While weather forecasting has improved significantly throughout the years, there is still little warning of when and where localised flash flooding may take place.
Recent heatwaves (and more extreme conditions) have intensified flooding throughout Europe and the UK. While climate change may be largely to blame, overtaxed drainage systems and inadequate risk management strategies have led to catastrophic damage for both residential and commercial properties. What can you do, to be better prepared?
Flash flooding in Europe
Even climate scientists are shocked by the scale of recent summer floods in Germany. In an area that usually sees 80 litres of rainfall in the entire month of July, 148 litres per square metre fell in just 48 hours in parts of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine- Westphalia. Switzerland documented their heaviest rainfall on record, after a Zurich thunderstorm saw 4cm falling overnight. This led to flash flooding, logistical issues and travel chaos in the city and its surrounds.
UK flash floods
Closer to home, west London was hit by severe flooding in early July 2021. Water rushed towards the platforms at Sloane Square station, barriers were erected in Chalk Farm and Hampstead, Euston station was closed, and in Primrose Hill people were seen swimming in ponds created by thunderstorms.
While climate change is largely to blame, overtaxed drainage systems exacerbate the problem. Thus was the case for the Gough family who saw their new home submerged after unexpected flash flooding in Dorset. They believe that the damage was caused by inadequate drainage maintenance.
These systems not only reduce peak water levels, but give communities affected by flooding, more time to prepare for the worst. While the consequences for residential properties can be personally tragic, the outcomes for commercial properties can be catastrophic, for both you and your employees.
In addition to physical damage to the premises itself, losses can also incur from business interruption and damage to stock, equipment, fixtures and fittings and general contamination.
According to Insurance company QBE, “planning in advance and taking a few sensible precautions could save disruption and money, should the worst occur”. Some of the measures that they suggest include:
- Not storing stock directly on the floor. Even raising it by 100mm can make a big difference
- If you can, avoid storing stock/objects directly under valley gutters. If not, then try and store lower value, less vulnerable goods in these areas
- Check that normal surface water drains and other flow routes are unobstructed
Electrical, electronic, and other sensitive equipment may be directly under potential water entry points. In the short term, think how you can protect it; in the longer term, ask yourself if this is the correct location for it.
Consider cellars, basements, trenches, pits, loading docks and other low-lying areas. After an extended dry period, water run off paths may be significantly different from the usual routes. If you have had any incidence of water ingress before, then be prepared with sandbags, flood barriers or similar solutions.
Protect yourself with Flood Insurance
While many flooding incidents cannot be prevented, proper preparation, risk management strategies and adequate insurance can help to mitigate the physical and financial fallout.