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Flood information for business owners

Flood information for business owners

As the UK’s weather patterns become more erratic, flooding is affecting an increasing number of businesses throughout the country. Anyone within a potential flood zone should have a disaster recovery plan in place, which aims to get their business back on it’s feet in the shortest amount of time possible, should they fall victim to a flood. This includes issues such as practical measures to protect the property, a plan to tackle the clean up operation and business continuity planning. Continue reading for further information.

Insurance and protection for businesses at risk of flooding

Flooding checklist

Practical methods and products to reduce flood damage

Emergency numbers and useful resources

Flood water and the clean up operation

List of items to have on hand during a flood

The role of the Loss Assessor

Insurance and protection for businesses at risk of flooding

There has been at least one flood in the UK every single year since 1998, and winter 2014 (1 December 2013 to 25 February 2014) was the wettest winter recorded since records began over 250 years ago.

Flood experts estimate that if your business is situated in a flood risk area, you are 30% more likely to experience flooding, the consequences of which are potentially disastrous to your business.

With a bit of foresight and planning, you can effectively protect your business premises from floods and minimise the amount of damage that flooding may cause.

Make sure you are covered

Your buildings, stock, equipment, fixtures and fittings insurance will offer cover in the event of flood damage. The cost of everything from drying out, repairing or restoring and removing debris, to legal fees should be included in your insurance policy. You should also have business interruption insurance.

When looking for a reasonably priced insurance policy that includes all of these features there are a few things you can do to help the process. If you are in a high risk flood area then try to contact an insurance company that specialises in flood risk cover. Contacting a wide range of insurers will give you a variety of policies to choose from, and an overview of the types of cover that are available. You can also invest in a flood mitigation survey, which will help you pinpoint what to do to reduce your exposure to flooding, and present your risk profile to insurers in the best possible light, which could reduce your premium.

For more information about making a flood insurance claim, read our full guide here https://www.morganclark.co.uk/guide-commercial-flood.html.

Preventative measures

By preparing a detailed flood plan, you can significantly reduce the impact a flood has on your business.

Your flood plan should contain all the information needed during an emergency, such as contact numbers, and how your business will respond and recover from any damage.

Your flood plan should be looked at and updated every year; as your business grows, you will need to make changes to reflect this. Keep your flood plan in a safe and disaster-proof place (as well as in a waterproof document holder) along with any critical documentation like your insurance policy and important financial and legal documents.

With the unpredictability of British weather, floods can strike and wreak havoc at any time. By following these simple steps you can make sure you are well prepared for a disaster.

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Flooding checklist

We have provided this quick checklist for you to easily print off, fill in and keep to hand with your other important insurance documents…

Morgan Clark Loss Assessors 01978228646
Your insurance policy number
Your insurance company tel. number
Local gas-safe plumber
Local certified electrician
Key suppliers (call them to delay, reschedule or relocate any deliveries)
Key members of staff (with notes on any staff who may require additional assistance) and phone tree plan in place

Emergency numbers

Gas supplier
Water supplier
Electricity supplier
Insurance company
Loss assessor Builder
Electrician Plumber/ heating engineer

Locate your disconnection points

Water
Gas
Electricity

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Practical methods and products to reduce flood damage

Contingency planning is all well and good but businesses who are in known flood-risk areas will want to take practical steps towards minimising the damage caused by flooding.

By taking such measures in advance it is possible for a business to save a considerable proportion of stock, equipment and other fixed assets.

There are many products on the market which can help prevent and protect a property from flood damage. Products approved by the British Standards Institution (BSI) are the most reliable, and these tend to be widely available.

  • Flood barriers make a watertight seal across doors or windows and are easy to fit. The metal or plastic board slides into a frame that you can install prior to flood warnings.
  • Airbrick covers are plastic covers that prevent water entering your premises. Airbricks can be pre-fitted with a frame that the plastic clips to.
  • Flood skirts are a more expensive but more advanced system of flood protection. Protecting your commercial property on the foundation level, the flood skirt is made of water resistant sheeting which protects the bottom two to three feet.
  • Blocking entry points for the water with sandbags is a cheaper alternative to some of the above products. Sandbags can also be put into a toilet bowl to prevent sewage from overflowing into bathrooms. They are available from DIY shops or can be provided by local authorities, but please note, they are not under any obligation to provide them. Bin bags, pillowcases or carrier bags filled with soil or sand will do just as good a job if you are unable to get hold of any sandbags.
  • Sturdy plastic bags such as heavy duty bin liners can be put around the base on tables and chairs.
  • Pallets – where higher level storage is not available, pallets can be used to lift items off floor level.
  • Plywood and other wood can be used to board up windows and doors – it’s not always the flood water itself that does the damage but if larger items are being carried by the water they can break glass in windows and cause other damage.
  • Heavy duty plastic sheeting can be used in conjunction with sandbags.

