02 July 2014
Flooding: is your business prepared for the great British weather?
It’s hard to believe that six months have passed since the wettest winter on record, however it’s not easy to forget the devastation that the flooding brought to residences and businesses throughout the South of England. The floods cost small businesses across the country a combined £831 million, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). Data released by the FSB found that small businesses in flood-hit areas lost on average £1,531 each, due to the impact of the floods.
Following a rigorous assessment of flood defences, the Environment Agency identified around 1,000 sites that were in need of repair following the floods. The £270m funding to fix those sites will bring some comfort to those businesses that suffered, however in order to prevent the same costly impact in the future, businesses must prepare for and take steps to mitigate the future risk of flooding.
The natural environment or great British weather can be difficult to contend with as it is so unpredictable. However, the recent floods have highlighted a need for businesses to consider the external risks that might affect them.
According to the FSB, around a third (32%) of small businesses in flood-hit areas have seen a reduction in demand for goods and services, while transport disruption has hindered the movement of goods and supplies for 29% of companies. Sixteen percent of firms reported staff absences due to flooding, which of course can have a considerable impact on productivity and lead to increased pressure on those who are able to get to work.
By taking the time to consider and identify the spectrum of potential issues or problems before an organisation is actually faced with one of them, enables businesses to assess the potential impact and put policies and systems in place to mitigate the risks posed as far as possible. This might mean that a business is able to minimise the identified risks – or even reduce the effects of them.
In light of the recent flooding, it’s important to ask several questions. Consider what the impact might be if the road on which your business property is based were closed or, worse still, entirely underwater. How would this impact on your insurance? How would it impact the operations of your business and, ultimately, profitability?
What would happen if your employees could not get into the office – does your business have flexible working policies in place for this kind of occurrence? Are you set up for remote working? How will your business ensure that clients are still being serviced?
If each of these points is not addressed, it could result in loss or reduction of earnings. Having policies in place which are the product of thinking about potential impacts and how to mitigate them can help alleviate the impact such an event might have on your business.
By understanding an organisation’s environmental requirements and regularly reviewing operations, businesses can develop a robust yet flexible framework to minimise risk and improve resilience. Businesses that routinely assess and proactively identify the challenges they may encounter will undoubtedly be best placed to mitigate the risk of flooding.
Conduct a regular review and thorough testing of your business continuity plan to address emergencies that might disrupt operations. Ensure your Employment Handbook is maintained and that staff have read and understood the procedure if the office is inaccessible or they cannot get in.
In considering whether your business is at risk, it’s important to remember that flooding is not just caused by rivers bursting their banks.
Flooding can result from rain water, river water, sea water and groundwater. The Environment Agency offers a Floodline which allows businesses to check whether they are located in a flood risk area and offers flood warnings for those in areas of high risk.
Owners of business premises should establish whether or not they can obtain compensation from the Government or their business insurers, as terms will become much tougher, if not impossible, to secure near high risk sites.
In addition to considering how to protect your existing business, those looking at taking new premises should also consider the risk of flooding. Look at where the property is situated, speak to those with local knowledge about the historic impact of flooding on the area and pay close attention to the results of the Environmental Search that your property lawyer should provide you with.
By working in partnership with our team of legal experts, and other professionals, an organisation can prepare and plan for the environmental challenges which could arise, including flooding, allowing organisations to continue in the comfort that there is a plan in place to deal with the unexpected.