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Identifying and dealing with flood risk

At a glance

  • Severe flood events in the UK are on the rise, but planning ahead can dramatically reduce the impact of flooding
  • With its wealth of experience, Zurich can help brokers recommend actions to mitigate flood risk
  • Flood damage now costs UK insurers £1.1 billion each year, and around one in six properties in England are at risk from flooding

As the UK anticipates unpredictable weather patterns in the years ahead, we look at what your organisation can do to mitigate flood risk.

In recent years, storms have battered the UK, with thousands of people evacuated as homes and businesses were left without power as flood waters rose.

The country is now experiencing the most extreme flooding on record, with a growing number of the British public attributing these events to climate change.

And they could be right. Scientists from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict that the UK will receive 10% more rainfall on average per year by 2100. They also predict an increase in extreme weather events, not always confined to winter months, such as the remnants of hurricane Bertha, which brought unseasonably wet and windy weather to the UK for several days in 2014.

Defence vs. damages

Flood risk remains an important issue for brokers and their customers. Around 5.2 million properties are currently at risk from flooding in England alone and annual flood damage costs are in the region of £1.1 billion. In 2014, the government committed £2.3 billion over six years to improve the UK’s flood defences, with the measures intended to provide better protection against severe weather events for around 300,000 homes.

Zurich flooding

Another result of the need to manage the effects of flooding, has been the development of Flood Re – a not-for-profit scheme initially developed by the Association of British Insurers and the government to ensure flood insurance remains widely available and affordable for eligible residential properties, while providing a sustainable transition to risk reflective pricing over 25 years.

What this means for householders in high risk properties is that insurers will be able to pass the flood risk element of a home insurance policy to a fund that will pay any subsequent flood claims. This allows such customers to have both affordable flood insurance and access to a wider range of providers than would otherwise be the case.

Flooding year-round risk

However, it’s not just during the winter that customers need to be prepared. During the summer floods of 2007, the Environment Agency recorded that 48,461 homes and 6,896 businesses were flooded.

That’s why brokers need to ensure their customers are adequately prepared for flooding no matter what the time of the year.

Preparing for a flood

Firstly, it is important to assess the general risk of flooding for a property by using government agency flood maps, with separate ones available for EnglandScotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Other more specific indicators can include asking simple questions about the property. Is it near a river, sea or stream? Is it situated in a hollow, or at the bottom of a hill where floodwater could collect? Have drains at the property, or those of a neighbour, overflowed recently?

The Environment Agency produces a guide for businesses on how to deal with flooding.

Key recommendations include:

  • Sign up for flood alerts
  • Prepare a flood plan (details within guide)
  • Look at your existing business policies and consider whether they are appropriate in the event of a flood
  • Make a list of employee contact numbers in case of evacuation and consider any staff who may need special assistance
  • Make sure any hazardous materials are kept safe and do not contaminate flood water
  • Check flood products and warning products regularly
  • Know the location of cut off points for gas, electricity and water
  • Note key stock or equipment that may need special protection from flood water.
  • Consider what you may need during or after a flood (for example, sandbags, plastic sheeting, loudspeaker)
  • See if key operations, such as shipping or customer services, can be moved to a safer building

From this, it is possible to ascertain what flood protection measures are needed. Flood resistance is about keeping water out of a property; while resilience focuses on limiting the damage once the water is in.

According to the Association of British Insurers, premiums can be reduced if at-risk properties install flood resistance products, such as flood guards, and adopt flood resilience by using materials like water resistant plaster.

Our risk management engineers at Zurich are on hand to offer customers salient advice to minimise flood damage, including our latest Flood Guide– an interactive guide that provides useful, straightforward advice for businesses to prepare for, act during, and recover from, a flood event.

But for complete peace of mind, we recommends customers consult specialist flood surveyors to instruct on the most appropriate preventative measures for each individual property.

There is also Floodline Warnings Direct, a free government service that sends a message when flooding is expected – giving home or business owners extra time to prepare for the worst.

In the event of a flood

Being prepared for a flood emergency will reduce the risks to occupants in a property, as well as limit the damage to a property and its contents.

But if a property is flooded, then it is essential to inform your insurance company of the flooding right away, as they will need to send out a loss adjuster or other specialists to assess the damage.

Practical clean-up steps must also be adhered to – such as having power and gas supplies checked by a professional, the removal of water and mud, cleaning and disinfecting, and an adequate drying-out period (which can last up to 12 months) – before reoccupying a property.

It is important to note, however, that an insurer will want to project-manage much of the clean-up, so the insured must inform an insurer before acting on anything.

Working with your insurer

Claiming with an insurer should be an effortless process, and here at Zurich our team of experts are always on hand to help customers quickly get back on their feet following a flood event.

So, there is much that brokers can be doing now in terms of advising their customers on flood risk to protect against future events.

For more information please speak with your local Zurich contact. You can also find out more and access helpful guides and insight with our new Flood Risk Resource.

Image © Getty

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