Preparing Your Business for Flooding
With an estimated 70 per cent of UK businesses unprepared for flooding, Mark Griffiths, flood resilience specialist with environmental consultancy Adler and Allan, explains the importance of risk assessment to business continuity planning.
Less than a week after a temperature of 38.7 degrees Centigrade was recorded at the Cambridge Botanic Garden -the highest temperature officially recorded in the UK, flooding caused major disruption across the north of England.
It followed numerous warnings of severe weather events, including a WWF report released in 2017, in which Karen Ellis, Chief Advisor on economics and development at WWF, said: "We have some major environmental challenges coming our way… This is bad for business, bad for our national economy, and bad for jobs. But businesses and governments across the UK are giving it too little consideration when making decisions."
The report also warned of a significant increase in the numbers of roads, railway lines, care homes, schools, emergency services, hospitals and even mobile phone masts at high risk because of flooding.
Today, with annual flood damage in the UK being estimated at £1.1bn, Mark Griffiths, Flood Resilience Specialist at Adler and Allan, leading environmental risk reduction specialist, considers the rising threat of flooding to businesses across the UK, and what can be done to prepare for and mitigate the risks.
At the end of July, a single day of heavy rain saw 16 flood warnings in place across the North West, the North East, Yorkshire and the Midlands. But the rain didn’t stop and in Rochdale, 100mm, equivalent to a month’s worth of rain, fell in just 48 hours. Railway lines flooded, the basin in front of Castlefield Bowl in Manchester city centre was left underwater, while the Y Club gym, also in Manchester, confirmed it had succumbed to flooding with facilities out of action for at least a week.
It is an increasingly familiar story – more than two thirds of SMEs surveyed by FSB in 2015 reported being hit by severe weather events in the previous three years while the value of claims for flood damage totalled more than £1.3billion after the 2015 floods.
In fact, businesses are more likely to be flooded than destroyed by fire, and with some 200,000 commercial properties located in high flood risk areas and an estimated 23% of commercial properties outside flood risk zones, known to have been flooded, the financial cost cannot be underestimated.
But despite the rising risks, Adler and Allan’s experience suggests that 70% of organisations either do not know their flood risk or have not undertaken a flood risk assessment and do not have a flood plan. These should be considered as essential first steps in order to prevent flood damage and protect assets.
Flooding often occurs when heavy rain falls on saturated land overwhelming both natural water courses and the natural drainage capacity of the area, or on hard, arid land which prevents water from being absorbed – unlike river flooding, it is notoriously difficult to predict exactly where floods of this nature will impact. In other cases, the capacity of sewers may simply be exceeded and can result in raw sewage polluting land, property and water courses while coastal flooding can occur as a result of low pressure combined with high tides and stormy weather.
A detailed flood risk assessment, however, will determine the potential risk of flooding to a site, including the maximum depth of any flood water predicted, based on professional flood modelling. Recommendations will be given to protect against flooding, such as a choice of appropriate flood prevention products, flood defences and civil engineering work in the event of extreme flooding. Such a risk assessment should also include advice to safeguard essential infrastructure, assets and equipment, and a flood plan.
Analysis undertaken by the Environment Agency indicates that by taking the appropriate action to prepare for flooding, most businesses can save between 20% and 90% of the costs that a flood can create, including lost stock or damaged assets such as movable equipment.
For some businesses, the unfortunate reality is that a combination of location and increasingly frequent, volatile weather patterns, means flooding is an almost unavoidable risk. In this scenario, planning is very obviously critical to business continuity, and it is simply good business sense to consider investing in retained flood response services. Acting today, will ensure the savings achieved are as close to that 90% benchmark as possible.
Beyond operational capability in the event of a flood, businesses must also consider the risks and potential costs of litigation, fines and negative publicity. These risks will inevitably vary greatly depending on the product or service offered and it can be a real challenge to keep abreast of all relevant legislation, but by conducting a risk assessment and creating a comprehensive flood plan, it will be possible to avoid unnecessary costs as well as reducing any possible threat to the environment.
In the aftermath of a flood, a variety of specialist cleaning, sanitising and drying equipment will be needed, both so that business can resume trading as normal but just as importantly to protect the health and safety of all the individuals involved. A comprehensive flood plan will detail these requirements and of course they will be provided as standard as part of a fit for purpose, retained emergency response service.
Ultimately, it is vital that organisations recognise and prepare for flooding as one of the major risks to business continuity. The extreme weather events witnessed in July were far from isolated events. In June, many parts of the country experienced over 100mm of rain in less than one week, more than the average for the month in total. Clearly then, relying on old data to predict flooding or simply hoping that a once in a hundred years event will not happen twice, is poor practice and will put many more business at risk as floods occur with increasing frequency in the years ahead.
Adler and Allan provides market leading environmental risk reduction through preventative and responsive solutions, offering an expert 24-7 service to its customers.
Adler and Allan gives its customers peace of mind in detecting and identifying the environmental risks posed to their business. Its broad range of risk mitigation products and services keep businesses strong, reducing the prospect of litigation, costly fines and bad publicity, as well as reducing the threat to the environment. In a world where the environment and legislation are in constant flux, Adler and Allan also provides emergency response in a variety of settings. Adler and Allan’s customers include multinational blue-chip organisations across a wide range of sectors both private and public including defence, utility, marine and facilities management.