How to prepare your business for storms, floods and bad weather

David Woodfield
By David Woodfield, Chief Growth Officer

There are few things as unpredictable as the UK weather, which means we all need to prepare for all types of conditions, all year round. This is particularly important as a business owner - while a burst pipe at home could leave you in the cold for a day or two, a burst pipe at your workplace could mean you need to close and lose valuable business.  

But is there anything you can do to mitigate the risk of your business being affected by ​storms, high winds, ice and​ flood damage? Here’s how to protect your business against storms, floods and bad weather. 

How to protect your business from storm damage

High winds and driving rain can cause all sorts of problems for your business premises, from flying roof tiles to burst gutters and problems with dampness. ​

Putting right the damage caused by business storm damage can cost lot of time and money. The best way to protect your business from storm damage is to make sure everything on the building is as​ secure as it​ can be, so look out for the following:

The best way to protect your business from storm damage is to make sure everything on the building is as it should be, so look out for the following:

  • Make sure all roof tiles are secure and any broken or loose ones are replaced.
  • Make sure all gutters are properly attached and any blockages are cleared.
  • Keep all external doors, windows and gates securely closed.
  • Secure all fences and fence posts and remove or secure all outdoor furniture/displays.

If high winds have been predicted in your area, then you should:  

  • Make sure staff vehicles or company cars or vans are parked away from any trees and are in a safe area.  
  • Make sure any company signs, outdoor seats, and basically anything that’s not fixed to the floor, are taken inside so they can’t be picked up by the winds and cause any damage.  

If ​you​ own your business premises then ​it’s down to you to ​get the above sorted, but if you rent then could be the responsibility of your landlord.   

Doing a bit of research in preparation for bad weather will help to make sure you know exactly what you are responsible for as a business owner, as well as what you personally need to put in place to safeguard the building, your staff, and yourself.  

How to protect your business from snow and ice

The UK is always hit with a cold snap, so it’s important to know what you can do to prepare and protect your business when things freeze over.  

Here are some steps to help make sure your premises are protected against snow and ice: 

  • Make sure all internal and external pipes are insulated, especially in unheated areas like the attic or basement. You can insulate them with foam or rubber tubes, remember to check them regularly to avoid erosion damage.  
  • Clear any outside paths of obstacles and put all outside seating and plant pots away.  
  • Take a note of where your internal stop tap is so you can turn off the water supply to the premises in an emergency.  
  • Make sure that any outside drains are unblocked as ice and snow will make the issue worse.  

 Even if you find yourself in the middle of a cold snap and haven’t taken any precautionary measures, it’s not too late to take steps to protect your business, so consider the following: 

  • Make sure you have your central heating on for at least an hour a day. This keeps hot water running through the pipes and creates a better working environment for staff as well as any customers coming in.  
  • Consider working from home if you and your employees can, or you could change working times to enable safe travelling into the premises in snowy conditions.  
  • Avoid any non-essential driving, you may have to postpone meetings, appointments or customer deliveries if it’s not safe to go out on the roads or if there are severe ice warnings in your area.  
  • Make sure you put salt on any outdoor steps or paths leading up to the premises to avoid any slipping accidents.  

How to protect your business from flooding

Flooding can be a massive problem ​when a storm hits ​and you should always prepare for the worst, particularly if you live in a flood risk area. But how do you prepare your business for a flood?​ 

It might sound obvious, but the best way to protect from flooding is to make sure you have a robust business flood plan in place, for both the short and long term.

