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Flood – Is your business at risk?

Last winter was one the wettest on record, with homes and businesses that may previously have remained flood-free falling foul of the endless deluge of rain and extreme high tides. With the cost of flooding standing at between £75,000 and £112,000 for small businesses, and into the millions for larger organisations, being unprepared when the heavens open is not a risk that many can afford. Alan Scrafton, from leading environmental services provider, Adler and Allan, explains how facilities managers can protect against flooding and what to do in the event of such a disaster

Whatever the type of business, premises and equipment need protecting from flooding – these assets in themselves have a value, not to mention the cost that downtime incurs. Many FMJ readers may be well versed in the devastating effects of flooding, following the terrible winter of 2013. Unfortunately, this is a trend that’s only likely to get worse due to the undeniable effects of climate change.

If your business has already suffered from, or is at risk of flooding, then the correct pre-planning will minimise the damage, with flood post clean-up protecting the environment and saving valuable assets where possible.

IS YOUR BUSINESS AT RISK?
If you’ve already been flooded, then you know the answer to this question. If you haven’t, that doesn’t mean you won’t be in the future. As previously mentioned, climate change is here to stay and as such, many more of us will fall-foul of the wetter weather this brings.

A Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) will determine whether your business is at risk of flooding, including the maximum depth of any flood water predicted. This is particularly useful for ‘unknown’ sites, i.e. premises or locations where your business is likely to move or expand to. FRA will give you the information regarding an areas flood risk now and in the future – our risk assessments go up to 60 years – so you can put plans in place and take preventative measures to stop or limit the damage flooding may cause.

PLAN FOR THE FLOOD
Once you know the potential risk to your business, putting a flood plan in place is essential for damage limitation. Appoint someone responsible in-house to take charge of the plan should flood water strike. Consider preparing a flood kit, which could include spillcare kits, particularly for businesses that store hazardous liquids, such as oil. Other flood kit items include portable flood barriers.

If you know that waters on its way, relocate stock, critical records, electronic equipment or anything of high-value. This might not be possible in the case of large machinery, but saving something is better than nothing. Make sure all electrical appliances are disconnected and shut off the gas supply to reduce the risk of fire.

DEFEND YOUR BUSINESS
For businesses considered ‘at risk’ of flooding, more permanent flood defences might be the best course of action – our flood defences protect some of the UK’s most important infrastructure assets, such as energy substations and highways.

There are a range of flood defences available, including lightweight demountable systems, suitable for protecting individual buildings and critical plant, or substation sites, for example and passive flood defence systems, including UK Flood Barrier’s Self-Closing Flood Barrier (SCFB), regarded as the world’s most robust and effective flood defence system. A FRA will determine the most suitable flood defence for your business.

Other flood defence activities include civil engineering works, such as trench excavation and the installation of pumps, gauges and alarms – remote monitoring and early warning systems are essential for catching flood water before it causes serious damage.

Spray lining is an effective way of preventing the deterioration flood water can cause, safeguarding tanks, roofs, floors and other external or internal surfaces. In general, applying some sort of protective coating to suitable assets will prolong their life and ensure water tightness.

IN THE EVENT OF A FLOOD
Floodwaters are often contaminated with sewage, or other hazardous materials (fuels, asbestos, farm chemicals, etc.) Make sure drains are clear, with hand operated valves on piping closed to prevent backflow through floor drains or plumbing fixtures.

Sites, such as manufacturing plants, must maintain their separators. Separators are essential for trapping harmful substances before they enter the surrounding area and if not kept clean, can become blocked and their filters saturated, stopping the flow of water off a site or causing polluted water to contaminate the local environment.

If, despite your best efforts, flood water has taken hold, cleaning up the aftermath quickly and efficiently is essential for saving water damaged equipment and buildings, as well as minimising any risk to the environment. Depending on the scale of the flooding, calling in expert help will ensure rapid clean up and damage limitation.

Our emergency response teams are on call 24/7 and can strengthen flood defences, as well as undertaking the pumping, tinkering and disposal of floodwater.

For more information on Adler and Allan’s flood services, including FRAs, defences and flood clean up, visit: www.adlerandallan.co.uk or call 0800 592 827.

About Sarah OBeirne

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