It is also useful to familiarise yourself with how to shut off the essentials in your building too. If you have gas, water and electricity, knowing how to turn them off may come in handy when faced with rising flood water.

Checking www.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood will help you keep an eye on the weather and the water levels of nearby rivers which might be liable to flooding.

The Environment Agency also has a system here where you can enter your postcode and your flood risk will be calculated – if your postcode is not recognised then you can also enter your nearest town or river.

By combining practical steps with the implementation of a flood plan, you can protect your home from the impact of a flood to the best of your ability.

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Emergency numbers and useful resources

Prior to flooding

Met Office – www.metoffice.gov.uk – to check weather warnings

Sign up to the Environment Agency’s direct flood warning system here

National Flood Forum – http://nationalfloodforum.org.uk – for advice, prior to or after flooding

During a flood

– Fire and Rescue / Police / Ambulance / Coastguard – 999 – if somebody’s life is in danger

– National Gas Emergency – 0800 111 999 – if you are worried about or smell a gas

– Environment Agency – Floodline – 0845 988 1188 – for a 24 hour helpline / pre-recorded advice

– NHS 111 – for non-emergency health concerns

– RSPCA – 0300 1234 999 – for injured or distressed animals

– Highways Agency – www.highways.gov.uk/traffic-information – for traffic information

– Loss assessor – Freephone 0197822864601978228646 &
03334142749
03334142749 (mobile alternate) – to manage your insurance claim

After flooding

– Citizens Advice Bureau – http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk – for insurance / claims advice

– Water company – http://www.water.org.uk/home/our-members/list-of-companies – to contact your local water authority

– County Council – http://www.countycouncil.org.uk – find your local county council for public health issues

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Flood water and the clean up operation

Despite plenty of warning, planning and preparation, there can be some instances where even this is not enough to prevent your business from flooding. The clean-up operation can be a long, expensive and arduous task, but by implementing an effective plan prior to the flood, you can make this as hassle-free as possible.

About flood water

Flood water can be very unsanitary, bringing silt, dirt and sewage into your premises.

Keeping yourself healthy in these conditions can be difficult, but there are simple things you can do to ensure you don’t endanger yourself or expose yourself to anything harmful.

  • Never use an emergency generator inside – the build-up of carbon monoxide could leave you susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning, which is very serious and can cause fatalities.
  • Mould growth is not just an unsightly problem but also a danger to your health. Mould spores like to grow on wet or damp surfaces and not only produce allergens, but also irritants and mycotoxins, which are toxic substances. Inhalation of mould spores, or even touching mould, can cause allergic reactions such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and dermatitis, and can bring on an asthma attack in someone who already suffers from asthma. Removing water soaked porous materials will help prevent the spread of mould – this includes getting rid of damp insulation, carpets, wallpaper, and wooden panelling.
  • If your septic system has flooded, it will need time to dry out – which unfortunately means not using toilets, sinks and dishwashers during this time.
  • Flood water can often flush out pests from river banks or sewers and into your business. If you work in the catering or hospitality industry this can be a particular problem, although rats can chew through cables and cause destruction in any business. When clearing up after a flood, be sure to block up holes and make sure that no food is left out.

Cleaning up after a flood

When re-entering the premises yourself:

Always take care when re-entering the premises after a flood as the foundations and structure of the building may have shifted and may not be as stable as they once were.

  • Be sure to wear protective clothing and rubber gloves should you need to return to the premises, as the flood water may have brought in sewage and dangerous debris such as broken glass or nails.
  • Whilst keeping the premises secure, let it dry out by opening all doors and windows.

The following should be carried out by a professional restoration company:

    The first thing to do after the flood water begins to subside is to start emergency pumping to get rid of all the water. Pumping should be done fairly slowly from underground rooms like a basement. If the pressure outside the walls is greater than the pressure inside the walls, the walls and floor may crack and collapse.

  • If the gas & electricity has been turned off then make sure it is safe to be switched back on. A professional will be able to tell you if your power supplies are safe to use again.
  • If any mould has already formed, remove it from hard surfaces with warm water and a damp cloth. If mould has grown on anything other than a hard surface, such as paper and carpet, these items will need to be thrown away. If mould has grown on structural wood it will most likely need to be removed by sanding – make sure to vacuum clean well afterwards to get rid of the spores. Once the mould has gone, disinfect the area.

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List of items to have on hand before and during a flood

Clear thinking can be difficult in a crisis situation. Therefore, we’ve prepared a basic list of some items that you might like to have on hand before and during a flood:

  • Emergency checklist and list of important phone numbers – as above
  • Toolbox – with a variety of different items such as screwdrivers, spanners and allen keys
  • Items to safeguard your business i.e. pallets to raise furniture or stock, sandbags to prevent ingress of water etc.
  • Small amount of cash
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Wind up mobile phone charger
  • Wind up radio
  • Fully charged laptop computer
  • Torch with batteries/ wind up torch
  • Wellington boots / waterproof clothing
  • Rubber gloves
  • Non perishable food / drinking water
  • First aid kit

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The role of the Loss Assessor

Managing a flood insurance claim can be an extremely complicated affair, which is in turn time consuming and stressful for the individual responsible for managing the claim. A Loss Assessor alleviates this stress by managing the whole claims process on your behalf, which allows you to focus on keeping your business running.

