Flooding - a bigger risk than ever

As winter approaches, Wendy Cotton of charity insurance specialist Markel explains how you can protect your charity against damage by flooding.

This is a sponsored feature provided by Markel

Storm Desmond caused disruption to many areas of the UK with winds, torrential rain and flooding this autumn. The heavy rain lashed parts of Northern Ireland, north Wales, south Scotland and particularly the north-west of England. A record breaking amount of rain fell over 24-hours in Cumbria, causing flooding to an estimated 5,200 homes and businesses.

For many of the homes and commercial properties affected by the floods, it may come as a painful surprise. Unfortunately, many charities are unprepared when it comes to flooding. Although we are powerless to hold nature back, plenty can be done to reduce its impact. By taking advance action, you can save some of the time and stress that comes with such an event, and protect valuable equipment and lost stock.

Seek clarification on flood risk

The Environment Agency has a map on their website that allows you to see if your organisation is situated in a location of risk. If that’s not clear, drop the agency an email, or give them a call to talk through your concerns.

Sign up to flood warnings

If you discover that your organisation is at risk, sign up to the agencies free, 24-hour, automated service, which alerts you to impending floods by telephone. Due to the speed at which floods can develop, it is essential to provide a number on which you are always contactable. Sign up by visiting the website or calling 0345 988 1188.

Have a flood plan in place

Flood plans should be documented in much the same way as a contingency plan. A clear, written plan is easier to remember, easier to communicate and easier to access in the event of a flood. This document should include all critical contacts, a list of protective actions, a map of your organisation that shows service shut-off points (fuse boxes and stopcocks) and protective materials (such as sandbags), and an easily accessible checklist of procedures.

You should consider the following actions as part of your flood plan:

  • Switch off gas and electricity supplies

  • If feasible, move valuable portable equipment such as computers to a higher floor or level

  • Draw up a list of local disaster recovery companies that can assist with flooding

If you are in an area prone to flooding, you might also wish to consider the following:

  • Raise damp proof courses

  • Cover ventilation bricks

  • Fit non-return valves to drains and water inlet and outlet pipes

  • Fit water-resistant skirting boards

  • Lay flooring tiles rather than fitted carpets

  • Raise electrical sockets, fuse boxes, controls and wiring to at least 1.5 metres above floor level

  • Ensure internal fittings in kitchens, bathrooms and so on are constructed of water-resistant materials (such as stainless steel, plastic or solid wood rather than chipboard). Raise appliances on plinths where possible

Ensure your staff are sufficiently trained

Empower all members of your staff with the knowledge of what to do in the event of a flood. This means they will be able to act quickly and efficiently to protect your organisation. Add your flood plan to the employee handbook and make it clearly visible on your firm’s online information pages.

Insuring against floods

Finally, it is crucial that any organisation at risk of flood has sufficient insurance cover in place. Buildings and contents insurance covers your premises against accidental damage caused to your office buildings, office contents and computer equipment by floods (as well as other disasters such as fires, explosions and storms). Business interruption insurance is often overlooked, yet it proves invaluable in the event of a flood. It covers any loss of income (or increased costs of working) if you are unable to work from your usual premises. If your organisation has to be rehomed for months on end while the building is drying out and repairs take place, this cover can help to minimise the financial impact on your organisation. It is advisable to talk to your broker or insurer to make sure you’re aware of all the options available to your organisation.

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