Here are some things to consider as part of your business contingency plan​ for unpredictable weather:  

Short-term flood planning

Check the Environment Agency website and see if there are flood warnings in your area. It’s also worth taking a look at the live flood warning map – you should immediately start planning for the worst if you spy a warning near you​. Here’s how to ​prepare your business for an approaching flood​: 

  • Make a list of important phone numbers, such as your business gas and electricity suppliers and your business insurance providers and keep them all in a watertight container along with any other important documents. Keep a torch and a fully charged phone in with the documents.
  • Use sandbags to block any areas where water could enter your business premises, such as doors, windows and air bricks.
  • If possible, move anything that's critical to the running of your business, such as stock, servers, computer equipment and the box of important numbers, to an upstairs room or as high off the ground as possible. If there’s anything you can’t move upstairs or that you still need for the day-to-day running of your business, such as furniture and fridges, try to raise them off the ground. It’s also worth moving them away from exterior walls to help with the drying-out process once the flooding begins to subside.
  • If the floodwaters are imminent, unplug all electrical appliances, turn off your gas, electricity and water supplies, and never enter any standing water if the electricity is still on, or even if you’re unsure.

Long-term flood planning

If you’ve ever been the victim of flooding​, then the odds are ​you’ll fall foul of floodwaters again at some point. So, it makes sense to put long-term plans in place to protect your business against future flooding. Here’s how ​to​ ​plan in the long term: 

  • Replace any downstairs carpets with sealed wood or ceramic tiles.
  • Fit any water entry points, including doors and airbricks, with flood skirts and use water-resistant sealant on doors, windows, and skirting boards.
  • Raise electrical sockets as high up the wall as possible.
  • Plaster walls with waterproof lime plaster and get a chemical damp-proof course.
  • Regularly check drains to make sure they’re clear from any blockages, which can exacerbate rising water levels, and fit one-way valves to pipes and water outlets so no water can flow back up them.

If you work from home and use a downstairs room as your office downstairs, it is worth moving to an upstairs room.

For a business flood plan template, check out GOV.UK.

There are also a few more things you can do for long-term flood planning.​ If you work from home and use a downstairs room as your office downstairs, ​it’s ​worth moving upstairs​ if you can.  

Although preparing your workplace for the worst can help minimise the impact of flooding, it can’t completely protect against the potentially devastating consequences of flood damage to your business. 

That’s why it’s vital to make sure you have quality flood insurance in place. If your business equipment and premises are damaged or destroyed by flooding, you need to be confident your insurance will cover the cost and your insurer can cope with your claim.

How to get the best business flood insurance

There will be thousands of business owners out there who haven’t checked their insurance policies for years. ​This​ means they’ll have very little idea about ​exactly​ what they’re covered for or even who they’re insured with.  

As business owners start to prepare their businesses for spring, it's easy to assume that the worst of the weather will soon be behind us, but it’s important to make sure you know the terms of your cover as bad weather can strike at any time.  

And there’s never a bad time to prepare your business for a weather-related problem and put things in place to look after your premises.  

Even if you ​already​ keep on top of your policies, you could find that the cover you’ve always had in place is no longer enough ​for your business needs​. This can be a real pitfall if you’ve recently moved into new premises that have been built in an area susceptible to flooding.  

The simplest way to make sure you’re covered is to speak to the business insurance team at Bionic.  

We work with 40 of the UK’s top insurance companies, to make sure you have quality, tailored cover in place, no matter which industry you work in.  

Our tech-enabled insurance team works with you to help you break down the insurance jargon, policy and cover information to find out exactly what your business needs. Taking the first step today can help ensure you’re watertight for the future.  

How to make a business insurance claim for flood damage

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) warned this week that up to 75,000 UK SMEs may struggle to find affordable flood insurance, but we know the business community is on the front foot. 

Insurers are experiencing a high number of flood & storm damage claims. We’ve seen a 70% rise in business insurance claims in January and February (versus the same period last year). If you need to make a flood insurance claim, you should contact your insurer as soon as possible - most have a 24-hour emergency number and will be able to give you help and advice on what to do next. 

You can help speed up the claims process by making sure you have the following to hand:

  • Pictures of the damage. 
  • Receipts or invoices for damaged stock or equipment. 
  • A detailed inventory of damaged furniture, stock, products and equipment.

To make sure your business is covered, give Bionic’s tech-enabled team a call on 0800 804 4196, or go to our business insurance page to start a quote.