Flood damage can be catastrophic for businesses and commercial property owners: as many as 40% of businesses don’t reopen after a flood. If your business is in a flood risk area, having a contingency plan and an insurer with an experienced flood response team is essential to avoid the worst.

The losses caused by flooding extends far beyond the immediate damage done by floodwater. Worst-case scenarios will see extensive damage to premises and equipment, as well as loss of stock and inventory, and interruption of business. And while weather forecasting tools give advanced warning, the exact shape and extent of flooding is much less predictable. It can strike any number of buildings depending on a range of factors – including intensity of rainfall and the size of the area affected.


No scenario is the same

Andrew Lane and Andy Richardson – respectively Flood Risk Consultant and Commercial Loss Adjusting Leader at RSA – specialise in helping companies prepare for catastrophic events and, should the worst happen, getting them up and running again. But it’s not an easy task.

“What I’ve learned over the years is that each river system and each flooding scenario is completely different,” says Lane, who prefaced his 30-year career at RSA with a degree in geology. “Essentially, every town in the country has got a different flood risk. While we’ve got good warning systems around the major rivers, there are thousands of tributaries feeding into them that are not monitored by the Environment Agency, or any other agency for that matter. So, it is very difficult to predict a major flood.”


No singular solution

To illustrate the complexity of the problem, Lane cites a 2016 event in Carlisle where a factory flooded, although it was 500 metres away from a major river corridor. As a result of Storm Desmond, the river breached, the water bypassed local defences and poured into the factory, causing millions of pounds worth of damage. The Carlisle flood proved that the area defences couldn’t be 100% relied upon, however robust they were. “The mechanisms of flooding are so complicated, and there’s no singular solution,” says Lane.

As many as 40% of businesses don't re-open following a flood

Getting ahead of the game

However, all is not lost when it comes to predicting a major flooding event. Thanks to advanced meteorological services and geo-mapping tools, RSA’s flood risk assessors can plan in advance if they know that adverse weather conditions are on the way. They are able to see how bad potential damage might be, and how many businesses could be affected.

“The ability to predict flooding has dramatically increased in recent years, with information becoming more granular and more accurate,” says Lane. “The advent of computer power and technology means we can plan and react a lot faster now, and get response teams out to afflicted areas as quickly as possible.”


Ready to mobilise

So, the worst-case scenario happens and your business premises get flooded. What happens next? “At RSA, we have people who are effectively ready to travel anywhere in the country to deal with these sorts of losses,” says Richardson. “We get feet on the ground pretty quickly.”

Richardson, whose role is to deal with logistics and set up a base in any afflicted location, will ensure that two or three loss adjusters are there on day one, visiting customers and offering initial mitigation advice. When Storm Dennis caused extensive flooding in Pontypridd in 2020, an RSA emergency response team arrived within a day of the catastrophe and worked with a single local broker, going from business to business to assess damage and offer immediate help. “We camped out at the broker’s office, put on our wellies and made sure we were on hand to offer whatever local businesses needed to start trading again,” says Richardson. “From buying new equipment to replacing stock and finding alternative premises, we start dealing with a claim from start to finish, there and then, including issuing of the payment,” he adds. “It's as simple as that.”


Mitigating the deluge

While preventing flooding entirely is a near-impossible job, there are a number of steps that businesses can take to mitigate disaster. “As well as having an emergency plan in place, it’s vital that you do things inside the property to make it able to withstand water better,” says Lane. “Using flood resilient materials in the construction of a building will greatly reduce the costs of any losses.”

Designing out flood risks is also of utmost important during the early planning stages of new buildings. If the building is already up, however, steps can still be taken to reduce the risks of flood damage. “If you're putting in say, a new production line, you can design it so that it can be elevated effectively, protecting key components that are particularly susceptible to water damage,” Lane explains.

Ultimately, preparation is key when it comes to the risk of flooding. “The problem now is that flooding is getting more and more regular due to increasingly unpredictable weather patterns,” says Richardson, “and businesses do need to plan for it.”


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