Risk is expected in any business endeavor. Some companies even have risk management departments that attempt to predict and minimize risk. Unfortunately, natural disasters are unpredictable risks that can completely devastate a business.

For example, the flooding that occurred during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 damaged several cities along America’s Gulf Coast. There were 31,401 business establishments in New Orleans in 2005, but this number decreased by 7.6 percent to 29,002 in 2006 because of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating impact.

So, how can business owners prepare for the unexpected?

There is no simple answer to this question, but there are some answers that specifically relate to flood preparation.

While flooding cannot be prevented, business owners can take proper precautions to protect their businesses from its harmful effects by following these tips.

Access and Understand Your Area’s Flood Map

Flood maps, also called Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), are provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and identify areas of flood hazards and flood risks. They form the basis for floodplain management regulations and flood insurance requirements. FIRMs are revised periodically to reflect the changing topography of the area thus making it imperative for business owners to regularly check the FEMA website for map updates.

Get Flood Insurance

Businesses in flood-prone areas should get flood insurance. Just like with any other type of insurance, the business owner should understand the terms of the contract and what is actually covered. For example, some flood insurance plans do not cover the contents of the building, while more comprehensive packages do. If possible, it’s best to purchase a package that covers both the building and its contents, despite the higher premiums. 

Purchase Flood Boards

Flood boards are moisture-resistant PVC boards that can be placed on doors and windows. They are better than sandbags because sandbags must be used with plastic sheets and can be contaminated with bacteria. Additionally, flood boards can be fitted easily, as well as be reused.

Use Non-Return Valves

A non-return valve is installed in a property’s manhole and prevents the backflow of sewage during flooding. The risk of contracting a communicable disease increases during flooding. Therefore, preventing the backflow of sewage helps reduce the chances of people coming into contact with contaminated water on the business’ property.

Raise Electrical Sockets

The risk of electric shock increases during flooding. As such, business owners should ensure that all electrical sockets and wires are raised to reduce the risk of contact with floodwaters. This is especially true for businesses that are located on the ground floor.

Create a Flood Continuity Plan

A flood continuity plan is a proactive response to the potential impact of flooding on a business and answers the following questions.

Flood Continuity Plan – Question Template

  1. What are the obvious flooding risks from external sources?
  2. What are the possible impacts of these risks on the business?
  3. Where would floodwaters naturally flow in this area?
  4. What contaminants could be in the floodwaters based on the types of businesses in the area?
  5. Does the business have all the tools and resources to protect the infrastructure and its contents from flooding?
  6. Can power be switched off quickly if a flood should occur to minimize damage?
  7. Has a flood response team been created within the business?
  8. Has a flood action sheet been created and disseminated within the business?
  9. Have the staff been adequately trained?

Train Employees

Earthquake and fire drills are standard natural disaster training exercises for employees. Minimal, if any, training is usually provided for flood preparation, despite flooding being the most common natural disaster in America. A flood continuity plan will not work if employees are not appropriately trained. Employees should know:

  • The flood warning alarm
  • What to do when the flood warning alarm goes off
  • The dangers of flooding
  • How to safely evacuate the building

Certain employees should also be selected and trained as flood wardens who can close down the business correctly when the threat of a flood is imminent, and who also know how to correctly install flood protection products such as flood boards.

Final Words

Business owners should take flood preparation seriously because flooding can force an ill-prepared business to close its doors. The best strategies for flood preparation include understanding the area’s flood map, creating a flood continuity plan, and getting flood insurance. Employee training is also crucial.

About the Author(s)

 The National Council for  Home Safety and Security

The National Council for Home Safety and Security (NCHSS) is a national trade association comprised of companies in the security sector, including licensed alarm installers, contractors, and other relevant trade groups across the United States.

Flood Preparation for Small Business Owners