Don’t let potential flooding dampen your business in 2014
10 February 2014
Many of us will have wished for a perfect white Christmas to mark the end of 2013; unfortunately though, most of the UK instead experienced a very wet and windy holiday season.
AA insurance alone reported taking over 1000 storm and flood claims, alongside 130 motoring claims, as a direct consequence of the festive weather conditions. Despite this sudden rise in claims, 2013 as a whole proved to be a lot less costly for insurers compared to previous years; especially when assessed against the devastation witnessed and experienced across the country in 2007.
Flooding is a very serious issue and one that should not be taken lightly, especially if you own and run a business in an area on high flood alert. The total chaos and misery caused by the 2007 floods is enough to highlight the importance of flood prevention and preparation for any commercial/business property. Although the government has helped reduce the amount of insurance claims by investing heavily in flood defences along the coast, it is up to you as a business owner to fully protect your commercial property.
Types of flood damage:
Clean water – This type of flood damage usually originates from kitchen/bathroom appliances or your water tank. As the water is clean it will not pose a high risk to your health, but it may cause long lasting damage to your building and the foundations of it.
Grey water – This kind of water can contain micro-organisms and other pathogens, usually contaminated with urine etc. As well as causing damage to your building structure, it can also pose a significant threat to human health.
Black water – Perhaps the worst type of flood water, this is usually contaminated by raw sewage, harmful chemicals and bacteria that pose a huge threat to human health. If you experience a flood like this, it is extremely important that you evacuate all people and call professional help.
Risks to your health
If you should ingest or come into direct contact with black and/or grey water, there is a high possibility that you may pick up any number of harmful bacterial infections. These infections can include E. Coli, Dysentery and Salmonellosis to name just a few. All of these will most definitely be present in water that is stale or water contaminated with sewage. Coming into contact with bacteria and infections such as these can lead to serious illnesses; including flu, diarrhoea, fever and/or respiratory difficulties.
Unsanitary water can also sometimes contain more harmful viruses that pose a more serious risk to your health; such as Hepatitis, Polyomavirus Infection and SARS. These particular types of bacteria can enter your body via ingestion or through open wounds and are not treatable by antibiotics. Infection can cause tiredness, illness, headaches and other more serious lifelong symptoms.
Therefore, if your commercial building or business premises experiences flooding of any type in the coming future, it is extremely important that you evacuate the area immediately and prevent anyone from accessing the area until a team of professionals have taken care of the issue. This includes both members of staff and members of public, even if the decision means your business will lose money/activity for a short period of time you must put the health and well-being of your team and your customers before anything else. If any of your staff members should experience any of the mentioned symptoms after coming into contact with contaminated water, then have them contact their doctor as soon as possible.
Risks to your property
Did you know that over 180,000 business properties are at risk of flooding in England and Wales alone? This means that companies are more like to be flooded than they are to experience a fire. Over 9,000 different businesses were affected by the floods in 2007, with costs running anywhere between £28,000 and over £100,000. Therefore, it is extremely important to prepare your property thoroughly in order to keep damage to a minimum in the event of a flood.
If you have been unlucky enough to experience flood damage, it is extremely important that you get it dealt with as soon as possible. The longer your building is exposed to flood water, the weaker it will become. This is especially true if your building consists of wood as it will expand when wet and can smell very bad if not dried properly. Wet areas such as this will also promote fungal growth detrimental to human health. Correctly drying a building is vital as it will significantly reduce any secondary damage and eliminate environments for harmful bacteria and infections to grow.
Accurate preparation and effective prevention methods can protect you and your staff members from harm; reduce financial losses; limit the damage done to your property; limit disruption to your day-to-day activities and ensure you maintain your business records in good order.
How to prepare your commercial property for flooding
It is nigh on impossible to make any commercial property completely flood-proof, but there are many things you can do in cautious preparation to reduce the potential damage caused to your building. The main aim is to keep as much flood water out of your property as possible. See below for some ideas on how to achieve this:
Sandbags – simple but yet extremely effective, these are available at your local builders’ yard or similar establishments. Although ineffective with groundwater flooding, sandbags placed beneath doorways, entrances and around your building can effectively help prevent surface water flooding.
Flood proof doors and windows – automatic flood-proof doors and windows allow you to raise the threshold, keeping shallow water out. Purpose-built floorboards can also be fitted when flooding is expected.
Exterior wall sealant – applying water-proofing sealant to exterior walls can help prevent long term damage should you experience a flood.
Flood proof air bricks – flood-proof air bricks automatically close when water is introduced, otherwise you can invest in specially designed covers that fit over your air bricks for when flooding is expected.
Drains and pipes – fitting non-return valves to your drains and pipes will prevent wastewater from coming back up from the sewer into your property, especially if your toilets are on the ground floor.
Pump – installing a decent pump within your business property (preferably the basement if you have one) will help to extract flood water and dry your property out. Electric pumps are great but may not be the most appropriate around water. Petrol/diesel pumps are noisy and need frequent re-fuelling, but there are no risks of electric shock and no reliance on back-up generators should your power be off.
Bring in the professionals
Your business is your baby and it means everything to you. A lifestyle, livelihood and a living all in one; so needless to say the welfare of your business is extremely important! So if you do ever experience flood damage in your business property, make sure you call a professional restoration expert or specialist cleaning team to fully restore your building and prevent any further damage. Whatever your business may be, it is best that you keep your level of expertise channelled in that direction. Leave the cleaning to the professionals! Otherwise, you will be putting yourself, your staff members, customers and your building at further risk.