Flooding: what you need to think about

31/01/14 General

Did you know that a huge 2.4 million properties are at risk of flooding from the rivers and seas in and around England and Wales?  The Environmental Agency (EA) tells us that a further 2.8 million properties may be vulnerable to surface water flooding.

We understand how important your property is to you and we want to help you protect it.  This bulletin offers valuable information on how to assess the risk of flooding and how to plan and manage a flood, should it occur.

Flood Risk Assessment
One of the most important things to do for any business is to complete a flood risk assessment.  You must consider the following:

  • Flood history – both at the property address and the surrounding area
  • Proximity to the sea, rivers, streams, canals, lakes and reservoirs, etc
  • Proximity and adequacy of surface water drainage
  • Whether the property is located in a low lying area
  • Checking out the Environmental Agency (EA) and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) flood maps available online.  For Northern Ireland, please check with the Rivers Agency or your local authority.

Should you wish to use an external consultant check the “blue pages” directory which can be found at www.bluepages.org.uk or in the national Flood Forum.

Flood Plan
If the flood risk assessment indicates that the property may be at risk, a flood plan should then be drawn up to include the following:

  • Important contact details including Floodline, building services, flood recovery services, suppliers and evacuation contacts for staff
  • Location details of key property, protective materials and service shut-off points
  • Strategies for protecting the property and assisting in its recovery
  • Checklists of procedures that can be quickly be accessed by staff during a flood
  • Insurance details and claims contact information

If the plan includes the removal of high value/susceptible contents or business critical functions to temporary premises, it is essential that insurers are advised to secure extension of cover.  Guidance on preparing a flood plan can be found at www.environment-agency.gov.uk.Flood Warnings
Flood warnings are normally released via the media and online.  However, the Environmental Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) also offer a 24 hour Floodline – 0845 988 1188.  We advise that all businesses subscribe to their free Floodline Warnings Direct Service.Flood Resistance
You may need to consider upgrading your property to defend it from the risks associated with flooding.  So improving the walls, floors, drains and service intakes could be measures you take to ensure that your property can cope in the event of a flood.  The following could help:

  • Demountable, purpose-made doors and opening guards or floorboards•    Flood skirts which can be raised around the perimeter walls of the building
  • Water guards for openings such as airbricks
  • Tanking of internal floors and basement walls
  • Non-return valves fitted to drains, water inlets and outlet pipes


Note:
  Most properties in the UK can only be protected from flood waters to a maximum height of 900mm and in some cases this may be restricted to 600mm.  These levels are prescribed to prevent structural damage to properties caused by the uneven hydrostatic loads between the inner and outer walls of a building, which if not stabilised may cause the walls to collapse.  In the event that flood defence solutions are required to a height greater than 900mm, advice from a Structural Engineer should be sought.Flood Resilience
These are measures which make the fabric and areas of the building more robust and easier to clean, dry out and reinstate, in the event of floodwater entering the property:

  • Replacing timber or tiled ground floors with solid or suspended concrete floors incorporating robust damp proof membranes
  • Incorporating a slight fall and a sump pump to ground or basement floors to pump out any flood water entering
  • Raising gas and electrical intakes, any pipes or cables and electrical sockets above likely flood levels
  • Minimising the use of timber and chip board in ground floor and basement locations
  • Using water resistance finishes such as lime plaster or cement render
  • Raising or relocating critical equipment or any stock that may be vulnerable to another part of the property that is not at risk of floodwater

Immediately after a Flood
You should contact your insurance provider immediately after a flood and it’s important you follow their advice.  If there is any repair work needed or you need to remove any damaged property then you should discuss this with your insurer before doing so.  You should also consider the following:

  • Continually monitoring the Floodline and other weather information services for any updates
  • Employees, contractors and members of the public must not enter flooded premises unless advised that it is safe to do so by a competent person
  • Isolate any gas or electrical supplies at the mains
  • Be aware of waterborne diseases and implement any appropriate hygiene precautions
  • Keep away from low lying areas or basements which may contain harmful vapours and gasses until specialist clearance has been obtained
  • Avoid using petrol or diesel water pumps in confined spaces owing to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Cess pits and/or water treatment plants should be checked by a specialist contractor and any flood water in bund walls around oil tanks should be removed

Useful Links
The Environment Agency (EA): www.environment-agency.gov.uk
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA): www.sepa.org.uk
Rivers Agency of Northern Ireland: www.dardni.gov.uk/riversagency

National Flood Forum:
www.floodforum.org.uk

The Blue Pages directory:
www.bluepages.org.uk

Flood Protection Association:
www.thefpa.org.uk

Association of British Insurers:
www.abi.org.uk

British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA):
www.biba.org.uk

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS):
www.rics.org/flooding