How to protect your business against a flood

How to protect your business against a flood

In the UK, flooding is the most frequent natural disaster; figures show that for the last 16 years there has been a minimum of one major flood every year.

Statistics show the issue isn't easing; January 2014 was the wettest January since records began in 1766, with more than 7,800 homes and 3,000 commercial properties flooded.

Many small businesses are unprepared when it comes to flooding, but firms should put adequate measures in place to ensure they are as prepared as possible for a flood. By taking advance action, businesses can save not only some of the time and stress that comes with such an event, but also protect valuable equipment and lost stock. But how do you best prepare to protect your business against a flood?

1. Find out if you are at risk

Contact the Environmental Agency as they will be able to tell you if your business is in a flood-risk area. Alternatively, by entering your postcode onto their website you can see if you are in a location of risk. Be aware of water levels and weather conditions at all times; you can check the sea and river levels on their site.

2. Flood warnings

If you discover that your business is at risk, sign up to receive flood warnings. This is a 24-hour, free, automated service provided by the Environmental Agency that telephones you to warn you when a flood is likely to occur. Due to the often-rapid development of floods, it is essential to provide a number you are always contactable on. Sign up by visiting their website or calling 0845 988 1188.

3. Prepare a flood plan

You have health and safety documents in place, so it is only reasonable that you have documented flood plans. A clear, written plan makes it easier to remember, easier to communicate and easy to access in the event of a flood. In the case of small businesses, it is usually the responsibility of the business owner to put this plan together. This document should include all critical contacts, protective actions, a map of your business that locates service shut-off points (fuse boxes and stopcocks) and protective materials (such as sandbags), and an easily-accessible checklist of procedures.

You should consider the following actions as part of your flood plan:

  • Turn off gas and electricity supplies
  • If possible move valuable portable equipment (i.e. computers etc) from ground to a higher level
  • Compile a list of local disaster recovery companies who can assist with cases of flood

If you are in an area prone to flooding, you may also wish to consider implementing the following:

  • Raise damp proof courses
  • Cover ventilation bricks
  • Fit non return valves to drains and water inlet and outlet pipes
  • Fit water resistant skirting boards
  • Lay flooring tiles rather than fitted carpets
  • Raise electrical sockets, fuseboxes, controls and wiring to at least 1.5 metres above floor level
  • Ensure internal fittings in kitchens, bathrooms etc are constructed of watertight materials (i.e. stainless steel, plastic or solid wood rather than chipboard). Raise appliances on plinths where possible.

4. Staff training

Ensure that every member of your staff is aware of and are trained in the correct flood safety procedures. This means they will be able to act quickly and efficiently to protect your business. Add your flood plan into the employee handbook and place it in a shared drive on your firm's network.

5. Insuring against floods

Lastly, it is crucial that if your business is at risk of flood, you have sufficient insurance cover in place.

Buildings and contents insurance covers your office premises against accidental damage caused by floods (as well as other disasters such as fires, explosions and storms) to your office buildings, office contents and computer equipment. If you work from home, we can offer cover for your vital business equipment such as laptops and printers (please note that buildings insurance is not available for homeworkers).

Business interruption insurance is an often overlooked cover, yet it proves invaluable in the event of a flood. It covers any loss of income (or increased costs of working) if you are unable to work from your usual business premises. If your business has to be re-homed for months on end while drying out and repairs take place, this cover can help minimise the financial impact on your business.

It is advisable to talk to your insurer to make sure they have the correct information about your property - for example, if you have moved recently.

Call us on 0800 640 6600, or get an online quote in 90 seconds, to find out how little it costs to protect your business against a flood.

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Cover starting at £5 a month