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Lessons learnt from past floods

At a glance

  • Properties that may not have been affected previously, are increasingly at risk of flooding
  • Planning ahead and anticipating likely scenarios could help your Real Estate customers reduce claims costs and recovery times
  • Using analysis from previous events, we share tips on how you can help inform your customers, and increase their flood resilience

Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank battered the UK during the 2015/16 Christmas and New Year period. These severe weather events caused flooding to thousands of properties and forced the evacuation of numerous towns and villages.

Insurers estimate that the damage from these three storms alone will result in £1.3bn in claims, and they are a stark reminder of Real Estate portfolios’ continued vulnerability to flooding events, despite efforts to strengthen the UK’s defences.

As part of our Corporate Responsibility programme, we analyse major disaster events to understand how we can help customers and communities reduce the devastating impact of floods.

With one in six properties in England now at risk, we share insight that can help you in discussions with your Real Estate customers, about how they can increase their resilience to flooding.

Consider possible scenarios

Properties that were protected in the past may increasingly find defences being breached, despite continued government investment, according to the Committee on Climate Change.


Real Estate customers should therefore not rely on a historical lack of flooding at their properties, but instead give some thought to what might happen if it does occur.

Our Interactive Flood Guide contains a wealth of information to help customers get to grips with possible flooding scenarios and explains how best to respond.

Have a plan

Planning ahead, considering possible scenarios, and anticipating likely responses – at both an individual property and portfolio level – can make an enormous difference to the speed and effectiveness of a recovery.

“Customers will have to make a series of difficult decisions following a flood – from where to source alternative accommodation to how they’ll choose to reinstate a property. Already having that practical understanding of how you will react is really important,” says Kevin Larman, Director of Client Relationships at Cunningham Lindsey, one of Zurich’s partner loss adjusters.

Engaging contractors is one key aspect to consider. Real Estate customers will often have preferred contractors, but may need to be flexible following a flood event. Are those contractors capable of undertaking specialist activities, such as drying, or will other tradesman need to be considered?

Reinstate for greater resilience

When reinstating a property, some simple measures can be taken to increase its resilience to further flooding. This might include ways to prevent water entering a property – such as airbrick covers and flood gates – or changes that will minimise future water damage or enable a faster recovery – such as using water-resistant plaster or replacing a wooden floor with concrete or ceramic.

“It’s rarely possible to entirely prevent water from entering a property. I would therefore recommend always considering ways to mitigate its impact,” says Kevin. “Many measures are often cost-neutral, but can greatly minimise future damage and recovery time.”

Cost-neutral resilience measures

The following measures can often be taken during a reinstatement to increase resilience to future flooding:

  • Raise electrical sockets
  • Install air brick covers
  • Use water-resistant plaster, such as cement render
  • Install wall-mounted, rather than floor-mounted, boilers
  • Install ceramic or concrete flooring rather than wooden
  • Install kitchen units with removable or sacrificial base elements

Thinking about resilience should also form part of the planning process, and Zurich is happy to discuss potential solutions with you and your customers, to anticipate their reinstatement decisions.

Use your loss adjuster’s expertise

When a flood occurs, many different parties will be involved, from emergency services to community action groups. While each can be invaluable to a recovery, misinformation can easily disseminate and result in poor customer outcomes.

For example, a customer may see a neighbouring property starting renovations months before their own has finished drying out, but not understand why. Situations like this can often create unrealistic expectations and dissatisfied customers.

The best source of information will always be the nominated loss adjuster. Loss adjusters typically maintain a physical presence in the area for a long time following a flood; they can take a good overall view of the dynamics in the area, and give you and your customers the additional insight needed to resolve difficult situations.

How we can help

Flooding can be devastating for Real Estate customers, especially those with concentrated portfolios. We are on hand to work with you and your customers to help plan potential responses and increase their portfolio’s resilience.

For more information about anything discussed in this article, or to talk to us about building your customers’ resilience, 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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