Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the U.S. Floods can affect business owners in a variety of ways. Accordingly, owners should take the opportunity to plan and prepare for storms, as preparation can hold the most promise to help reduce potential and future loss to a property.
Flood protection begins by considering a building’s physical location and structure. It’s important for companies to understand their proximity to water and then locate their property on the flood maps available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). These maps identify 100-year and 500-year flood zones throughout the United States. The flood zones also delineate participation in the NFIP, as well as permitting and other requirements that communities adopt in order to meet NFIP standards, thereby qualifying their citizens for lower flood insurance rates.
When looking at a physical structure, certain elements like building materials and elevation can play a role in preventing and reducing flood damage. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety offers five ways companies can help protect their structure and reduce the risk of interruptions due to flooding:
- Evaluate Drainage Slope – Check the property to make sure the ground slopes away from the building.
- Seal Any Cracks – Use high-quality, urethane-based caulk to seal any cracks and utility pipe penetrations.
- Sump Pump Backup– Connect sump pumps to a battery backup or generator.
- Use Backflow Valves – Install backflow valves on main waste drain pipes that leave the structure.
- Protect Openings – Have a supply of water-absorbent barriers to divert water away. Install watertight shields over all windows and doors at least 12 inches above the anticipated flood level.
Companies also need to take care of the contents inside their buildings. Enduring a natural disaster is never easy, but it’s possible to recover by being well prepared.The NFIP and other experts offer the following practices:
- Review your current insurance policies to see if coverage is provided for flood damage to the building and its contents. Contents coverage typically is optional, so be sure to discuss this coverage with your agent.
- If you have a building lease, review it to see if the building’s flood insurance policy covers structural elements in your space. Most commercial insurance does not cover flood damage.
- Review equipment lease and rental agreements to determine if you are responsible for flood damage.
- Ensure that important business files are backed up on a server away from your building so they aren’t lost if electronics and paper files are destroyed by water.
- Keep detailed records of all items in the building, including serial numbers, costs, and dates of purchase. Store those records on a remote server or in another place you can access after a flood to aid in the claims process.
- Establish a disaster procedure and emergency communications plan to share with your employees. Include links to the national weather service to learn about what flood warnings mean and visit nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/wea.html to set up Flash Flood Warning Alerts.
- Create a contact card small enough to put in a wallet with important names and numbers to use in case of an emergency. Set up a phone or text message tree.
- Create a plan to monitor local news and radio stations. Invest in a battery powered or wind-up radio with access to public radio bands and low frequency transmissions.
- Determine the bare minimum needed to reopen and set aside a contingency to make this happen, possibly including securing a business location on higher ground.
Efforts made by businesses for flood protection planning, which include activities like properly securing their property, minimizing exposure to leaks and cracks, backing up servers in a remote location and keeping detailed building content records offsite are valuable steps that can mitigate their risks for loss.