Flood Preparation

The greater Nashville area suffered more than $2 billion in property damage due to flash flooding in May of 2010, and March 2010 flooding in Rhode Island caused more than $200 million in clean-up costs alone.

The property damage, lost business and recovery costs associated with flooding can be devastating for companies of all sizes. According to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), nearly one-quarter of all companies that suffer extensive flood damage never reopen.

Flooding Considerations

Effective flood recovery efforts should start with thinking about likely scenarios that could produce floods. Along with obvious factors such as the proximity of your facilities to rivers, streams or lakes, consider drainage on and near your property.

If you have large puddles after heavy rainstorms, for instance, simple landscaping or drainage improvements may help direct water away from your building or utility connections.

Your response plan should also consider how to protect workers during and after a flood, ways to prevent water from entering buildings, how you can shut down electrical equipment and other measures that can help secure equipment and inventory.

It is also important to consider how your company may protect critical business records or data from flood damage. For instance, locating computer servers in the basement may increase their vulnerability.

You should also consider installing equipment such as pumps, diesel generators and battery-operated backup emergency lighting. Check valves can help prevent water from entering through utility connections and sewer lines.

Emergency plans should also consider safe procedures for evacuating a facility in the event of a flash flood.

Another valuable practice is maintaining up-to-date facility plans that document emergency shutoffs, utilities and fire-protection systems and other important infrastructure details. A copy of these plans should be stored outside the facility to help ensure they’ll be available to company managers or emergency officials after a flood.

Within your facility, it’s important to secure storage racks or shelves to reduce the chance of floating or falling over.

Protecting Workers

During a flood, responding workers are vulnerable to a number of hazards that can result in injury or illness. Employees entering a flooded facility, for instance, must wear protective equipment such as heavy rubber boots to prevent foot lacerations. It is also important to protect skin from chemical, sewage, bacteria and other threats often present in floodwater.

Respirators should be worn to prevent workers from breathing potential fungal spores from wet building materials.

A building’s electrical system can represent a significant potential hazard following a flood. Electrical currents can travel through standing water or across wet floors, and some types of electrical equipment can remain energized even if it is unplugged.

Facility Recovery

After the floodwaters have receded or been pumped away, a building’s infrastructure must be inspected carefully for damage before normal operations can begin.

Replacement is strongly advised by manufacturers of HVAC equipment, for instance, because flood damage can lead to electrical shock, fire or explosion.

All electrical equipment should be de-energized, inspected, cleaned, dried and tested before normal operations can resume.

Boilers must be inspected and cleaned to remove sediment or corrosion from tubes, pipes, manifolds or flues. Vents that show signs of corrosion should be replaced, as should insulation and oil burners.

Any inventory or porous materials affected by the flood should be thrown out to prevent the growth or mold or mildew.

Avoiding or reducing the severity of flood damage requires a careful review of your company’s facility and workflows, as well as recovery planning that should begin long before the waters start to rise.

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