Businesses and Flooding - How to Manage Your Flood Risk

The last few days and weeks have seen unprecedented severe weather conditions hit the UK. As a result, many businesses and families have been forced to deal with the devastating impact of flooding and weather damage.

Richard Gorst, Director of Mitchell Charlesworth Insurance Solutions (MCIS), has put together the following guide for businesses that particularly focuses on flooding but can also apply to other extreme weather conditions.

Above all however, our thoughts are with all of those families and businesses who have been affected by the adverse weather and we offer you all our best wishes at this difficult time and hope that you are safe and well and that your business can be up and running as soon as possible.

This guide outlines some practical measures that you can take now if you have been affected by flooding, what you should do during a flood, what you should do if you believe flooding might be imminent and how you can protect your property against future flood threats.

Most importantly, you should let your insurance broker/company know as soon as you are affected by flooding and let them know what has happened. By delaying this contact, you may inadvertently slow down the claim process and any recovery efforts.

Moreover, if you think you might be affected by flooding in the coming days, weeks or further afield, let your insurance broker/provider know now so that you can ensure you are properly covered in the event of a flood.

What you should do if you have been affected by flooding?

  • You should contact your insurance broker/company without delay and advise them about what has happened. Your insurance broker/company will be able to offer you expert guidance and contact any specialist services providers who can help you in the first instance.
  • Do not use any gas or electricity in your property until you have been told by a qualified person that appropriate checks have taken place.
  • If you will have to make an insurance claim, do not dispose of any items and take photos of any damage to contents or the building as this will assist with your claim.
  • Once you believe that the threat of further flooding has passed, remove any flood protection aids (such as covers on air bricks) to allow air to circulate and trapped water to escape.
  • Call some drying companies so that they can set up some dehumidifiers as soon as possible after the flooding has occurred. The key is to prevent water from getting into the foundations of the building which will cause longer term issues.

What you should do during a flood?

  • Most importantly, ensure that you are prepared to get your employees, customers and yourself to safety as quickly as possible and cooperate with the emergency services.
  • Do not try and drive or walk through flooded water. It only takes as little as 2 feet of water to float a car and 6 inches of water to knock you off your feet.
  • Avoid contact with any flood water as much as possible as it may become contaminated.
  • Be aware that there may be hazards you cannot see, such as dislodged manhole covers.
  • Try and avoid walking on bridges, river banks or sea defences as they may be unstable or you could be swept off by a large wave.
  • If you have a basement or cellar and water is coming into the premises, you could try and route the water flow into these areas and pump out. It is better to flood a basement and actively man a pump to pump it all out rather than having the water travel through the ground floor of the entire building.

How to act if the threat of flooding is imminent?

  • Similarly to above, if you believe that flooding is imminent, ensure that you are prepared to get your employees and customers to safety as quickly as possible and cooperate with the emergency services.
  • If possible, and if there is no immediate threat to you in doing so, turn off your electricity, water and gas supplies at the mains.
  • If you have time, deploy any temporary flood measures such as sandbags and any other barriers that might be able to stop water from entering your premises.
  • You should try and seal the soil drainage to stop any water from getting into the buildings drainage system, thus preventing contaminated water from entering the building.
  • Move any machinery, furniture, stock and carpets to higher floors, if possible.
  • Should there be time, move your vehicles and trailers to higher ground.
  • If you have left stock in any open yards, consider relocating for a short period or move it inside.
  • Close off any flow valves on oil tanks and gas tanks.
  • While it is impossible to eliminate the risk of flooding entirely, there may be ways to reduce the risk of damage and to prepare in advance if you know that your property is in a high risk area.

How to Prepare for Flooding? – Analyse the Risk:

You should begin by assessing the level of risk to your business and property: Is your property located on a flood plain or low lying area? Is there prior flooding history? Are you resident near to a river/reservoir/stream? Do you have any cellars/basements that have previously been affected by flooding? Are there any signs of previous water damage on your property? Are you located near to a surface water draining ditch that may be prone to flooding when put under pressure by high volumes of water?

How to Prepare for Flooding – Practical Steps

  • If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then you may wish to consider the following points that will help you reduce flood risk and be ready should the worse happen:
  • Let your insurance broker/company know about the flood risk. This will allow them to put the right insurance options in place should the worse happen.
  • Make sure you have an emergency plan in place to protect your employees, customers, visitors and yourself in the event of flooding. You could also have a flood kit (that may include first aid kit, torch, mobile phone, wellington boots, waterproof clothing and blankets).
  • Keep your business critical documents away from at risk areas. These should include the emergency services’ numbers, emergency helpline numbers, your insurer’s contact details, your clients’ contact details and your suppliers’ contact details.
  • Stay up to date with flood alert warnings by subscribing to flood alert warnings.
  • Consider placing critical stock/equipment to higher floors or parts of the premises that are less prone to flooding.
  • If you have stock in the open, try and raise this off the ground using shelves or metal racks.
  • You may wish to replace furniture, fixture and fittings with more water resistant options such as plastic lining, water resistant coverings etc.
  • You might choose to invest in some flood protection barriers such as air brick covers, sandbags or other barriers.
  • Make sure you check your premises regularly for any areas of vulnerability such as defects, cracks and gaps through which water could pass. Once you have found these places where water could enter, make sure you seal them.
  • Regularly inspect drainage systems and guttering. If you notice that local street drainage is overflowing during times of heavy rainfall, contact your local authority and ask them to unblock the drain.
  • You may choose to install one-way valves into your drainage pipes which will prevent sewage backing up into the house.

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