Flooding - be prepared

Recent floods have caused significant damage to homes and properties across Cornwall. Businesses have had to close, stock has been damaged, and the total cost will run into millions of pounds.

Flooding is a major risk for businesses across the country. If your business is located in an at-risk area, you should make sure that you take precautions to minimise the potential damage.

Are you at risk?

To begin with, you should determine whether or not your premises are at risk of flooding. There are flood plains across the country, although flood risks tend to be highest around large bodies of water such as rivers or coasts. There is also a risk of surface water flooding, which occurs when rain falls so heavily that the drainage system cannot cope.

Depending on the nature of your business, you may also wish to consider the potential impact of flooding on your suppliers. If you rely on a single supplier (for example a manufacturer) and they are located in an area that is particularly at risk of flooding, you may wish to consider asking what precautions they have taken. In extreme circumstances you might want to develop contingencies to help you cope in the event that your supplier is hit by floods.

Get insured

Insurance is a key element of your flood preparedness. It is vital that you have a good business insurance policy regardless of your proximity to flood plains, but this necessity is made all the more important if you are in an at-risk area.

Your business insurance policy should cover you against flood damage caused to your premises. It is worth noting, though, that it is not uncommon for business owners to have to make emergency repairs to their building in order to prevent more serious damage. In most cases you will have to pay for these repairs yourself, and you will then have the cost returned to you by your insurance company. As a result, you may wish to set aside some contingency money if you are frequently hit by flooding, or if you think you are at risk. You should also make sure that you keep all receipts in order to aid a potential insurance claim.

You may also wish to consider taking out business interruption insurance. This will help to cover your lost income during periods when you cannot trade normally. Make sure that you read business interruption policies carefully in order to ensure that they are suitable for your circumstances.

Develop suitable protection methods

There is a range of flood protection methods, each of which may be suitable in different circumstances. Many people simply rely on sandbags, but it is important to note that these are likely to be of limited use on their own. While sandbags are handy for slowing the rate at which water enters a property, they cannot be relied on as the primary means of flood protection.

You might consider investing in flood protectors for your doors and other ground-floor openings. These should generally be custom-made in order to ensure a watertight fit.

The Environment Agency also recommends making sure that electrical sockets are at least 1.5 metres above ground level in order to prevent potentially dangerous water damage. You should always hire a properly trained electrician to perform this task if you are unsure.

Consider alternative storage

If you are anticipating flooding, you may also wish to consider finding alternative storage for stock and equipment. This should ideally be within easy reach of your premises, but safe from flood risk. Clearly, storage on the upper floors of a building (or out of the flood area altogether) would be preferable.

Flooding is a major problem for businesses across the UK, and yet many firms in at-risk areas fail to take any precautions whatsoever. The recent scenes in Cornwall perfectly demonstrate the potential impact of flooding on businesses and individuals. By taking a few simple steps you can significantly mitigate the risk to your organisation and your livelihood.