Flood Preparedness Guide for Businesses: How To Prepare For A Flood

Categories: Water Damage Restoration

Highest Flood Risk Areas In The United States

Flooding is one of the most common natural disasters in the United States, and one of the most deadly. In fact, 90 percent of all-natural disasters in the U.S. include some degree of flooding.

In many common flood zones, floods are happening more frequently and are more severe than in previous years. Our nation’s floodplains are expected to grow by approximately 45 percent by the end of the century.

Ensuring your business is properly prepared for any form of flooding with a thought-out disaster preparedness plan, is a vital part of risk management. There are a number of steps a business should take to minimize the risk of damage to property and equipment and to recover quickly if you do end up underwater.

The following five steps include preparation, mitigation, and recovery tips for commercial facilities.

1. Assess Your Risk

The first step is to assess your risk of flooding. If your business is located on or near a floodplain, the first step is to check the FEMA flood map, which shows your community and property's risk of flooding. Just pull up the map and enter your address. Even if your business is not in a traditional flood zone, floods are now happening in areas that were assumed to be “safe”. As such, you will want to establish a disaster preparedness plan regardless. 

Local government offices and libraries also often have flood maps available online or can be provided by the city. These can be helpful if your business is located nearby one of these.

The flood map will give you a risk level that ranges from "Area of Minimal Flood Hazard" to "Special Flood Hazard Area." If you live in the latter area, then you are dealing with a high risk of flooding. If you are still in the process of buying or leasing a property for your business, it's worth considering flood risk when deciding on a location.

If you are in a hurricane zone, then you also face a high risk of flooding. Hurricanes often create flood events or storm surges. Floodwaters in these cases are likely to contain salt, which can accelerate equipment deterioration. 

Flooding can also be caused by snowmelt, extremely heavy rainfall, as well as ice and debris jams. If a business is located downstream of a dam or levee, you should also seriously consider flood risk.

Additionally, consider the construction of your building including its foundation and precise elevation. Measure the elevation of the lowest floor of your building, which may not be the same as the elevation of the surrounding ground. It's a good idea to get an elevation survey done.

2. Check Your Insurance

Make sure that you have adequate insurance for both flooding (underwritten by the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and traditional water backup (underwritten by insurance companies). The two are not the same, although the damage caused can be similar. For example, if a roof collapses during a rainstorm, and a lower level, such as a basement, was filled with water, it would not be considered flood damage. 

According to FEMA, a flood is a general and temporary condition where two or more acres of normally dry land or two or more properties are inundated by water or mudflow.

The cost of flood insurance is determined by location. Businesses that are able to purchase or lease property in a less risky area, not only improve the overall risk of flooding but save money on flood insurance.

3. Mitigate Your Risk

If you establish that flood is a likely risk for your business, then you need to take steps to mitigate and reduce that risk. There are things you can do on your property that will help reduce damage in the event of a flood, and which can support business continuity. These include the following 5 recommendations:

  1. Secure offsite backups of all data and documentation.
  2. Considering carefully what to store and keep in basements. Putting your computer server room in the basement is a good idea in many areas, but may not be the best location in a flood zone.
  3. Improve your landscaping. Hire a landscaper experienced in flood mitigation who can adjust the slope, design swales, and take other steps to cause floodwater to flow away from the building. Consider putting in a rain garden.
  4. Ensure that maintenance personnel keeps gutters and storm drains clear of debris.
  5. Get an audit of your building and lot and get anything that might cause a particular flood hazard to be fixed. This might include adding waterproof covers to doors, elevating utilities, improving basement drainage, etc.

Although floodproofing your property won’t prevent a disaster, it will reduce damage and downtime should one ensue.

4. Create A Disaster Recovery Plan

Every business should have an emergency response plan or a contingency plan in place. Make sure that yours includes flood risk. Your plan should involve all of your stakeholders and be designed to ensure the safety of employees, protection of equipment, and continuity of business.

Here are some specific things you should consider for your flood plan:

    • Ensure key employees know when a flood hazard is likely to occur. In flood zones, a flood watch indicates that conditions are favorable for a flood and a flood warning indicates that a flood is about to occur. When a flood warning happens, the flood plan should be implemented.
    • Train employees on what to do if they are on-site and a flood occurs with or without warning. Employees should move to upper floors but not to completely enclosed areas. Also, be sure that employees know not to attempt to cross floodwater by any means.
    • Determine whether a flood evacuation plan is needed. Depending on the specific area around your property, employees may be safer staying put. If not, then ensure that they know how to evacuate safely and what, if anything, they should take with them. (If you operate in a hurricane zone then your normal hurricane evacuation plan will cover the risk).
    • Ensure that employees power down all equipment that can safely be powered off when flood risk is imminent. Equipment is less likely to be functionally damaged if it is not energized. Additionally, even if your location is not flooded, a nearby flood can cause a power outage, which can then cause power fluctuation damage when power returns.
    • Line up a company that can perform decontamination and reconditioning of business-critical equipment. AREPA provides equipment decontamination and reconditioning services that help mitigate business interruption following flood exposure. Contact AREPA to learn more about why we are a specialized and trusted recovery partner.  

5. Plan For Recovery and Cleanup

If your facility does flood, a plan to ensure rapid recovery will be crucial. Flooding can cause damage to your equipment via the growth of mold and rust. Make sure that key employees know to:

  • Not enter the building until they are sure it is safe to do so. Your employees are always worth more than your equipment. Have them check for compromised power lines and call the utility company if they see any. When they do enter, they should wear an N95 mask, rubber boots, goggles, and gloves.
  • Verify that equipment has been de-energized.
  • Contact facility cleaning and equipment decontamination companies immediately. The faster they can get to work the better.
  • Deploy dehumidifiers to control elevated humidity, especially if you have no power or climate control is non-functional.

AREPA is an expert in equipment disaster recovery and reconditioning. We can often save water exposed equipment, speeding your return to operations. 

Contact us for more tips on flood mitigation and preparation, or to schedule an audit of your equipment today. That way, if you have a flood or other disaster, we’ll know exactly how to help.

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