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Flood damage – where to start?

05 February 2016

The British Damage Management Association (BDMA) offers advice on dealing with flood damage to commercial buildings

The plight of householders, families and businesses suffering repeated flood incidents over the past few weeks has been all too obvious.

In these circumstances businesses in particular are at risk of substantial losses and, in the case of large scale retailers, manufacturers, distributors and the like, this type of disruption can have a knock on effect throughout their supply chain.  

Larger business will almost certainly have Business Continuity Plans and Business Interruption insurance but even so there will be impacts that may not be resolved by insurance alone. Consequently it is essential they are able to limit the damage and return to full operation as quickly as possible. 

Commercial priorities

The use of professional damage management practitioners during the recovery phase of flood incidents is an important factor in ensuring the most cost effective and appropriate results and the best experience for the customer. In the case of commercial restoration, confidence in the advice and expertise of appointed contractors is critical.

The principles and processes that inform the restoration of any property damaged by flooding are the same, but in the case of commercial properties a number of additional factors come into play. 

In parallel, or immediately after the initial assessment, the contractor will meet with company representatives to identify priorities and gather information on key areas and facilities that affect its ability to function.

Professional damage management contractors will work closely with company personnel and the insurer’s representative for the duration of the project to review and update objectives that will be essential for the business to become fully or, at the very least, partially operational as quickly as possible.

After initial contact, an assessment of the extent and nature of the damage, in conjunction with a risk assessment, ensures the contractor is informed sufficiently to advise and recommend the most effective course of action.

Depending on the nature and severity of the flood certain actions may need to be taken immediately to stabilise the environment and mitigate secondary damage. 

Managing the recovery process

In order to compile a scope of works that will recognise and accommodate the organisation’s key operational issues and priorities, the contractor will need to understand the nature of applicable insurance cover, the terms and conditions of the Business Interruption insurance and the recovery objectives and procedures in the company’s Business Continuity Plan.

The initial triage exercise carried out by the damage management contractor will identify the level of urgency and the order in which stabilisation and recovery should take place. This will categorise:

• what needs to be done immediately to mitigate further damage or to fast track restoration of a key business function or area

• what can safely be left until urgent essential work is completed – in some cases this may involve removing some materials and equipment to a secure off site location

• what is beyond economic repair and can be disposed of – the decision to discard equipment would be taken by the insurer or loss adjuster after consultation with the contractor and the company’s representatives, and alternatives such as replacement parts for critical machinery might also be considered

Advances in technology and modern drying and restoration techniques make it easier than ever before to isolate and restore key areas that will allow essential commercial activity to recommence. The need for lengthy and costly stripping out and reinstatement procedures can often be avoided and working in close collaboration with the customer ensures the company has the best chance of recovering sooner rather than later.

The new British Standard for Damage Management, BS 12999, published by the BSI in November 2015 has valuable guidance relating to the practical processes professional contractors will follow when stabilising and recovering properties following incident damage of various kinds.

It includes procedures on flood restoration and has an annex devoted to Business Continuity, commercial property and major incident considerations.  Consequently, commercial organisations unfortunate enough to suffer flood damage will be better informed about what to expect from a damage management contractor and by familiarising themselves with this British Standard, as part of their business continuity planning, can be better prepared if the worst should happen.