Storm Christoph: Check your business exposure

Businesses in the UK are being warned to brace for further possible extreme weather and flooding across many parts of Northern England as Storm Christoph continues its rampage across parts of the country.

“When it comes to building resilience for extreme weather, such as flooding, it is vital to be proactive. If a business is not prepared it could find itself managing significant property damage, business interruption and even lost revenues”. According to Allan Macpherson, chief engineer for London Operations at FM Global. “If left unchecked, flooding can be disastrous, damaging products and even putting employees and customers at potential risk. Supply chains can also be put at risk whether due to site damage or difficulties in transporting goods. Businesses need to establish effective continuity plans to build business resilience – a huge asset in today’s world.”

Commenting on the potential insurance losses, Mohammad Khan, general insurance leader at PwC UK, said: "It is still very early to say what the impact on the general insurance industry will be but based on the current weather, PwC estimates that the losses from Storm Christoph will be between £80m and £120m. This is clearly dependent on what future rainfall occurs but currently would be less than the losses that occurred from Storm Ciara last year.

"Due to the existence of Flood Re, homeowners who have seen their properties flooded will not necessarily see an increase in the flood element of their premiums on renewal, following the recent storms and current weather. Flood Re charges a fixed premium for the flood element of home insurance for properties built in 2009 and prior."

The Association of British Insurers has estimated that the insurance pay-outs for damage caused by severe flooding in 2019 were in the region of £110m.

Building business resilience(Source: FM Global)

FM Global has issued the following top tips for businesses looking to mitigate the risks

Check for existing damage
Damage caused by extreme weather such as storms and flooding can often become much worse due to existing faults or weaknesses within a property. Whenever possible, businesses should carry out vulnerability checks, i.e. existing damage to the roof. With rain damage for example, this is often caused by a build-up of water due to blocked water removal systems, causing overloading and possible collapse.

To safeguard a facility from this kind of risk, businesses must always keep the roof well-maintained, ensuring all drains remain clear. Roof design should also be reviewed relatively frequently to maintain property resilience.

Understand your exposure level
Having the knowledge to understand the flood exposure at a facility is critical before taking any action. Once you know whether a facility is vulnerable or not, businesses can implement the correct solutions for them: options range from moving to a less flood-prone location (often higher up), to building suitable flood protection measures. Flood barriers are often a key tool as they effectively divert water away from the facility. Businesses can also invest in appropriate permanent drainage or protection solutions so that as much water is drained away as possible or prevented from entering the site or critical part of it.

Expect the unexpected
Ensure your flooding plan is up to date and any impact from COVID-19 (eg. reduced staffing) is accounted for and those who are responsible for implementing this are fully trained.
Storms and adverse weather are not always predictable so it is vital that businesses have systems in place to deal with unexpected weather events and mitigate the potential damage they can cause. This is all about increasing business resilience. For example, knowing how to cut off utility suppliers in case of flooding, ensuring adequate heating or ensuring materials are available to reduce damage to machinery will all help ensure business preparedness.

Check your business exposure
To prevent a significant extreme weather-related loss from unfolding at your facility, you must determine your exposure -- for example, the potential for significant property damage caused by flooding -- and establish an emergency plan that addresses identified vulnerabilities.

Among the questions you should ask to determine your level of exposure are:

1. Does your locale usually experience sever seasonal storms?

2. Has your locale ever experienced major flooding?

3. Do you shut down operations during winter holidays or on weekends?

4. Do you have important equipment or products located on the ground floor, unprotected by any protective barriers?

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