Preparing your business for flooding

Storms have ravaged the UK over the past few weeks. Here, we take a look at the measures you need to take if your business becomes affected.

Storms have been wreaking havoc across much of UK for the past few weeks, leaving many homes and businesses flooded, without power, and physically cut off from the outside world. Experience has taught us that such adverse weather conditions can be potentially crippling for businesses, often taking years to fully recover from.

Floods have forever been a thorn in the side of small business owners. Last winter was a prime example of just how costly bad weather can be; according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the floods of 2014 cost UK small businesses £831 million, which works out at an average cost of £1,531 for every business located in a flood-hit area.

For small business owners in particular, these numbers are a stark reminder of how important it is to have a robust recovery plan in place, as a way of minimising the physical and financial damage that floods can bring.

The following information is intended to provide practical advice for small business owners, to help ensure their business gets back on its feet in the shortest amount of time possible, should it fall victim to flooding.

The following resources all provide useful information that can help business owners prepare for flooding.

  • .gov.uk – Sign Up for Flood Warnings – Allows you to register and sign up for live flood warnings via phone, text or email.
  • Met Office – Provides reliable and up to date weather warnings. Check this page regularly for rising water levels and weather forecasts.
  • Flood warning information service – Enter your postcode to check if your business is likely to be at risk from river, coastal or groundwater flooding in the foreseeable future.
  • Highways England – Useful for checking transport routes and road closures.

Numbers to have on hand

Floods often strike without warning, leaving little time to compile a list of important phone numbers and email addresses you may need should your business get flooded. Furthermore, damage to computers or a power outage may prevent you accessing such information at all. Therefore it pays to have the following numbers stored on your mobile phone, or written down and kept somewhere safe:

  • Your insurance company’s claims line, as well as their out of hours number if they have one (keep a note of your policy number with your insurer’s contact details).
  • Key members of staff. If time allows, it pays to set up a phone tree, so you can spread messages quickly and efficiently.
  • Key suppliers and clients.
  • Utilities and service providers (water, gas, electric, phone, internet etc.)
  • Emergency services (999).
  • Loss assessor, should you choose to appoint one.
  • National Gas Emergency, should you suspect a gas leak (0800 111 999).
  • Local tradesmen for any emergency works.

Keeping flood water at bay

Floods are a formidable force which in most cases can not be stopped, no matter how much planning and preparation is done in advance.

However, there are practical steps business owners can take to help stem the flow of flood water, and minimise the damage caused to the premises, as well as any other physical assets such as stock, machinery or furniture. Such as:

  • Install flood barriers to create a watertight seal across windows and doors, and use flood skirts to protect the premises at foundation level.
  • Install air brick covers or seals to stop water entering the premises through exterior walls.
  • Use sandbags to block up entry points such as windows and doors. These can also be placed in toilet bowls to prevent sewage from escaping into the premises.
  • Use pallets to raise stock, machinery and furniture off the ground and away from flood water, and place sturdy plastic sacks around the legs of heavier items.

While none of these methods will act as a surefire flood prevention solution alone, when combined they may buy you some time and keep water damage to a minimum.

Insurance and business interruption

For the vast majority of business owners, it is safe to assume that in the event of a flood, their insurance policy will cover them for buildings, stock, equipment and fixtures and fittings. However, with an estimated 43 per cent of small businesses in the UK lacking adequate storm insurance cover, assumptions can sometimes prove to be costly.

Be sure to check with your insurer that you are adequately covered storms and floods, and if not amend your policy accordingly. Under the terms of your policy, you should also be covered for business interruption. Simply, business interruption is a type of insurance that covers the loss of gross profits that a business suffers after a disaster, in this case a flood. Business interruption can act as valuable lifeline during the initial stages of flood recovery when a business is at its most vulnerable.

Appointing a professional to handle your claim

Managing an insurance claim can be a stressful process at the best of times, not to mention time consuming. To ease the burden of dealing with insurers and their loss adjuster, you might consider appointing a loss assessor to manage the claim on your behalf. A loss assessor will typically offer the following services:

  • Handle any emergency structural works to the premises.
  • Arrange temporary alternative premises if required, as well as equipment, tools, vehicles etc.
  • Compile the insurance claim; covering fixtures and fittings, buildings, contents and stock.
  • Arrange interim payments to cover emergency costs such as staff wages, stock and replacement equipment.
  • Calculate the business interruption claim.
  • Take full responsibility for any communications with the insurance company and their loss adjuster.
  • Manage all building repair works. Using such a service will typically cost you nothing (providing you use their team of recommended property experts) and can help speed up the process considerably.

Ultimately, the priority for any business owner affected by flooding should be to return to normal and commence trading in the shortest amount of time possible. With diligent planning, and by following the advice outlined above, the burden of floods can be reduced hugely.

This article was supplied by Morgan Clark.

Further reading on inclement weather

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