As part of the claims management service, a Loss Assessor will typically offer the following services:

  • negotiate interim payments to maintain cash flow and cover emergency costs, such as re-stocking, replacement plant and computers, and staff wages.
  • find alternative premises as well as temporary storage, equipment or vehicles.
  • manage emergency works.
  • assess damage and loss, and compile the insurance claim, covering fixtures and fittings, buildings, contents, stock and tenant’s improvements as appropriate.
  • calculate the business interruption claim, including loss of profits and increased cost of working.
  • deal with the insurance company and all their professionals on your behalf: their Loss Adjuster, forensic investigator, surveyor, contractors, solicitors, etc.
  • oversee the building reinstatement works.

As the business owner, you have ultimate control over your insurance claim. You can choose your Loss Assessor’s style of management; this can range from handing over complete control (other than major decisions) to them, through to working in close partnership together throughout the process.

Put simply, the Loss Assessor will manage the entire insurance claims process for you, allowing you to focus on what matters most – getting your business back on its feet.

Business interruption

A flood at your business may result in loss of assets, stock, or even the premises itself. Such an event will likely be followed by pressures from your bank, staff, customers and suppliers. Your entire focus at this point must be on safeguarding the survival of your business.

Under the terms of your insurance policy, you should be able to claim for business interruption. Business interruption will enable you to recover any loss of gross profit you incur as well as any necessary increased costs of working.

Business interruption comes with its own complications and stresses, and for this reason you need an expert Loss Assessor on your side.

An experienced Loss Assessor will evaluate your total loss, based on the anticipated performance of the business over the period of the claim. This is not necessarily based on the turnover your business has achieved previously, but based on forecasts of what you would have achieved in the future, should the flood never have happened.

When should you contact the Loss Assessor?

A Loss Assessor can assist you at any stage of a claim, however the sooner you bring them on board the better. Drafting in a Loss Assessor will help ensure you remain in control and that you receive everything you are entitled to under the terms of your insurance policy.

How loss assessors work

Loss Assessors will liaise with your insurer and all other involved parties on your behalf, including brokers, surveyors, contractors, solicitors, Loss Adjusters etc. This means that every aspect of your claim will be managed by the Loss Assessor, from the moment you bring them on board, to the day you move back into your premises.

Don’t I need an adjuster?

There is a lot of confusion about the difference between Loss Adjusters and Loss Assessors. Whilst the two may sound similar, their roles in the insurance claim process are very different.

  • Loss Adjusters are appointed and paid by the insurance company to ‘adjust’ the claim presented by you or your Loss Assessor.
  • Loss Assessors work for you, the policyholder. They are independent professionals who are employed by you to protect your interests and ensure you receive the very best settlement under the terms of your insurance policy.

Loss Assessor fees

Depending which Loss Assessing firm you use, there is usually a degree of flexibility with regard to how you decide to manage your claim. The most common scenarios are as follows:

1. The firm will assign you a Loss Assessor, business interruption specialist and stock and equipment assessor. They will introduce you to expert chartered surveyors and building contractors who you might need to work on your reinstatement works. There is typically no fee for this arrangement.

2. You may want to use your own builder, in which case the firm will work with them to guide them through the claim process. You’ll still be assigned a Loss Assessor, business interruption specialist, stock and equipment assessor. Your Assessor will also introduce you to the most experienced chartered surveyors. By using your own builder you’ll likely incur a small fee.

Choosing a Loss Assessor

With an abundance of Loss Assessors out there it can seem difficult to know which one to choose. Here is a list of questions to consider carefully when hiring a loss assessing company:

  • How reputable are they? Check when the company was established, and in turn the level of experience the company has in handling commercial claims like yours.
  • Do they have an experienced business interruption specialist in house?
  • Are they fully authorised? Legally, a Loss Assessor must be fully ‘Authorised’ by by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This means they have met the stringent standards required to manage an insurance claim on behalf of a policyholder. You can check whether a firm is authorised by visiting http://www.fsa.gov.uk/register/home.do.
  • Where are they located? Do they have a local office in order that your team is available to visit your property and work closely with you?
  • What will it cost you? Some loss assessing companies may charge an initial fee, or a percentage of your settlement upon completion, for example.
  • Do they have any case studies relating to claims similar to yours? Or even better, will they allow you to speak with people who have been in the same position as you and chose the company to handle their insurance claim?
  • Who do they work with? Typically, as part of the loss assessing service the company will draft in contractors from their own trusted network. You are within your rights to ask who these contractors are, or indeed source your own contractors.

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