Before, during and after the flood

businessman crying in the rain

desperate man crying under rain

Since 1910, there have been 17 record breaking months of rainfall in the UK. Nine of these have been since the year 2000, which shows that we are experiencing higher levels of rainfall than before. More recently, the winters of 2013/14 and 2015/16 have been the wettest on record, with widespread impacts from damage caused by flash flooding.

According to the UK Environment Agency (EA), roughly 40% of businesses that suffer a major loss after a flood will not reopen afterwards. Repairing flood damage also comes with a hefty price tag – every year it is estimated that floods cause about £1.1 billion in damage across England.

Increased flooding in the UK shows no signs of stopping

Planning and preparing for floods is no longer optional as the problem continues to worsen every year. The EA has warned that the problem will only increase in severity and frequency as temperatures continue to rise. It is therefore essential that businesses develop comprehensive contingency plans to reduce the potential impact of flooding, even if their premises are not usually affected.

The UK government has a three-tiered flood warning system – flood alert, flood warning and severe flood warning, which all have separate levels of urgency. Your response should be proportional to the flood warning level, and the government has a series of recommendations regarding what to do to protect your business during a flood.

Before the flood (get prepared)

There are a number of steps you can take to mitigate damage from flooding before the waters have even begun to rise.

  • Check whether your area is at risk for flooding and sign up for warnings if appropriate.
  • Prepare a plan – every business, regardless of size, should have a comprehensive flood plan. This is a document that explains how your company should react during a flood. It should be easy to access, and easy to communicate to staff so that they will be able to remember it in a time of emergency. The EA has a sample flood plan that businesses can adapt for their own use.
  • Stock up on the necessary equipment to support your flood plan, including barriers and absorbents to prevent or shield against water damage.
  • Ensure that you can access your business insurance documents in an emergency.

During the flood (act)

  • Evacuate staff, customers, residents or visitors to a safe place.
  • Turn off gas, electricity and water main supplies. Never touch an electrical switch if you’re standing in water.
  • Set up your flood protection equipment to minimise water damage.
  • Move electrical and IT equipment, files and documents, furniture and other important items upstairs or to safety.
  • Move vehicles to higher ground if safe to do so.
  • Wash your hands if you’ve been in contact with floodwater as it may contain toxic substances.
  • Call 999 if in immediate danger and follow advice from emergency services.


After the flood (clean and repair)

  • If you have had to leave the premises check with the emergency services that it’s safe before you return.
  • Arrange a safety inspection by the utility companies before turning main supplies back on.
  • Before starting the cleaning up process take photos to document damage and record the flood water height.
  • The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has a series of protocols on how to safely clean and recover your business in the aftermath of floods. There are many health and safety hazards to consider, some of which may not be visible. It is important to avoid coming into contact with floodwater, wear proper PPE, be cautious of electrical hazards, and to be aware of any potential chemical or gas leaks that may have occurred as a result of the flooding.
  • Employ heavy duty drainage pumps for powerful and effective draining of water, sewage, soft materials and other liquids.
  • Seek advice on repairing your premises to help protect against future flooding.

The UK government has issued guidelines on how to recover after flooding. It is important to contact your insurance company and follow their advice; if you are not insured against flooding, the National Flood Forum can provide support.

Disclaimer: The information provided through Legislation Watch is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Legislation Watch is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.

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