Commercial real estate owners should have a healthy fear of flash floods. They can render buildings structurally unsound overnight, paralyze daily operations, raise commercial property insurance premiums and lead to closures.
Flooding may be an act of God — an uncontrollable event — but the damage it causes is preventable. Follow these tips to flood proof commercial buildings.
Know the Building’s Flood Risk
Geography determines a commercial property’s susceptibility to flooding. Being situated in the city, near a dam, the sea or waterways — like rivers, streams, creeks and brooks — or in a low-lying area increases the chances of experiencing flash floods.
Urban areas usually lack natural water absorbers, such as trees and soil, to slow the movement of floodwater. Most city landscapes are paved, protecting downtown commercial property against water hazards less since concrete accelerates runoff.
Sinking urban areas become more prone to flooding as sea levels incrementally rise due to climate change.
A nearby body of water naturally heightens the risk of flooding. Uninterrupted rain can result in unscheduled drawdowns to keep water reservoirs intact, but immense deluges can lead to intense flooding. Dams are also prone to damage, break without warning, and spell disaster for property owners when they fail.
Regardless of depth and width, waterways have limited capacity. Heavy downpours can cause overflow, temporarily submerging adjacent areas.
Commercial buildings in low-lying areas are highly vulnerable to flooding. Those in places below sea level are at higher risk. Low-lying land close to the sea creates a perfect storm for coastal flooding.
Understanding the prevailing hazards is the first step toward preparing for inundation. High flood factors should render flash floods unsurprising, so studying local flood hazard data matters to mitigate disasters.
Maintain Water-Diverting Features
Cleaning and proactively inspecting the landscaping, roofing system and gutters to spot red flags, correct design defects, and address vulnerabilities early. These three neutralize flash floods on the ground and higher floors.
Landscaping represents the commercial property’s primary defense against floods. The ideal yard must have:
- Uneven ground sloping away from the building in all directions.
- Abundant vegetation to slow torrents.
- Native plants that hold the soil with their fibrous roots, keep it from washing away and contribute to faster water drainage.
- Mulch in planted areas around the building that helps prevent incoming water from entering the property, minimizes soil erosion and absorbs rainwater.
The roofing system is instrumental in preventing flooding originating from the above. However, its flatness diminishes its ability to prevent moisture damage. It may drain less water than it catches due to a lack of a steep pitch when a storm rages nonstop. Ponds on a flat roof can deepen quickly and cause the deck to collapse under its weight.
Enough gutters ensure fast drainage, but the downspouts should channel rainwater away from the property. Otherwise, they can damage the property’s walls and foundation.
Update Old Infrastructure
Does the building’s infrastructure hold up against destructive weather in its current condition? Scheduled maintenance is vital but not a panacea. Discovering and swiftly fixing problems in their infancy can extend the property’s service life but can’t resolve its inherent design issues.
Innovative engineering solutions of yesterday may be impractical by today’s standards. Take advantage of cutting-edge flood proofing projects to keep the interior dry no matter how hard it rains.
For example, installing tapered insulation can prevent water ponding and add more years to the flat roof without spending a fortune on a structural overhaul. On top of that, waterproofing interior and exterior surfaces is a minor expense for preventing costly moisture damage repairs.
Develop Contingency Plans
Commercial property owners can only prepare for scenarios they can imagine. Flash floods can bring about various problems, from minor inconveniences to severe hazards.
Consult specialists — electricians, roofers, heating, ventilation and air conditioning technicians — to know the worst that can happen under such circumstances. Craft multiple plans to be agile enough to respond to emergencies urgently and set SMART goals instead of vague objectives to help everyone remain level headed under stress.
Invest in Emergency Equipment
Flood proof commercial buildings can function close to normalcy if and when menacing weather strikes. One excellent idea is to incorporate flood barriers and drain covers into the property to reduce the risk of water damage without disruptive renovations.
These additions are painless to install, making responding to flash flood warnings easy. They’re also removable, so they don’t impact the property’s appearance and functionality on ordinary days.
A backup power system is also a must-have. Generating electricity when utility services are out can keep essential machines running and ensure everyone in the building stays safe and comfortable.
Water pumps can be a lifesaver when the building gets flooded. They can drain water from indoor spaces, allowing them to dry more quickly.
Waiting for the water level to go down naturally instead of pumping it out can cause respiratory issues and trigger allergic reactions. Mold spores only need 24 hours to form and spread throughout the property. Removing moisture in soaked areas as soon as possible is vital to discourage these allergens from forming.
Teach Stakeholders Their Roles
Contingency plans are only effective with everyone’s cooperation. Flood damage prevention is a collective effort. One’s mistake can affect all, so all tenants and property management members must know what they should and shouldn’t do in case of an emergency. Simple things like being vigilant for causes for concern, reporting warning signs of damage and learning how to activate the backup power supply can help ensure everyone’s safety.
Put a premium on clear communication to implement contingency plans effectively. Assign trusted spokespeople and use plain, authoritative and empathetic language to ensure everyone’s on the same page.
Use With Reliable Partners
Flood damage mitigation is part of recovery. Keep a Rolodex of contractors that extend emergency services around the clock. Working with companies with capable crews on standby is the key to keeping flood-inflicted property damage under control. Emergency repair specialists can help keep the building intact and safeguard the owner from liability.
Stop Flash Floods Before They Happen
The price of flood damage to commercial properties is steep. It can endanger lives, shut down businesses for a lengthy period, and affect the livelihoods of many. No building can be completely flood proof, but moisture damage is preventable with foresight and proactiveness.