With a changing climate and more extreme weather events, there is a continual increasing exposure to flooding, whether river, coastal or surface water. It’s often stated, however, that if you take effective action in response to a flood or extreme weather warning, , you can avoid significant damage to your business.

Effective action requires effective planning and preparation and the first step is identifying the risk and setting up warning systems. Don’t rely on last minute ad hoc measures and fall victim to the resulting business interruption. Make your business resilient.

The more at risk your business is, the more important it is for you to take steps to try to manage that risk before it happens.

  • Assess your flood risk using the various tools available online and by conducting a survey of your premises, or employ a competent contractor to do this for you. Basement areas, slopes or steps down into lower parts of a building, local drainage systems, and where utilities enter the premises are examples of aspects that will require consideration.
  • Remember flooding can occur during any time of the year (not just the winter period), and from various sources including river, coastal and surface water run-off from flash flooding; so include these aspects in your flood risk assessments.
  • Sign up for  flood and  extreme weather warnings, so that you can set into motion the emergency actions you have planned at the earliest possible moment.
  • Plan for the possibility of flooding. From your investigations, you should have established to what depth it is predicted flood waters might reach. This, together with the nature of your buildings and the likely effect on your business, will influence the decisions that you take and the plans you make.

    - Make sure you have considered all sources of flooding as part of a suitable business continuity plan (sometimes referred to as a disaster recovery plan) to help prepare your business cope with the various events which might disrupt it.
  • Make sure you keep copies of your flood response and business continuity plan away from the area around your premises that is likely to be flooded.

    - Advice (including an example) on what to include in a flood plan, can be found within the Environment Agency’s guide, "Would your business stay afloat? A guide to preparing your business for flooding"
  • Don’t forget routine items that can also be helpful to reduce the risk of water damage, e.g. periodic inspection, maintenance and cleaning out of drains, gullies and gutters.
  • Seek specialist advice if you are considering either a permanent barrier wall around a site or a proprietary barrier system for a building. How well suited a building is for a particular flood protection product or system depends upon a range of factors, particularly the type of external walls involved, how strong they are, how likely they are to allow water to seep through (e.g. via joints, seams or other gaps and openings) and the pressure which will be exerted upon them by the depth of flood water expected.

    - With barrier schemes it is also necessary to take into account the risk of flood water entering a building via toilets, drains, etc., so check the need for non-return valves on them.

    - Air bricks also need to be considered for protection.
  • Consult the Environment Agency’s publication, "Sandbags: how to use them to prepare for a flood" if/where you’ve decided not to provide a permanent proprietary barrier system and are instead going to rely upon sandbags and other removable barriers.
  • Raise important equipment and installations, such as electrical intake panels, electrical plug sockets, boilers, computer servers and other expensive vulnerable items, above the floor level. You should be aiming for at least 100mm or more where possible.
  • Other flood resilient measures should be considered, such as specialist interior finishes, fixtures and fittings etc, allowing flood waters to drain away without any damage or need for repair.

    - Repositioning items onto higher floor levels should also be considered if available/practical.
  • Areas below ground level, such as basements, are naturally vulnerable to flooding as water will always find the lowest point and require special consideration. Think about;

    - Suitable drainage, including sump pumps where appropriate

    - Avoiding storage, vulnerable high specification finishes, valuable equipment and critical services, such as electrical, gas etc intake

    - If storage is unavoidable, minimise the amount or keep raised off the floor by at least 100mm or sufficient to clear the depth of expected flood waters

    - Flood resilient measures as previously detailed.
  • Include procedures in your flood plan to ensure that unauthorised and untrained individuals don’t enter a flood damaged building until it’s been made safe. It can be dangerous to enter a flood damaged building, as, for instance, there may be structural damage or a live or damaged electrical supply.

    - Utilities (e.g. gas supply) may be affected and need to be checked, cleaned or purged and/or replaced.
  • Keep in mind that there may be contamination from sewage and other pollutants in the flood water and this will present a health hazard until removed by trained, suitably protected, professionals, working to a risk assessment-based safe system of work.

    - You may need to make special arrangements for damaged or contaminated items which have to be disposed of, particularly if they do, or may, fall into the category of “hazardous waste” as defined under regulations.

    - Don’t dispose of affected goods until you’ve spoken to your insurance advisor or the loss adjuster appointed by the insurance company.
 
 
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Frequently asked questions
Find answers to some common queries about managing risks to people, property and business continuity.