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Business continuity counts

'Business as usual’ can change quickly and when it comes to floods, change can happen in an instant. Ed Barsley discusses the importance of preparation in making your business and premises more flood resilient.

Over the past 18 months, the Covid pandemic has shown that our circumstances and what we think of as ‘business as usual’ can change quickly and when it comes to floods, change can happen in an instant. Several years ago, my family’s business flooded and the impacts on the building, stock and company were substantial. Given that the frequency and severity of flood events is increasing as a result of climate change, it’s important that we do all we can to make our businesses and their premises more flood resilient.

The benefits are wide ranging

Making your business more flood resilient can protect your existing customer base and supply chain. It can improve your company’s reputation, reveal a lot about ‘how’ your business operates, help reduce insurance premiums, and take away a lot of stress and uncertainty from customers, suppliers, staff and the management team. Crucially though it can help your business to continue to trade and/or get back up on your feet more quickly, with less disruption after a flood.

We’ve featured a range of success stories of this type of adaptation in the ‘Our Flood Resilient Business’ series of Hazard + Hope. For example, Lisa at the Blue Tea Pot Café in Mytholmroyd has made the café’s new flood resilient setup a key feature of the décor and design of the space, and Stu and his team at Dales Bike Centre in Upper Swaledale were able to be back open for business with 24 hours after being flooded.

When it comes to how you can make your business and its premises more flood resilient, the Code of Practice for Property Flood Resilience (CoP) shows us the process through to work. We’ve made an overview video about the CoP that be viewed here.

In developing a property flood resilience (PFR) strategy you need to be aware of the types/sources of flooding that your business could be exposed to and the routes through which it could reach your premises. Flood maps are very useful way to find out this out and the Environment Agency flood maps for England can be viewed here. The type of business you run and elements that make up your critical infrastructure and supply chain will also have a major influence on the range of PFR strategies that would be suited for your given context. There are many overlaps with the approaches used to make residential properties flood resilient, but bear in mind that floods can occur at any time of day, night or year and a commercial premises may not be occupied over the weekend or in the evening, so we need to prepare and adapt accordingly. Reducing the residual risk from the outset is key in this regard. It could well be you back up data offsite/on the cloud, relocate stock to lower risk storage areas or simply raise it up above that potential flood level.

Remember to sign up for flood warnings

Depending on the source/type of flooding, the amount of time you’ll have to act before an event can vary. A flash flood can for example occur in minutes and last for hours, whilst groundwater flooding can build gradually over days but last for weeks or months on end. Signing up for flood warnings can mean you and your business get more time to prepare and adapt. It may not be long, but it can make a huge difference.

Be sure you have a Business Flood Plan

As well as making the property more flood resilient, it’s vital to have a flood plan in place. This will set out key actions to be taken at each stage of the flood warning and allocates responsibilities amongst the team. There’s links to detailed flood plans at the end of this piece but broadly speaking a flood plan should include;

  • The location of your utilities/service control points for Electricity, Water and Gas as well as how these can be switched ON/OFF
  • A list of Property Flood Resilience measures
    • Which measures are in place and which will need to be fitted
    • Where they’re kept
    • How they’re installed
    • Who can help fit these (name, contact number)
  • The evacuation procedure (for staff and customers)

There should also be a list of key persons/organisations that might need to be contacted and their related phone/reference numbers. That can include the details of;

  • The Business Name and Address
  • Utility/Service Provider
  • Evacuation Contacts for Staff
  • Insurers Name, Phone Number and the Policy Number
  • Local Council & Flood Wardens
  • Environment Agency Flood Line

Key resources to check out

The following resources provide more information on this topic and a range of flood plan templates that you can fill in. If you know of a business that could be at risk of flooding and would benefit from these resources, then please do pass them on.

  • Read the Environment Agency’s ‘Would your Business Stay Afloat?’ guide that contains a Business Flood Plan template, it can be viewed here
  • Read the Business in the Community (BITC) ‘Would you be ready’ guide can be viewed here
  • Download the Yorkshire Flood Resilience Flood Action Pack here
  • Do a ‘Business resilience health check’ here.
  • Read the Flood Hub ‘Business Continuity Management Flyer’ here
  • Watch the ‘Our Flood Resilience Business’ series of Hazard + Hope here

Ed Barsley - Founder of ‘The Environmental Design Studio’ and ‘Hazard + Hope’

Author of ‘Retrofitting for Flood Resilience: A Guide to Building & Community Design’