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Risk management: Floods demand attention and preparation

August 22, 2016

A long-term view is required to help reduce your company’s exposure to flooding hazards.

benches in flood

This time of year, the topic of flooding is getting the air time it deserves given the fact that it is the second deadliest type of weather-related event. Floods can cause significant damage to buildings, impact the economy and result in injuries and sometimes death for residents. Here are some striking statistics on flooding:

  • In the United States, flooding caused at least 234 deaths between January 2015 and June 25, 2016; there are typically about 82 flood deaths per year.
  • In addition to injury and loss of life, floods also have a significant impact on property: from 2003 to 2012, flood insurance claims in the U.S. averaged nearly $4 billion per year.
  • Flooding can also have a significant effect on the economy: recent floods in Houston may result in as much as $1.9 billion in economic impact.

Based on these statistics, it is easy to understand why flooding is a significant threat. Exposure to flood hazards is a very important issue we all must pay attention to. But how can you help lessen your company’s exposure to flood risk?

While it is impossible to reduce all of the risk associated with floods, there are ways to prepare and, therefore, be more resilient against floods when they happen. A critical first step is to take appropriate steps to understand your exposure to flood hazards. Consult professionals who have access to the most up–to-date flood hazard mapping resources. Also, keep in mind that even though you may not be near a river, along a coastline, or in a designated flood hazard area, you could still be exposed to surface water runoff from heavy rainfall.

Business owners should consider the future and think about how they might be affected by devastating floods in the long term. One such consideration is whether building and protecting your facility to minimum codes and standards is really enough. Consider the potential benefits of building above minimum codes and standards, which is often referred to as “building it forward.” This could mean building to a 500-year flood level instead of just the 100-year flood level. Building it forward means that if a 500-year flood occurs, your structure may incur less damage than if you had only built to the 100-year flood level. Even if you are not building a structure right now, it is prudent to consider how your structure could be made more flood resilient to help prepare your building and your business should a 500-year disaster occur.

Here are some guidelines for practicing flood resilience:

  1. When possible, avoid exposure to flood hazards.
  2. If you can’t avoid exposure to a flood hazards, consider elevating your site and essential buildings above the exposure.
  3. If you can’t elevate, then business owners should take steps to help protect themselves from flood hazards.

And always have an up-to-date and practiced flood emergency response plan in place to guide your actions as you prepare for and recover from flood events.