The flood risk for uninsured businesses

POSTED: 17th March 2014
IN: Guides

The winter of 2013-14 saw Britain battered by storms, leading to some of the worst flooding in living memory.

The winter of 2013-14 saw Britain battered by storms, leading to some of the worst flooding in living memory.

Many parts of southern England experienced record-breaking rainfall, leading to rivers bursting their banks and turning roads into rivers from Kent to Cornwall.

The crisis triggered a huge relief effort, leading the prime minister to pledge that money was "no object" in the mission to help those affected.undefined

As well as forcing thousands of homeowners to abandon their properties, the floods caused major problems for businesses, many of which had to shut up shop and saw valuable capital assets damaged or destroyed. One of the key lessons to be learned from the past few months is the importance of being fully insured and financially protected against such disasters.

The cost to businesses

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) this month released a report indicating that the floods cost small firms some £831 million. This is based on an average cost of £1,531 per business in flood-hit areas.

One in three (32 per cent) small enterprises in affected regions experienced reduced demand for goods and services, according to the research.

Furthermore, 29 per cent struggled to move goods and supplies owing to the transport disruption, while 16 per cent were hampered by staff absences.

John Allan, national chairman of the FSB, said the business body has heard "countless stories" from members who were "left devastated" by some of the worst flooding on record.

"Not only have they had to cope with a lack of demand for their services, many have had to close," he added.

"That is why government support has been welcome, and with many still affected, why that support needs to be kept under review."

The insurance issue

The data from the FSB highlights the potential financial impact of flooding on a business, underlining the crucial importance of having an insurance policy in place to offer protection against this threat.

Thousands of companies and individuals have been heavily reliant on their insurance cover in recent months, with some £446 million likely to be paid out to customers whose businesses and homes suffered flooding.

This figure from the Association of British Insurers (ABI), covering the period from December 23rd 2013 to February 28th this year, equates to £6.7 million a day.

With the projected cost of storm damage claims taken into account, insurers could end up paying out £1.1 billion as a result of the bad weather.

Businesses made 3,100 flood claims and 44,700 claims for storm damage, according to the ABI.

Commenting on the insurance issue, Mr Allan of the FSB said some small firms are concerned they will find it increasingly difficult and more expensive to get cover for flooding in future.

He noted that smaller businesses are excluded from the Flood Re support scheme, a regulation that many FSB members have found "unhelpful".

"We want the government and the insurance industry to look again at the support they have in place for small businesses in flood-hit areas and see whether there is more help they can provide to ensure they have access to adequate and affordable insurance," added Mr Allan.

Preparing for the future

The ABI acknowledged that property owners who have experienced flooding in the past or live in flood-prone areas might find it difficult to access affordable insurance.

However, there are ways to address this problem, one of the most simple of which is to do plenty of shopping around.

According to the ABI, price comparison websites are not always the best place to search for flood insurance. Contacting providers directly or consulting with a broker through the British Insurance Brokers' Association could be a more fruitful approach.

Another option is to commission a property-level flood risk survey, although it is important to check that your insurer will take this into account when deciding whether to cover your property.

It is crucial for businesses to be as prepared as possible for flooding. According to the Environment Agency, implementing a flood plan is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself against this risk.

Draw up a written document outlining how your business would respond to a flood, with information including important contacts, such as building services, suppliers and the Floodline number - 0845 988 1188.

The plan should also pinpoint locations of key property, protective materials and service shut-off points, and outline basic strategies for protecting people and property, limiting business disruption and assisting recovery in the event of a flood.

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