By Dakota Murphey

The widespread floods in the summer of 2007 captured everyone’s attention and showed just how devastating floods can be for families and homes across the UK. But with nearly 200,000 commercial properties at risk across England and Wales, businesses need to be more aware of the flooding risks and ensure that they are fully prepared.

Over the next 25 years, because of global warming, more properties will be affected by surface water (pluvial) flooding rather than by the more traditional river, or fluvial flooding.

Many companies protect themselves against burglaries with alarms, security companies and CCTV, but do they have plans in place to help prevent flooding? Valuable stock can be damaged or completely ruined, so businesses need to address their flood prevention and clean-up plans.

Flooding can happen anywhere, even if your business is not situated near a river, a lake, the sea, or a watercourse. Here’s how different types of flooding can affect your business:

  • Pluvial, or Surface Water Flooding is caused when water that’s falling on or flowing over the ground, overwhelms the drainage systems.
  • Fluvial, or Coastal and River Flooding occurs when rivers burst their banks due to very intense rainfall. Coastal flooding, which can be predicated in advance, is caused by high tides that breach sea defences and flood the surrounding areas.
  • Groundwater Flooding is the most problematic type of flooding, but it can also be predicted in advance by the Environment Agency who monitor aquifer levels in the UK. Where an area of land is predominantly chalk, aquifers are normally present. These are underground layers of water-bearing permeable rock. When they fill and overflow, natural springs and rivers and streams that are normally dry in the summer months also fill, causing groundwater flooding to occur.

Preparing Your Business for a Flood

By being prepared with a flood plan most companies can save up to 90% on the cost of lost stock and moveable equipment. A flood plan also helps to protect staff, limit property damage, minimise disruption, maintain records of customers, suppliers and business records.

A flood plan details the steps needed to be taken to prepare your business for a flood. It also helps you and your staff to respond promptly. Once you’ve drawn up your flood plan, make sure every member of staff has a copy. Whether your business is in a high-risk flood area or not, there are various measures you can adopt to help reduce damage and loss.

Store valuable stock items as high up as possible, and make your property is more resistant to flooding and easier to clean up afterwards. The measures you put in place may have the additional benefit of reducing your insurance premiums.

Installing Flood Barriers

By installing permanent or removable flood barriers, you should be able to prevent water entering your business premises. These barriers can be used to seal basins, drains, toilets, doors and windows and will hold back flood waters that could reach up to a metre high.

Here are a few things you can do to help reduce the damage of flood water:

  • Raise electrical sockets, light switches and ventilation systems.
  • Raise expensive equipment and machinery by fitting them on plinths.
  • Use lime-based plaster on the walls.
  • Make sure to regularly back up your customer and supplier data.
  • Store all your customer files and supplier contracts in a safe place well above water level.
  • Keep your insurance policies in a secure and easily accessible place.
  • Keep a check on the drains to make sure they’re working efficiently.
  • Have a supply of disinfectant and sandbags standing by.

Cleaning Up After a Flood

With flooding comes health risks – minimise these by taking general hygiene precautions, and make sure the health and safety of your staff is not compromised.

Here are few things to include in your clean-up plan:

  • Make sure your staff are aware of safety precautions whilst carrying out the clean-up.
  • Make sure your staff wear protective clothing.
  • Handle debris from equipment and from the floodwaters with great care.
  • Make sure your staff don’t come into direct contact with dangerous or sharp objects as well as contaminated materials.
  • Before disposing of any business equipment contact your insurers.
  • Disinfect all surfaces affected by the flood.
  • Dry out the property using dehumidifiers and keep windows open for ventilation.
  • If the flood waters have disturbed rodents, hire a professional contractor to clean up this problem.