Over the past 20 years, we have seen a marked increase in the number and severity of floods in the United States and throughout the world. In 2008, large swaths of the Midwest were flooded due to continual rains. The city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for example, experienced devastating floods in 2008 that left many homes and businesses destroyed. Many of these businesses, both large and small, were caught unaware and unprepared. While some were able to return, other businesses suffered irreparable damage and were never reopened again.
Other areas of the country including Texas, California, Colorado, Louisiana, and Florida have also experienced similar devastation from flood waters that have left property and infrastructure damaged or destroyed. An estimated 40% of businesses never recover after a major flood.
As sea levels rise in relation to climate change, so does the chance that more floods will occur. According to the National Geographic Society, in a recent article , the Global Mean Sea Level (GMSL) has risen by 4 to 8 inches and is continuing to rise. It is estimated that century floods will be commonplace by the year 2030.
What Should Businesses Know About Flood Preparedness?
Because of this continuing change in climate and the increased potential for flooding each year, businesses should have a flood emergency preparedness plan in place.
Outside of raising the elevation of your business to be above the flood stage in your area, or relocating completely, there really is no way to completely eliminate the chance that your business may be affected by flooding. Even if you are not in the immediate area for flood risk your business can still be affected. An emergency preparedness flood plan will help to ensure the safety of your customers, workers, protect property, save valuable business records and will assist you in the quick recovery and repair of any damage after a flood.
These steps include:
1. Understanding your potential risk of flooding.
You can determine this by visiting your city or state’s website. Most will have a flood plain map so that you can determine your risk from your location on the map. Inspect your property in order to ensure that there is proper drainage of water from around buildings and from street runoff. Check your roof and if needed, place and secure tarps on top of it. you should also consider waterproofing of basement or foundation walls and installing a sump pump as a backup in order to get water out of lower levels in case of flooding.
2. Make a business preparedness plan.
Include steps on how the business will respond in a flood, how you will communicate with your employees, customers and suppliers during a flood, information technology, and backup plans for all data and business records so that they are accessible even during an emergency and business continuity. Be sure to go over these plans with your staff and enact emergency preparedness drills on a regular basis.
3. Go over your business’ insurance policy with your insurance agent
Determine what is covered in case of a flood. A flood damage policy is often separate than a regular business insurance policy. Be sure to check. Your agent can make a flood risk assessment and also discuss with you steps that you can take in order to help minimize your risk. Most flood insurance is purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Current NFIP guidelines for communities with businesses in flood prone areas require buildings to be designed so that they are adequately anchored to prevent collapse or being moved by flood waters. The NFIP also requires that building materials, electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units must also be resistant to damage from flooding. New self-contained renewable technologies such as those used in wind and generated power supplies are now being built with housing to protect wires and other critical parts from severe damage from weather and flooding.
If your business is affected by flood and water damage, the most important thing is to get the water mitigated and out so you can begin the cleanup process and get your business up and running again.
So What if Flood did happen?
Because water can cause building materials such as drywall, woodwork, furnishings, carpeting, and other common items to deteriorate, the cleanup process should begin as soon as possible. Flood recovery experts say that the cleanup process should ideally begin no later than 72 hours after flooding has occurred. The longer you wait, the more potential exists for your business to become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. This can affect not only the structure and health of your building but also the overall health of your employees and your customers.