Article date: 14 July 2008
Firms should incorporate specific flood contingency elements in business continuity plans (BCP) to minimise disruption and improve speed of recovery following a flood, says Norwich Union Risk Services (NURS).
The warning comes following the publication of the Pitt Review, which revealed the average period of disruption faced by businesses following last year's floods was 8.75 days, and only 12% of those businesses surveyed had actually taken measures to mitigate against the effect of flooding.1
Craig Begg, business interruption risk adviser for NURS, says: "According to the review take-up of flood-resistant and resilient measures, even in flood hit areas, is low.
"As the report highlighted, there are ‘clear benefits' if businesses implement measures, such as reoccupying buildings more quickly and reducing the amount of time and money needed to get back into operation.
"The Environment Agency says that businesses are more likely to be flooded than burned down, and whilst it may not be feasible to relocate a business in a safer area, it is possible to undertake certain actions which will reduce the damage caused by flooding and improve the speed of businesses' recovery.
"Because of the growing frequency and severity of such incidents it may be beneficial to prepare a specific flood contingency component to ensure a BCP can be fully effective."
The value of having a BCP in place is demonstrated by a loss adjusting firm dealing with the summer 2007 floods:
"Where robust plans are in place we can report real benefit to post loss activity, which is far more structured. In such cases the principal strategic planning has been considered and documented, leaving people with defined roles and duties, which they are able to implement immediately."2
Begg suggests that this comprises three phases: risk mitigation, incident management and recovery actions.
Check out the Environment Agency's website to ascertain the flood risk for your location (www.environment-agency.gov.uk/subjects/flood) and also your local council's flood contingency plans. If the business is in an "at risk" area, follow the instructions on the Environment's Agency website to register to receive a Flash Flood warning.
"Prepare a ‘Flood Incident Management Plan' in advance of any incident and ensure all staff members are aware of it," says Begg.
He continues: "Once the flood has occurred and the water begins to recede, firms need to have plans in place to recover their businesses as quickly as possible. As with the other two phases, having a written plan will assist.
"Finally, the continuity arrangements will need to be supported by adequate insurance including Business Interruption cover. Organisations should ensure that the Maximum Indemnity Period is adequate to allow for a full recovery of the business as in many instances a 12 month period has proved to be inadequate."
Loss adjusters advise that in respect of the 2007 floods, Additional Increased Costs of Working cover assisted many businesses to deal with the problems they faced without the worry of whether or not their actions would be later deemed as ‘uneconomic'. Suppliers and Customers Extension cover also proved to be invaluable in many instances.
Such actions might include:
- Move electrical wiring and sockets to a higher level
- Install a more resilient flooring
- Have a small stock of sandbags or floorboards available to block doorways and airbricks or consider purchasing proprietary protection devices
- Locate key stock and contents at a higher level in the premises. Raise all other stock and contents likely to suffer damage off the floor if possible. Sometimes a simple measure such as raising goods on a pallet can avoid a considerable amount of damage.
- Consider demountable barriers that can be installed around key plant and machinery that cannot be moved
- Pay particular attention to the location of IT equipment and ensure data and software is backed up regularly and stored in a safe and accessible location
- Consider the need to locate a small strategic stock of materials outside of the potential flood affected zone. This may enable the business to meet key contractual requirements
- Encourage staff members to review and improve their own flood preparedness at home.
Flood incident management
Business could consider such matters as:
- Closing the business early - you don't want staff or customers trapped there. Remember although your location may be safe, access roads may become submerged. Have plans in place to accommodate as comfortably as possible those who may become trapped.
- Remove company vehicles to a safer location
- Know the location of your gas/water/electricity terminals so they can be switched off when necessary.
- Implement any emergency protection measures you have planned
- If possible remove valuable/important stock and contents as well as other materials which might contaminate flood water, eg chemicals, oils and hazardous materials
- Obtain emergency lighting and small generators
- Ensure sufficient company mobile phones are available so that staff and customers can phone relatives
- Contact customers and suppliers to appraise them of the situation and cancel incoming deliveries
- Keep a note of your Insurance Brokers and Insurance Companies Claims Helpline numbers and other useful Emergency phone numbers including specialist salvage companies, gas and electricity providers.
- Keeping details of your machinery and contents so that replacements can be quickly ordered
- Organise alternative storage facilities if required
- Maintaining contact lists including commercial estate agencies (in case you have to relocate temporarily) as well as builders, contractors, IT specialists etc so that reinstatement of the damage can begin
- Regularly updating your major customers and suppliers by whatever method suits the business best
- Keeping staff informed of the situation and remember that they may be dealing with their own flood problems at home
- Prioritise your recovery actions so that the business can first of all resume trading at a predetermined minimum level and then build up to a normal level as quickly as possible
- Maintaining a log to note all the actions undertaken and expenses incurred. The latter will assist with the insurance claim whilst the former can be used to judge how the Plan actually worked and allow any alterations to be made to it to improve the businesses' resilience in the future.
For further information, please contact:
Sam Bramwell at Staniforth or 0161 919 8024/077381 96667 or Sally Leeman at Norwich Union on 01603 684 225/ 07789 270 677.
Notes to editors:
2 Questgates: Questgates Flood Bulletin No 3 15 August 2007
About Norwich Union Risk Services
Norwich Union Risk Services is the specialist risk management division of Norwich Union that is dedicated to helping UK businesses manage their risks in an effective way.
They achieve this through their national team of approximately 180 staff which includes:
- Risk advisers and specialists - Who visit commercial properties across the UK to help identify risks and recommend dynamic and practical risk management solutions for Norwich Union's insured customers.
- Safety consultants - Who provide expert health, safety and environmental training and consultancy services.
Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available on the Aviva internet press centre at www.aviva.com/media.