A report this month warned that thousands of businesses in flood risk areas have failed to install basic protection against rising waters. The Association of British Insurers has stated that even buildings guarded by flood defences should have flood-proof doors in case embankments are breached – but many don’t. It’s a call backed by ATAC Solutions, the UK specialists in waste water and water management, which urges companies and their Facilities Managers to make preparations now before the cloudbursts begin.
Costs related to flooded businesses average between £75,000 and £112,000. During the 2012 floods, businesses lost £200 million, £84 million of which was property damage with the remainder being consequential damage, such as loss of business and staff absences.
There are demands in the UK for an increase in tighter building standards and maintenance to ensure at-risk businesses become more flood-resistant. Ahead of a report by BRE Chief Executive, Dr Peter Bonfield, it outlines the recommendations into how commercial properties can become more resilient to flooding.
A national problem
In 2015, accountancy firm KPMG estimated that the UK’s winter floods topped £5 billion in damages and predicted that spend on rebuilding infrastructure and flood defences will hit £2.75 billion. The government’s National Flood Resilience Review allocates £12.5 million for more temporary defences, such as barriers and pumps at strategic locations around the country. By this winter, the government said four times more temporary barriers will be available and is spending £2.3 billion over the next six years from 2015-2021 to strengthen the country’s flood and coastal defences.
Local Solutions for FMs
But at a local level, how can businesses protect themselves in the event of flooding? During the last floods in the UK, ATAC Solution’s fleets of tankers recorded some 45 call-outs per day across the south east, many to help with jetting blocked drains to avoid further catastrophe.
The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) flood risk management guidance paper does offer some sound advice to FMs. Sealing doors and windows with barriers will hold back flood waters up to one metre high and allow you time to deal with other issues. Brick walls can be made more flood resistant by regularly checking the pointing and applying waterproof sealant to prevent absorption. Air bricks, while essential for ventilation, will provide an entry point for water in flood conditions so consider specially designed covers that are easy to fit over air bricks to mitigate the risk.
There is always the risk that flood water may enter your premises so damage limitation is the best approach and this generally involves moving assets and equipment out of harm’s way. This may also require some pre-purchasing of shelves or racks so that items can be raised above anticipated flood levels. If the building permits, consider raising electrical sockets, electrical wiring and controls for ventilation systems which can significantly reduce damage to the fabric of the building.
Although floods can be damaging and traumatic, organisations that have thought through threat alleviation and response approaches can save up to 90% of the cost of lost or damaged stock.
During the floods of 2013 ATAC Solutions worked with water companies to develop new transportable biological treatment tanks. These used bacteria to treat the water from pumps on site before it was recycled to local watercourses. Each tank improved the quality of the treated water by as much as 40%. They also allowed more oxygen to be applied during the treatment process which helped maintain the natural balance of rivers for local wildlife.
“It might look dry out there now,” said Adam Colley Director of ATAC Solutions, “but you have to remember that the UK’s water table remains at very high levels from last year’s rainfall, so a couple of days of heavy rainfall will just add to the already high levels… and overflow water has to drain somewhere.
“Plus, you only have to look at the number of new housing and commercial developments in the region placing further pressure on an overstretched infrastructure struggling to cope with demand. However, our tanker pumps can shift 700 cubic feet per minute into our 4,000 gallon tankers which goes someway to alleviating the problem in emergency situations.”
ATAC Solutions also recommends that now is the time for off-grid properties to look at their sewerage waste disposal before heavy rain damage brings further problems.
“I would really urge any commercial facilities managers to look at getting their tanks emptied in preparation for winter. People tend to look at their heating and lighting provisions in advance of winter but completely ignore their own sewage treatment system. I’d say now is the perfect time to address that.”
However, Colley also recommends making some contingency plans so that in the event of an emergency, people can be prepared. These include:
Keeping a list of useful numbers somewhere memorable e.g. local council, the emergency services, ATAC Solutions, your insurance company and the Environment Agency’s Floodline number.
Identify higher ground locations for temporary parking. Plan transport logistics to/from temporary parking locations.
In areas of high flood risk, the Environment Agency offers a service called Flood line Warnings Direct. This is a free, 24 hour service that sends automated flood warnings by telephone, SMS text, email, fax or pager. Check with Flood line on 0845 988 1188 whether there are specific flood warning arrangements for specific areas.
Bookmark ATAC’s dedicated flood page: http://atacsolutions.com/pump-shop/flood-protection.html
Generators and Submersible Drainage Pumps – Even if your company suffers a power cut, generators will allow you to continue the running of your submersible pumps to clear a building.
‘Floodsax’ sandbags are a clean, easy-to-store and fit alternative to sandbags for the protection from flooding. They are filled with a super-absorbent polymer, which when dry, lay flat and weigh only 200g.
Ensure that the building is structurally sound before entering and commencing clean-up work. Ensure that personnel involved are issued with protective clothing as necessary.
Re-evaluate physical security arrangements as alarm systems may not be functioning and buildings may need to be left open during salvage and restoration activities.
Make a flood kit. At ATAC we keep a number of these in stores for our customers. Keep a torch, battery or wind-up radio, and necessary medication, emergency numbers, rubber gloves and the insurance policy in a safe place, upstairs if possible.
Find out where to turn off gas and electricity supplies. Mark the tap or switch with a sticker to help people remember.
For businesses, check codes and regulations that might apply in the event of a flood especially in occupational health and safety regulations; and specific environmental regulations.
Adam Colley added: “Unfortunately, a lot of companies believe that external agencies will literally bail them out in times of flooding, but the pressure on them is immense. Some simple preparations now could prevent a drama being turned into a crisis.”
For a downloadable version of the BIFM’s flood risk management guidance paper, please visit: www.bifm.org.uk/bifm/filegrab/bifm-gn-flood-risk-management-web-final.pdf