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Business Insurance: How to Prevent Against Flooding

POSTED: 9th April 2014
IN: Guides
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News outlets have recently been plastered with coverage of the near catastrophic flooding that has affected much of the UK.

undefinedResearch suggested that the areas worst affected accounted for 13 per cent of the UK's economic output and that the recent floods have shown that Britain is the second most economically vulnerable country to flooding in Europe.

With businesses in the affected areas losing an average of £17,352 in the first six weeks of the floods, it's no surprise that the attention has turned to protecting premises from future disasters.

Almost a quarter of business insurance claims are made as a result of damage from heavy rainfall. In recent years particularly, Britain has been struck with winter storms driving up groundwater levels and causing devastation across large parts of the country.

According to leading scientists, climate change is expected to increase the average frequency of catastrophic European floods up from one every 16 years, to one a decade. This alone is anticipated to drive up the economic cost of flooding within the European Union from £4 billion to over £20 billion per year.  

Heavy rainfall can cause a number of severe problems for small businesses, including:

-          Damp: after flooding, walls can take months to dry out properly,

-          'Slumped insulation': when the insulation within the cavity has become saturated and needs to be replaced,

-          Timber damage: particularly in old walls where wood has been used as a structural element,

-          Floor damage: timbers underfoot may start to rot, and;

-          Electrical damage. 

Whilst it's impossible to completely flood-proof a property, there are a number of measures business owners can make to prevent against the ill-effects of flooding and keep business ticking over as usual.

So how can I minimise the damage?

The Environment Agency offers some very comprehensive advice to home and business-owners in areas affected by flooding. If you know you're in an area that could be prone to flooding, it's advisable to take the following steps to minimise the risk of damage:

Keep flood water out

Piling up sandbags around points where water could enter the property (most notably doors and gates) is probably the most common way to preventing water from coming in.

This PDF from the Environment Agency explains how to use sandbags in more detail.

If your office is in a flood-prone area, you're also advised by the agency to implement a number of measures, including:

-          Raising external door thresholds or installing flood-proof doors and windows (this can cost anything in the region of £1,000 to £10,000),

-          Seal floors or replace wooden floorboards and carpets with concrete a damp-proof membrane or ceramic tiles,

-          Fit water resistant skirting boards,

-          Seal exterior walls by applying a sealant (although this can cause damp inside the bricks if they're already in bad condition), and;

-          Fit water-resistant air bricks (the bricks designed to allow air to circulate in the cavity of the wall for building ventilation) so flood water can't get in through there easily.

Keep groundwater out

undefinedGroundwater (unsurprisingly) comes up through the ground and occurs when the level of water within the rock or soil that makes up the land surface rises. This can happen days or even weeks after heavy rainfall, and means you can end up with water coming into your property through the floors.

For this reason, methods like putting down sandbags and fitting water-resistant air bricks are completely ineffectual. The best way to prevent against groundwater damage if you're in a particularly vulnerable area is by installing a sump pump at your property. This works by diverting the water away from your business property and costs between £50 and £2,000 to implement, depending on how hands-on you are.

Before installing a pump system, it's always advisable to consult a professional plumber but for more information about how to do it, check out this detailed step-by-step guide: http://www.wikihow.com/Install-a-Sump-Pump.

Reduce Damage

Minimising the damage to your property can be done fairly easily with a little careful planning. First and foremost, make sure you keep items of value, as well as any electrical equipment and leads, as far off the floor as possible on high units or shelving.

Secondly, fix and A/V equipment used for meetings and presentations to the wall (at a height of approximately 5ft), and keep appliances like the fridge and server on 'plinths', so they're raised out of the way of shallow water.

If you know that a storm is due and your property is at risk of flooding, then find out how to turn off your gas, electricity and water supplies.

I've been flooded; can I claim?

The Financial Ombudsman states that, when responding to insurance claims, pleas will be upheld for, "cases where there is a clear causal link between a flood and the damage that has been claimed for."  This means that it isn't just damage to the inside of a property, but damage outside that causes problems on the inside (such as damp), or where earth has been washed away leaving the building structurally unstable.

Similarly, although when we think of flooding, we commonly imagine natural disaster, the ombudsman also recognises water escaping from inside the property, like a broken appliance, as flooding.

If your commercial building is in an area at risk of flooding, then it's advisable to check that your insurance policy covers flood damage. For more information about business insurance, or to speak to an expert advisor about your policy, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Images used courtesy of Wikipedia and geograph.ie 

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