Whilst homeowners have been drilled to batten down the hatches, clear their drains and gutters of autumn leaves and lag exposed pipes, businesses often put winter contingency planning at the bottom of their agenda. In May, research by business continuity specialists, Databarracks, found 46% of UK businesses were not confident their business continuity plan (BCP) was up to date. In September 2015, their research suggested 27% of small businesses do not even have a BCP.

This is worrying news at a time when the Environment Agency suggests that, in England alone, 2.4m properties are at risk of river or coastal flooding and a further 3 million at risk of flooding from surface water. Of the 5.4m properties at risk, 600,000 face both types of water threat.

Then there is the risk of a big freeze, like February 2018’s Beast from the East. Weather insurance claims soared by 290% after this severe event and weather damage and escape of water claims from businesses alone cost £188m in the first quarter of 2018.

Preventing damage, if you can, is far better than dealing with its consequences. Piping should be checked for leaks and also tell-tale green discolouration on pipes that suggests an issue with the pipe. Pipes and water tanks also need to be well-insulated and the water stopcock should be tested, to ensure it could be turned off, if necessary. Any external oil tanks should be inspected for signs of potential weakness and guttering and drains should be cleared.

Buildings insurance policies should also be inspected, to see, in particular, if the policy offers ‘trace and access’ cover. If not, the policy should pay out for damage caused by an escape of water, but not for the cost of what might be damaged in getting to the source of the leak, such as flooring, wallpaper, fitted units and tiling. If the policy excludes trace and access cover, talk to us, to see if it can be added on.

Having a BCP – a go-to bible of business recovery - is essential. Government’s guidance on this is available online, enabling you to plan for the worst. You can then train and drill your staff in the processes to follow, should flooding or a burst pipe wreak havoc, ensuring everyone knows who to contact, what equipment to isolate, how to drain down the water system and which tradespeople to call. The plan can also include measures to prevent damage, such as checking equipment in the building’s coldest parts, ensuring heat circulates to those, lifting ceiling tiles to help heat rise into roof areas, shutting doors and windows and adding antifreeze to non-drainable equipment.

By preparing and acting responsibly, by getting a good flood plan at hand, it is said a business can save 20-90% on the cost of lost stock and movable equipment. If you need help with this, or need to buy business continuity insurance that would step in if your business was disrupted by weather damage, please get in touch.

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