There are an estimated 185,000 commercial properties at risk of flooding in England and Wales according to Environment Agency data. If your business is one of them, would you know what to do if the worst happened?
The recovery process following a flood event can be a lengthy and disruptive one. Below are a few of the key things you would need to be aware of and consider during the process of recovering your business from a flood.
Returning to the premises
Stay safe - Always return in the daytime and NEVER touch sources of electricity whilst standing in flood water. Either wait for the water to disperse or arrange for it to be pumped out. When safe to do so, turn off the electricity and all other utilities at the mains. If sewage water is present, contact your water company who can make arrangements to provide a preliminary surface clean. A much deeper clean will be required at a later stage.
Speaking with your insurance company
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible and they will arrange for a loss adjuster to make contact and arrange a visit. It is generally advised that you should not touch, move or attempt to clean anything until after the loss adjuster has been. Remember to mark the water level on the wall with a marker pen and take lots of photographs.
If your insurance company is providing contractors to deal with recovery and reinstatement of buildings - there may be a wait. Try to get an estimation of timescales and keep a record of any contact, correspondence and conversations. Enquire early about the possibility of building in some flood resilience measures during the restoration processes.
If your premises is rented
Contact your landlord immediately as they will be responsible for initiating a claim under their buildings insurance cover. In addition to assessing and certifying that utilities are safe for use, buildings will need to be cleaned, dried out and reinstated properly before you can begin to move machinery, equipment, stock and furniture back in.
Inform your Local Authority and the Environment Agency via their Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
Supply chain considerations
Contact suppliers and customers to make them aware of the situation and how any current orders and future lead times will be affected. Try to make alternative delivery arrangements with suppliers or consider using storage companies who can help to accommodate your needs in this situation.
Seek alternative premises
While this won’t be a suitable option in all cases, finding alternative premises or office space to trade from may help to retain customers, as the recovery process can take several months.
Financial assistance may be available through Local Authorities in the form of Business Recovery Grants and Rate Relief Schemes. Recovery grants are intended to help with the initial recovery period and you may also be entitled to tax and business rates rebates.
Clean up process
Flood water can contain a host of harmful bacteria and organisms. If sewage is present, contact your water company who can attend to undertake a preliminary clean of contaminated areas – this is not an extensive clean and a further deep clean and disinfecting of the area will be required. If you are using staff to remove damaged stock or clean rooms and machinery, ensure they have suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), such as rubber boots, overalls and gloves etc.
Keep track of the recovery costs
Set up a new cost or project code in the accounts to help you keep track of items bought and costs relating to the recovery process, as it will help you to claim them back through the insurance at a later date.
The extent to which a premises needs to be stripped out will vary depending upon the type of building, its current fabric and finishing, the depth of water and damage caused. Buildings will need to be dried out thoroughly and correctly, which often results in the removal of floor coverings, floor boards and plaster. In some cases, access to the wall cavities is also required. Further information can be found in the Know Your Flood Risk, flood recovery guide.
Arrange for the electricity and other services to be checked and certified safe to use as soon as possible. Having power and heating is essential during the drying out process and good ventilation can help to reduce mould growth. Your insurance company will likely arrange for the drying out of your premises on your behalf. If drying out a building yourself, the room temperature should be set to between 20-22 degrees celsius and windows opened to help with ventilation. To help speed the process up, dehumidifiers, heaters and fans can be used. However, remember to close the windows if using a dehumidifier. Specialist contractors can undertake this process for you to ensure your building is dried out thoroughly and correctly.
This is the ideal opportunity to build in some resilience to the business premises. Give consideration to raising electrical outlets and machinery where possible, as well as the installation of racking for stock previously stored at ground level. Ensure any electrical equipment is raised above ground level and provision made for the protection and backup of data, especially data crucial to business continuity.
An Association of British Insurers study revealed that 80% of businesses without an emergency plan in place do not recover from a major incident, such as a flood - even when insured!
If you are concerned as to how your business would endure a flood and whether it would recover, it is important to consider what you can do now in order to prepare. Businesses with a flood plan in place experience less disruption and recover faster following a flood.
To learn more about business flood planning, see our Business Flood Plan Fact Sheet.