This week, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) released its ‘Climate Change Risk Assessment’ report analysing the risks posed by climate change and providing advice to business and industry. The aim of the report was to ‘assess the urgency of further action to tackle current and future risks’. It has caused something of a furore. Why? Mainly because one of the key messages of the government’s report is a warning to businesses, the UK infrastructure is unlikely to cope with the impending floods. We have seen from a previous blog why storm behaviour has changed and how this change is more likely to cause flood damage. What effect could it have on your business?
‘The global increase in temperature since 1880 is mirrored in the UK climate’ and since 1900, sea levels around the UK have risen by 15-20 centimetres. One of the consequences is an increasing occurrence of extreme weather events. The floods and extreme weather events that the UK has experienced were not unexpected; they are the predictable result of climate change, largely caused by human activity. The report identifies the two areas at highest risk of inter-related climate change for the United Kingdom:
- Flooding and coastal change risks to communities, businesses and infrastructure. (Ch3, Ch4, Ch5, CH6)
- Risks to health, well-being and productivity from high temperatures (Ch 5, Ch6)
The report highlights the specific risks to businesses requiring more action over and above what is already planned as well as areas requiring urgent research:
- Bu1: Risks to business sites from flooding
- Bu2: Risks to business from loss of coastal locations and infrastructure
- Bu5: Employee productivity impacts in heatwaves and from severe weather infrastructure disruption
In the words of the producers of the report, “It’s been a challenging year involving major flooding this past winter which affected hundreds of properties…”
What can you do to avoid being flooded?
Much of the responsibility nationally lies with organisations like the Environment Agency but they are powerless to prevent the storms that are increasing the incidence of floods and unable to deal with individual businesses. Various types of flood barrier and concrete walling are used to protect flood prone areas. To complement ‘hard engineering’ techniques there are natural flood defences which can help to divert water and reduce its rate of flow. Trees have a positive impact as they catch rainfall and draw water from the soil but many are needed to make a real difference. There is also a responsibility with building contractors to provide sustainable drainage in areas prone to flooding. Drainage needs to be particularly efficient in urban areas constructed with impermeable materials like concrete and tarmac. Since the Flood Act of 2010, builders are obliged to landscape developments to allow water to drain off hard surfaces and into open ground.
For the majority of businesses, these measures have not been applied to their property and its surroundings. In most cases, there is only an inadequate, aging drainage system, unable to cope with the demands of a dramatically changing environment.
As a business there are steps you can take to minimise the damage from flood:
- Ensure drains are kept clean and clear, never obstructed.
- Ensure that you have good insurance in place
- Find out if you are at a higher level of risk https://www.gov.uk/prepare-for-a-flood
- Keep an eye on the flood warnings and river level alerts for your area. https://www.gov.uk/check-if-youre-at-risk-of-flooding
- Make a flood plan and ensure relevant personnel are aware of it
- Ask a professional for advice on flood protection
- Improve flood protection within and around your property: Doors, walls, floors, drains and specially designed covers for ventilation bricks.
- Bigger floods need to be allowed to happen to prevent the pressure of flood water from causing the building to collapse. Ensure all valuable contents within the building are protected..
- Establish contact with an accredited flood damage repair and restoration company in your area.
- Have the contact details of an accredited company readily available for personnel to use in the event of a flood.
If you experience flood damage
The impact of a flood within a business can be greatly reduced if the flood is dealt with quickly and efficiently. However, the primary damage caused by floodwater is often just the beginning. Secondary damage can have long-term and serious consequences. If flood water potentially contains sewage or any other contaminants this should be dealt with by a professional flood damage repair and restoration company. In any flood damage event, safety is paramount and it is important that a thorough risk assessment is undertaken. Check the status of your utilities; turn off the electricity supply at the mains if necessary. Record everything throughout the process using photography, video and written documentation as evidence. If there is any doubt, contact a professional water damage remediation company who will have the equipment and resources to deal with it quickly and safely.
- Wear PPE including: goggles, heavy rubber gloves, mask, rubber boots and protective clothing.
- Identify and deal with all leaks – Depending on the cause, the source of the flood needs to be identified and closed. This may require a professional company who can employ a variety of techniques to locate and repair leaks.
- Extract water – Secondary damage caused by excess water can cause structural damage as well as health hazards. Mould and other and microbial growth will quickly begin to infiltrate the environment if any moisture remains undetected. If you are pumping water into rivers, boreholes, ditches or watercourses you will need to seek permission from your local environment office.
- Ventilate property – this stage is vital but ensure site security is not compromised.
- Rapid drying – all excess moisture must be removed from the property to prevent secondary damage, eliminate health risks and reduce restoration costs. An accredited water damage remediation company will use efficient drying technology to ensure this process is carried out effectively and as quickly as possible.
- Sort and assess furniture, furnishings and contents to determine what is salvageable.
- Check for hidden damage: structure, electricity, insulation and cavities, ventilation ducts, plywood and wall cavities. If water is left, mould spores will develop and quickly escalate.
- Clean and disinfect – Water can contain sewage and other microorganisms that are hazardous to health and the environment. Knowledge and expertise are required to clean-up safely and effectively after water damage. A professional company should test the area for contaminants and deal with them effectively. Ultimately, an accredited company should be able to supply you with a 100% decontamination guarantee certificate so that you know your workplace is safe.
- Keep your customers informed throughout the process. Try to prioritise key customers where possible, the aim is to minimise loss of revenue and maintain as much function as possible.
Ideal Response are a CHAS accredited company providing service to industries in London and the South East. We have many years of experience and a well-deserved reputation within the flood damage repair and restoration industry. We are happy to assist and advise further. We aim to safely return businesses to ‘fully operational’ in the quickest possible time frame.