Flood Watch: Is Your Business Ready?

In much of the U.S., potential flooding is a fact of life that often gets ignored until it’s too late. For businesses in any type of flood zone, however, preparation is key to protecting employees. Moreover, the survival of your business could depend on having taken a few essential steps ahead of time.

In fact, it’s critical to understand that following a flood, and especially a large-scale flood, “business as usual” goes out the window for weeks or even months in many cases. Why? If your building is flooded, you need to quickly go through a proper emergency mitigation process to minimize the extent of the damage to salvageable building materials and prevent microbial growth (mold). But if you don’t already have a relationship with a restoration provider in place, you may have a difficult time finding qualified help, let alone starting the recovery process. And the longer your building sits, the more costs you will incur and the harder it will be to successfully restart operations.

March is Flood Safety Month in the U.S., so as spring sets in it’s a great time to consider just how prepared you are and take key steps as needed.

Keep People Safe
Once authorities announce a flood watch or warning, your business may have precious little time to act. At a minimum, to keep employees and customers safe, it’s essential you do the following well ahead of time.

  1. Map out the best evacuation routes. Getting out of a flood zone can be tricky because as soon as water starts running across low-lying areas, roads can quickly become impassable. And according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), almost half of flood deaths occur when people try driving on flooded roads.
  2. Educate employees on water and evacuation risks. Make sure your employees understand that flood water is usually full of contaminants and hazards and could even be electrically charged from power lines, so it’s best avoided whenever possible. Moreover, it doesn’t take much floodwater to cause problems; vehicles can be washed away in as little as 12 inches of moving water and people knocked down in as little as six inches.1
  3. Build an emergency kit. Given the chance you might have to shelter in place, it’s also important to have emergency resources on hand. A kit should include clean water and a water purifier, non-perishable food, a battery powered radio, flashlights, toiletries, extra batteries and cell phone chargers and backup batteries. For a complete list see this Ready.gov “Build a Kit” page.2

Prepare Your Business for the Aftermath
Quick recovery from a sizable flood is very difficult, if not impossible, if you haven’t taken a few key steps well ahead of time. Here are three things that you should do sooner than later, if you haven’t already.

  1. Verify you have the right insurance in place. Insurance companies define flooding in specific ways and most polices include a flood damage exclusion. If you aren’t clear on what your policy covers, ask your insurance broker to clarify and consider supplemental flood insurance, if needed. Otherwise, you might end up footing much bigger recovery bills than you are expecting. 
  2. Protect/backup essential documents and information. Any business-critical documents or computers housed in areas that could be inundated by flood water could be lost forever. Keep backups of key data and documents in a secure secondary offsite location.
  3. Establish a partnership with a disaster recovery provider. When you’re dealing with the aftermath of a flood or any other type of disaster, it’s hard to keep track of everything that’s happening, let alone choosing and lining up qualified help. Having an established relationship in place can remove an incredible amount of initial stress after a flood and sets you up for a more rapid and successful recovery.

How Prepared are You?
If you’ve already taken care of all six steps above, then you are well ahead of many businesses in your flood preparations. If you’ve missed any of the steps, add them to your to-do list for the next few weeks. And if you are ready to go the extra mile in preparations, consider developing a comprehensive Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)

Remember: flooding is a real and present danger across the U.S. More than 80 people per year die in floods and the country has experienced an average of nearly $8 billion in damages per year over 30 years,3 so taking some time to prepare during Flood Safety Month—or any other time of the year—is well worth it. 

1“Floods,” Ready.gov.
2“Build a Kit,” Ready.gov. 
3Hydrologic Information Center – Flood Loss Data, National Weather Service, 2018.