Flood guidance for businesses

In recent years, floods and storms have caused major problems for many businesses across the UK. The impact of severe weather is wide-reaching, as it is not only the businesses where premises have been flooded or damaged that are affected.

The interruption can be felt by businesses that are unable to get goods in and out, who have staff that are unable to access their premises, and where telecoms and power is interrupted. The damaging effect of flooding on your clients’ businesses may well have a knock-on impact on your own business too.

With Storm Caroline predicted to hit parts of the UK tomorrow, we have produced some guidance should your business be impacted by floods or storms.

Be prepared:

  • If floods are predicted, wherever possible secure your premises and make use of sandbags if they are issued or available.
  • Lift stock and equipment off the floor, in particular, critical electronic machines, computers and servers.
  • Ensure that electrical equipment is disconnected when flooding is anticipated and/or surge protections are in place.
  • Where possible, make alternative arrangements to maintain trading.

If you are flooded:

Enact your Business Continuity Plan, if you have one, and it is accessible. If not, the following guidance may help:

Contact your staff – ensure you have mobile phone and secondary contact numbers for your staff and that this information is stored in at least two locations that can be accessed. Set out in advance what you will say to them – and ensure it is a factual and reassuring message.

Identify any staff that live in areas vulnerable to flooding or storms, and factor that into subsequent arrangements – ensure that you are aware of their home locations and the likely travel disruption that may affect their route in. Where possible allow employees to work from home.

Allocate responsibilities amongst management and key members of staff – put in place a ‘call tree’ to cascade information efficiently to all staff, including support staff. Provide at least one telephone number that staff can use to contact the “business” regarding emergency arrangements.

Plan provisional working arrangements – know where you can operate from, and (if this is not your usual premises) arrange for all incoming calls from your office to be diverted. Ensure that there is someone or something in place to handle incoming calls – and provide them with a clear script so that they can keep staff and clients informed.

If you do not have another premises which you can make use of in the interim, consider alternative arrangements such as flexible business suites, working from home or making use of supplier premises. Ensure that staff who have remote-working facilities have tested access and are aware how to get up and running.

Contact clients – as with contacting staff, a template script should be provided to ensure that the correct information is being communicated and clients are reassured.

Contact your insurance broker – make sure you have a stored number to contact your broker and an out of hours claims contact number, and ideally have this stored in at least two devices/locations. Phone your broker to notify them that you will need to make a claim. Your broker will have all necessary copies of your policy documents and be able to advise you as to additional claims services that can be made available to you including access to claims support services, clean up and emergency support.

If you do not have a broker and purchase your insurances direct from Insurance company, or via an aggregator/comparison site, ensure you have access to a copy of your policy documents and details of the claims helpline.

Salvaging your property – the first priority after any flood is the safety of yourself, your employees, contractors and members of the public who may enter your premises. Never re- enter premises until you are certain they are safe.

Flood waters are liable to have been contaminated with sewage, and may also have damaged electrics in the building – do not switch on any lights/devices before an independent assessment of safety has been made. In extreme cases, the structural integrity of the building could also be compromised. If you have a landlord ensure that you have spoken to them and that their insurer/broker has been engaged.

Be mindful of your responsibilities in respect to Health & Safety. Whilst you and your staff may be keen to assist with any clean-up, ensure that where possible only specially engaged professionals are tasked with the removal of debris and clean up. It is also advisable to contact a pest control company, in case of vermin infestation.

Ensure your own staff are provided with, and wear, appropriate protective clothing if they need to enter the premises. Sandbags and any debris affected by flood water should be treated as contaminated.

When you access your property, ensure that you/the property owner turn off the gas and electricity at the mains. Do not use any electrical appliances near water.

If you smell gas, call Transco on 0800 111 999. 

If you have concerns regarding your water supply, contact the United Utilities helpline on 0845 746 2200

Wherever possible, speak to your broker before arranging emergency repairs or throwing damaged goods away – as they may wish to instruct a loss adjustor to assess the damage. If possible take photographs and keep any receipts.