Flooding is our most common and widespread natural disaster, and the UK has suffered at least one serious flood every year since 1998. Businesses in flood risk areas are already more likely to be flooded than destroyed by fire. Worse still, as our climate changes we can expect to see more extreme weather – and more floods.
Preparation makes a measurable difference
By taking action to prepare ahead for flooding, your business could save between 20% and 90% on the cost of lost stock and movable equipment. You can also dramatically reduce the trouble, workload and stress that goes with such an event.
Since the floods of Boxing Day 2015, Calderdale Council has been working with local businesses to support their efforts to protect themselves from future floods. By taking measures to make your business property more flood resilient, and by preparing an emergency flood plan, you will maximise your chance of coping with any serious incidents.
You should start by preparing an emergency plan for flash flooding, just as you have for fire. It should set out who needs to do what as well as identify a safe place for people to go. Flash floods can happen extremely quickly, and you may need to act before emergency services reach you.
The Environment Agency has prepared specific emergency plans for businesses in flash flood areas. For more information to help protect your business, staff, customers and visitors, please contact them.
We also encourage you to read Would your Business Stay Afloat?
And use the What to Do list below and the Business Emergency Flood Plan template to create your own emergency flood plan.
What to do in the event of a flood
If a flood is imminent:
- Give specific roles to your staff. Ask yourself, who is responsible for doing what?
- Be aware and know the signs, because flooding can happen very suddenly. It is important to know what signs to look for in your particular location, so you can ACT FAST.
These signs might include:
- heavy rain or severe weather reports
- rising water levels with churning and dark water
- a build-up of debris in rivers or streams.
- Move valuable stock or equipment out of the way of floodwater if you are sure you can do this safely.
- Switch off your utilities (gas, electricity and water) if you are sure you can do this safely.
- Secure your property by locking doors and windows, setting alarms etc. if you are sure you can do this safely.
- Move staff and visitors to a safe place.
- Where possible, do not walk or drive through floodwater. In a flash flood, most injuries and deaths happen when people try to cross floodwater. It only takes 15 cm (six inches) of fast-flowing water to knock an adult over, and only 60cms (two feet) of water to lift and sweep away a 4x4 or small lorry. There might also be hidden dangers like rubble and exposed drains under the water.
- Make sure everyone is accounted for and safe, and reassure those who need it.
- If emergency services do not attend the scene, contact the local authority on 01422 288001 to confirm that flooding is happening. Out of hours you can contact the local authority on 01422 288000.
- Keep up to date by listening to the radio or by calling the Environment Agency Floodline on 0345 988 1188.
- Plan where to go if you get caught in a flash flood. If you are in a building with at least two storeys and you believe it is safer to stay where you are, you should do that. Move to a higher floor and wait for instructions from the emergency services. If you are in vulnerable accommodation such as a bungalow or a basement without access to higher floors – or if you are caught outside – you should take shelter in the nearest two-storey building or go to higher ground. Call 999 if you are trapped.
- If you need to move people to a rest centre, contact your local authority for instructions on 01422 288001, or out of hours call 01422 288000.
- Do not return to your site until the emergency services say it is safe.
In the event of a flood, you should assess risks and the speed of water movement. At no time should you or your staff carry out any tasks that could put your life at risk. Call 999 if anyone is trapped or in danger, and wait for instructions from the emergency services.
After the flood, update your Business Flood Plan.