Following the winter floods of 2015/16 the Environment Agency reported that the damage to business properties were estimated at £513 million1, but it’s often stated that if businesses were to take effective action in response to a flood warning, at least eight hours in advance of a flood, they can make significant savings on damage to moveable equipment or stock.

Effective action requires effective planning and preparation and the first step is identifying the risk and setting up warning systems. Don’t rely on last minute ad hoc measures and fall victim to the resulting business interruption. The more at risk your business is, the more important it is for you to take steps to try to manage that risk before it happens.

Key actions to protect against flooding

  • Assess your flood risk using the various tools available online and by conducting a survey of your premises, or employ a competent contractor to do this for you.
  • Sign up for flood warnings so that you can set into motion the emergency actions you have planned (appropriate to the flood warning level received) at the earliest possible moment.
  • Plan for the possibility of flooding. From your investigations, you should have established to what depth it is predicted flood waters might reach. This, together with the nature of your buildings and the likely effect on your business, will influence the decisions that you take and the plans you make.
    • Make sure you have considered flooding as part of a suitable business continuity plan (sometimes referred to as a disaster recovery plan) to help prepare your business cope with the various events which might disrupt it.
  • Make sure you keep copies of your flood response and business continuity plan away from the area around your premises that is likely to be flooded.
  • Don’t forget routine items that can also be helpful to reduce the risk of water damage, e.g. periodic inspection and cleaning out of drains, gullies and gutters.
  • Seek specialist advice if you are considering either a permanent barrier wall around a site or a proprietary barrier system for a building. How well suited a building is for a particular flood protection product or system depends upon a range of factors, particularly the type of external walls involved, how strong they are, how likely they are to allow water to seep through (e.g. via joints, seams or other gaps and openings) and the pressure which will be exerted upon them by the depth of flood water expected.
    • With barrier schemes it is also necessary to take into account the risk of flood water entering a building via toilets, drains, etc., so check the need for non-return valves on them.
    • Air bricks also need to be considered for protection.
  • Consult the Environment Agency’s publication, "Sandbags: how to use them to prepare for a flood" if/where you’ve decided not to provide a permanent proprietary barrier system and are instead going to rely upon sandbags and other removable barriers.
  • Raise important equipment and installations, such as electrical intake panels, electrical plug sockets, boilers, computer servers and other expensive vulnerable items, above the floor level. You should be aiming for at least 100mm or more where possible.
    • Consider wall-mounting items that are currently floor-standing, such as boilers.
    • Remember that basement areas are particularly vulnerable to flooding as water will always find the lowest point.
    • Repositioning items onto higher floor levels should be considered if available/practical.
  • Include procedures in your flood plan to ensure that unauthorised and untrained individuals don’t enter a flood damaged building until it’s been made safe. It can be dangerous to enter a flood damaged building, as, for instance, there may be structural damage or a live or damaged electrical supply.
    • Utilities (e.g. gas supply) may be affected and need to be checked, cleaned or purged and/or replaced.
  • Keep in mind that there may be contamination from sewage and other pollutants in the flood water and this will present a health hazard until removed by trained, suitably protected, professionals, working to a risk assessment-based safe system of work.
    • You may need to make special arrangements for damaged or contaminated items which have to be disposed of, particularly if they do, or may, fall into the category of “hazardous waste” as defined under regulations.
    • Don’t dispose of affected goods until you’ve spoken to your insurance advisor or the loss adjuster appointed by the insurance company.

Templates that might help with flooding

Additional resources

Frequently asked questions

Find answers to some common queries about managing risks to people, property and business continuity.