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Risk in Context

3 Ways to Prepare for Flooding Following Winter Storms

Posted by Duncan Ellis March 17, 2017

In mid-February, 200,000 people left their homes and businesses when a northern California dam became unstable. Later that month, snowmelt triggered flooding and a mudslide in northern Utah, causing an estimated $3 million in damage. And this week, a late-season nor’easter brought coastal flooding to parts of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Spring is still a few days away, and we’ve already seen how devastating flooding can be for businesses. These risks will only increase as temperatures rise, but you can take steps now to protect your people and assets.

Emergency Planning and Business Continuity

If you have locations in or near flood-exposed areas, you should have on hand all appropriate response supplies and updated employee, vendor, and client contact information to facilitate communication regarding shutdowns, elevation of equipment of finished goods, evacuation orders, and future coordination.

When a flood is imminent, you should erect flood barriers where possible, secure storage structures, implement planned utility shutdowns, and engage reliable backup power to run pumps and flood mitigation equipment.

You should also:

  • Take steps to prevent the release of dangerous chemicals stored on your property.
  • Use plugs to prevent floodwater from backing up into sewer drains.
  • Activate your business continuity plan so that all stakeholders are aware of how to proceed if your location is inaccessible or your supply chain is interrupted.

Insurance

Before a flood, verify the coverage, deductibles, and sublimits in your property all-risk policy and determine if the flood occurrence definition in your policy has a time limitation. You should also know if you have any locations in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) as defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); many policies have flood sublimits that are lower than the total policy limit — and might be further sublimited in SFHAs.

You should also consider:

  • Excess flood insurance limits and additional coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Stock throughput or supply chain insurance, which could respond if flooding affects your suppliers.

Claims Preparation

Without putting people at risk, you should quickly document property damage from a flood. Before a flood, you should have a plan — with clear roles and responsibilities — for taking photos or video of standing water and damage that you can identify after floodwaters recede. You should also be ready to provide insurers — and FEMA, if applicable — with:

  • Your most recent physical inventory.
  • Payroll records, including hours worked to complete cleanup and recovery tasks.
  • Costs incurred to repair or replace damaged assets.
  • Financial statements for two years prior to the event and forecasts of anticipated loss results.

It’s impossible to account for or prevent every potential flood risk. But through emergency response and business continuity planning, insurance program reviews, and claims preparation, you can minimize your flood damage and more quickly return to normal operations.

Related to:  Property , Flood Services

Duncan Ellis

Duncan is a managing director resident in the New York office and is the leader of Marsh’s US Property Practice.