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Catastrophic storms put a sharp focus on flood response

July 12, 2019

As communities and businesses take on hurricane and tropical storm recovery efforts, essential safety guidelines should be followed in flood-affected areas.

Vice President of Property Services, Risk Engineering U.S.

As the head of Property Risk Engineering Services for Zurich North America, Jim Breitkreitz leads a... About this expert

flood benches

The documented increase in frequency and severity of severe weather events can be truly unsettling, especially for those in communities recently impacted by a hurricane or tropical storm and the associated flooding. Knowing that more storms of significant magnitude will surely hit again at some point can understandably put people on edge.

The losses and struggles in the wake of a catastrophic storm cannot be overstated. Extreme flooding caused by storm surge and life-threatening flash floods can be the most dangerous aspects of events like these. And flooding can remain a threat for long periods after a storm has passed.

Ideally, a flood emergency response plan is in place before disaster strikes, covering best practices for preparation, mitigation and recovery. However, when crisis response takes immediate precedence, flood cleanup and recovery safety guidelines should still be followed. Here are just a few key things to keep in mind:

As water recedes, danger may not. Floodwaters can dislodge storage, equipment and debris, creating a variety of hazards that put response teams, workers and others at risk. Maintain vigilance to associated hazards, including energy release from equipment that can result in electrical shocks, and damage to gas and power lines.

Be aware of property perils. The structure of a building can be weakened by standing water and even debris removal. If possible, have a structural engineer or other specialist survey the facility before beginning recovery work. Access damaged facilities only after entry is approved by the proper authorities.

Dress to protect. Whether on a work site or in your own home, equipment like hard hats, safety glasses, heavy work gloves and steel-toed footwear should be worn during cleanup and salvage operations. Debris may need to be treated as hazardous waste and, if that is the case, it should only be removed by properly trained personnel.

Prioritize your protection systems. As you work to expedite repairs, fire protection and security systems need to be at the top of your list. The property needs to be safe and secure before moving forward with other repairs.

Water is an ally as well as an enemy. Ensure clean, safe drinking water is available for everyone working in an area affected by a flood emergency. Dehydration is an especially serious risk when hard, physical labor is combined with the stress of trying to recover quickly and efficiently from a disaster.

Stay connected. Stay informed. As soon as it is safe to do so, communicate with local authorities and monitor media updates to gauge the status of ongoing flood risks.

Follow up for assistance. Get in touch with your insurance carrier as soon as possible to help expedite the claims process. Providing photo documentation of flood-related damage can also help claims specialists respond more quickly and effectively.

The steps above are just a few of many immediate strategy points to keep in mind during the recovery phase. Please see the resources below for more guidance.

The challenges endured following natural disasters should serve as powerful reminders of what’s necessary to help ensure the resilience of our communities. Flood mitigation strategies – while absolutely essential – can only go so far. We all need to plan now for actions to take before, during and after the next severe weather event.

Additional resources

The information in this publication was compiled from sources believed to be reliable for informational purposes only. All sample policies and procedures herein should serve as a guideline, which you can use to create your own policies and procedures. We trust that you will customize these samples to reflect your own operations and believe that these samples may serve as a helpful platform for this endeavor. Any and all information contained herein is not intended to constitute advice (particularly not legal advice). Accordingly, persons requiring advice should consult independent advisors when developing programs and policies. We do not guarantee the accuracy of this information or any results and further assume no liability in connection with this publication and sample policies and procedures, including any information, methods or safety suggestions contained herein. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any of this information, whether to reflect new information, future developments, events or circumstances or otherwise. Moreover, Zurich reminds you that this cannot be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedure or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances. The subject matter of this publication is not tied to any specific insurance product nor will adopting these policies and procedures ensure coverage under any insurance policy.

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