No business owner wants to think about disasters striking their workplace. You’ll hopefully never have to worry about flooding, but you should plan for it regardless. The more prepared you are, the less trouble you’ll have if your business does get flooded.
River flooding cost U.S. businesses $20 billion in 2019, and that doesn’t include floods from sources like oceans or busted pipes. Flooding doesn’t have to be substantial to cause substantial damage, either. Just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to your workplace.
These disasters are too costly for business owners to ignore. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can minimize the risks of a flood. Here’s what you can do if your business gets flooded.
Responding in the Moment
Disasters don’t follow a schedule, so you may or may not be in the workplace when a flood occurs. If you are at work when it starts flooding, your first job is to ensure everyone is safe. You may immediately think about property damage, but you need to get everyone to safety first.
If you have the time or ability, turn off the electricity in any affected rooms. You’ll want to remove any electrical hazards before things get too wet. Make sure no one touches any electrical equipment while standing on a damp surface.
While you’re evacuating, avoid walking under wet spots in the ceiling, since they could collapse. You should also make sure everyone walks carefully, using something for support, so they don’t slip. If you have hard floors, you should take extra caution to avoid slips.
If the flood is coming from something inside your building, like a burst pipe, you can stop it. Typically, there will be a shut-off valve within your building that you can use to stop the water flow. You’ll probably need a key to access this valve, so make sure you know where it is.
If you don’t have access to this key, you can call your water company. The sooner you shut off the water, the less damage the flood will cause.
Restoring Damaged Property
After the flood is over, you’ll have to deal with the damage. As much as you want to get back into your building, wait until you’re confident that it’s safe. You don’t want to put yourself or any employees in danger by entering the workplace too soon.
When it comes time to check on your building, take a few precautions before entering. If you can do so without standing in water, turn off the electricity and gas. Look for any structural damage and avoid getting close to any spots that look like they could collapse.
You may want to ask an employee or two to help you inspect the property. However, if they get hurt, it could lead to a premises liability lawsuit. It’s likely best to work with a professional for this step.
Once you’re inside, you can see what kind of work it’ll take to clean up. No matter how significant the flood was, your first step will be to remove excess water. You can use a pump hooked up to a generator to do this, but keep the generator outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Damp carpets can produce respiratory hazards like mold, so wear a mask while working. To prevent mold buildup, you’ll want to dry out any porous surfaces as fast as possible. You can open windows, turn on fans and use heaters and dehumidifiers to help.
While you’re working, you’ll probably kick up water and debris. To avoid extra damage, move expensive items to unaffected areas so you don’t accidentally splash them. You may find it easier to turn to a professional water cleanup company, especially if there’s a lot of work to do.
Filing Insurance Claims
Depending on your plan, your insurance may cover flood damage. Even if you don’t have flood insurance on your building, you may have coverage over some of your equipment. Check your insurance policy to see what it covers and what it doesn’t, as well as what your insurer needs from you.
As you go through the building, take as many pictures as you can. The more documentation of damage you have, the more it helps your case with the insurance company. Don’t dispose of or modify anything until you hear back from your insurer.
Your insurance provider will likely send a claims adjuster to check on the building. They may have specific guidelines for what to do in these situations, so contact them before doing anything else. They may want to verify the damage before you work and may offer support in the cleanup effort.
Preventing Future Flood Damage
Once you get your insurance and cleanup settled, it’s time to think about the future. The incident might have highlighted some areas where you can improve to mitigate damage in another flood. Even if your business has never flooded, you should follow these steps to prevent possible disasters.
First, install a pump system below your ground floor to remove any groundwater that seeps in. If you live in a flood-prone area, you may also want to install floodproofing measures like floodgates and moveable barriers. You can even reduce flood damage by planting vegetation around your property, which prevents soil erosion.
Make sure that all of your electrical outlets are at least a foot above the ground. Circuit breakers and fuse boxes should be at least five feet off the floor. If your HVAC equipment isn’t already elevated, consider hiring a contractor to relocate it to a higher point.
Lastly, if you don’t have any already, you should purchase flood insurance. The more floodproof your building is, the less you’ll pay for insurance, so follow these other steps first.
Floods Can Happen to Anyone
You don’t have to work in a flood-prone area to experience flooding. It’s best to prepare for these situations before they happen, to avoid as much damage as possible. Follow these steps, and you’ll potentially mitigate thousands of dollars in flood damage.