the recovery time after a flood event has occurred to a number of days rather than weeks.

Ensure information is up to date

Understanding drainage is especially important if the property is at risk from flooding. Even with a flood defence barrier, due to pressure differential, flood water can rise up and come out of a property drainage system such as a downstairs toilet or sink and flood the property.

Where possible, a drainage plan should be stored in a building information model (BIM). It can be very beneficial such that any blockages within a property’s drainage network can be quickly and easily dealt with, as this can significantly minimise flood risk.

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