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In the wake of one of the wettest winters on record, flooding expert Alan Scrafton explains the steps businesses can take to prevent future damage and disruption.
Sugar coated with human identities – Barney, Desmond, Frank, Eva and most recently, Imogen, - winter 2015/2016 has seen the UK battered by a host of named storms, each of them bringing varying degrees of flooding and devastation in their wake.
The UK government has estimated that 5.2 million properties (around one in six) are at risk of flooding in England with flood damage costing around £1.1 billion annually.
As well as the immense misery and suffering these storms caused to individuals, businesses were hit hard too. According to the Association of British Insurers, insurance companies paid out £1.7 million to residential customers and £900,000 to commercial customers after Storm Desmond alone. There were 23,700 claims for property storm and flood damage, 4,000 of these relating to businesses.
If your business was affected, now is the time to look to the future, dust yourself off from recent events, and put proper plans in place to deal with the next round of extreme weather.
Caused by global warming, El Nino, or just a freak of nature, whatever you believe, the facts are hard to deny – the UK is getting wetter, more areas are experiencing flooding, and to deal with it requires a head on and considered approach, focusing on prevention, rather than reacting when it’s too late.
For those of you that have so far remained unscathed, complacency is naïve. A flood risk assessment can predict a sites potential for flooding up to 60 years in the future. In the short-term, signing up for the Environment Agencies flood alerts, will help you take action before the water comes lapping at your door.
Robust defence: If you’ve been flooded already, it’s reasonably safe to say that this may happen again. There are permanent and temporary flood defences that businesses can deploy around key areas of their site – such as to protect a data centre for example. Your priority should be the equipment that keeps you operational; preventing downtime, will prevent lost earnings.
Stock-up on sand bags, or equivalent (there are some much lighter weight options available, which use a polymer gel instead of sand), so you can be prepared once a flood warning’s been issued. Clever ways of preventing water entering your building include self-closing air bricks and pipes, designed to stop water in its tracks.
Prepare for pollution: Flooding and pollution often go hand in hand. If your business stores quantities of fuel or chemicals on site, having the correct spill kits can act as a first-line of defence, limiting damage to the environment and risk to human health.
Plan for the worst: Whether your property comes under regular flooding attack, it’s an occasional occurrence or something that might happen in the future, you need to plan for the worst. Appoint someone in charge of implementing this plan, which should cover the following:
· Making sure staff are safe, with evacuation procedure where necessary
· Moving essential equipment (such as PCs) to a higher level, away from the flood water
· Implementation of any flood defences and/or spill kits
· Alternative premises – this is key for businesses that want to keep operational. While not possible for every company, if all you need is the internet and some desks, have a back-up work space lined-up. This could be rented, or call in a favour from a friendly client (or competitor!)
· Communicating to customers. Social media can really help here and can also help you find out about flooding issues affecting your area.
Call in support: Make sure you have a contact list of support for emergencies. Apart from the emergency services, this could include IT support, your local council and the Environment Agency.
Once the rain stops and the temperature rises it can be easy to forget the wet and murky depths of winter. Don’t be complacent, find out your flood risk, safeguard your business and make sure that you stand at least a fighting chance against what Mother Nature may have in-store next...
Adler and Allan provide flood mitigation and response services, available 24/7, 365 days a year. For more information, visit: www.adlerandallan.co.uk.
How To Protect Your Business From Flood Damage