For a business owner there’s nothing worse than having an unplanned standstill and then spending time and energy chasing insurers. Unfortunately, both scenarios are pretty common with businesses who have been affected by flooding. For the last 20 years there has been at least one major episode of national-scale flooding and hundreds of localised cases.
Every year UK businesses suffer significant losses through downtime, damage and the cost of lost stock due to flooding. This basic list will guide you through some of the actions that you can take to ensure that your business is fully prepared for flooding.
We will also look at the basics of creating an actionable flood plan for your company.
Check the map
To see what environmental data the UK Government has on your area, check this website: https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/long-term-flood-risk It will tell you what’s the likelihood of your business being affected by flood. Established businesses can do very little about their location, however, if you’re thinking of opening a new business or relocating an existing one, checking this map might be the wisest thing you’ve ever done.
Receive flood warnings
If your business is based in a high-risk flood zone, you can sign up to receive flood warnings from Floodline Warnings Direct. The number to call is 0345 988 1188 and you can opt in to receive warnings via telephone, text or email. If you’re not eligible for this service but you think your business premises can be affected by flooding, visit the Met Office website where you can set up email alerts and download an app that will send you flood alerts free of charge.
Staying safe and legal
Unlike homeowners who only have their families and households to worry about, as a business owner you’re also responsible for a range of legal issues. When thinking about the ways of preparing your business for flooding, beyond planning for loss reduction, you should also concentrate on the company’s credibility and responsibility as well as compliance with Occupier’s Liability Act to avoid additional legal troubles.
Although in normal circumstances no man can be held responsible for an act of god, there have been precedents in the court room where a landowner owes a measured duty in negligence to take reasonable measures of preventing damage caused to neighbouring properties. For example, an illegal drainage system that contributes to the flooding of a neighbouring property can lead to a successful contest on part of the neighbour and may cost the business owner a significant amount of money and loss of credibility.
In many cases “measured duty” is at the discretion of the judge as he considers questions such as: how predictable was the flood risk, were preventive measures available and what were the resources and preventive actions of the neighbour suffering flood damage.
Preparing your business for flooding through proper planning
Preparing your business for flooding means having a proper plan in place. You would consider it completely normal to have a health and safety policy in place, so why is it so unusual for a business to have a flood plan prepared?
A good flood plan is a well thought through document describing strategies for protecting the premises, preventing downtime and facilitating a fast recovery.
The introduction of this document usually contains a list of contacts both within the company and those of emergency services and Floodline.
Just like with a fire safety plan, a good plan of flood prevention measures should contain an evacuation plan. Unlike with fire safety where the best advice is to leave premises as quickly and orderly as possible, when it comes to flood protection, you usually have more time to act, that’s why you need an actionable checklist.
As flooding is an emergency, you need to come up with a list of resources available at your disposal. It includes both human resources and facilities. Designate the person responsible for executing the flood plan and make sure this person is fully equipped and trained to do the job efficiently.
A flood plan should also contain a list of locations – such as fuse boxes, gas points and the water mains inlet; an evacuation plan and a list of people with special needs to make sure those people are moved to safety as a matter of priority.
What flood prevention systems are available
Apart from the flood-proof doors that many insurers are trying to push as a universal flood defence solution, most businesses and utility companies will benefit from owning or renting temporary flood barriers. Considering most affected businesses lose upwards of £40,000 in case of flood damage, and 40% of small businesses never re-open after flooding, spending a couple of thousand pounds on flood defence solutions seems like a reasonable thing to do.
Businesses should review what they think they know about flood defence systems as the concept of using sandbags is outdated. An independent report completed by Sir Michael Pitt showed no evidence that sandbags provided any tangible flood protection and suggested that sandbags should be phased out. Yet businesses and utility companies keep investing in sandbags that take too much time and effort to deploy and don’t really offer effective protection.
Another advantage of modern temporary flood blocks is that they are reusable, whereas sandbags are not.
Insurance won’t cover everything
For businesses that are located in flood risk zones, strategic planning is key. You will want to make sure all valuables are stored as high off the ground as possible. If your premises have more than one storey, keep as few items of value on the ground floor as possible. As you probably know, there are items that are not covered by your insurance policy, no matter how comprehensive it is. You need a strategy in place to manage these items.
There are still a lot of issues waiting to be sorted out when it comes to business insurance. The quality of cover differs from provider to provider and policy to policy. Quite understandably, insurers are sometimes using loopholes to avoid paying the full amount of insurance claim, and you can really see their point when they say the UK businesses are not fully prepared for unexpected flooding. On the other hand, the Environmental Agency criticises insurers for their inability to protect businesses.
Having robust flood defence systems in place, such as flood-proof doors or temporary flood blocks, can save both businesses and insurers hundreds of millions of pounds a year. Yet many businesses are playing a waiting game. Expecting their council to step up, without realising that the council, in turn, is waiting for Government funding to increase. With this waiting-game continuing for the last few years, it seems that in the end it is each business person’s own responsibility to ensure their company remains “afloat” no matter the weather.