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Guide to flood emergency response plans

March 28, 2018

While floods are a leading cause of property loss, a business owner can take actions to mitigate and even help prevent damage and costly business interruption.


Knowing the hazards that expose your facility to flood damage and understanding proper mitigation measures are essential to protecting your business. An effective flood pre-emergency plan can help ensure everything works as intended.

Flood emergency response plans are developed to help business owners reduce potential property damage as a result of a flood event. A flood emergency response plan not only demonstrates commitment to understanding the risk of flooding, but it can also help reduce property damage and business interruption as a result of flooding.

Typical flood sources can include heavy rain, melting snow, tropical cyclones (hurricanes or typhoons) and obstructed waterways due to waterborne debris or ice. These sources often lead to flash flooding, surface water overflow, riverine flooding, tidal flooding and coastal storm surge. All of these forms of water flow across the ground are collectively known as “flood.”

While the origin of floods and the meteorological conditions that lead to flooding usually cannot be prevented, the effects of flooding and the extent of damage it can cause may be controlled or reduced. That’s where flood emergency response plans come in.

Flood emergency response plan overview

An effective flood emergency response plan should cover flood preparation, mitigation and recovery. Developing a plan creates an understanding of the risk and vulnerabilities associated with flooding at a particular site. The plan should recognize the time, staffing and resources needed to implement an emergency response in advance of the flood event. In addition, the plan should consider all shifts, staffing limitations, potential mandatory evacuations before the flood, resources and supplies needed, and any potential obstacles to adequate completion of the emergency preparations.

Key points for a flood emergency response plan

Some key points to consider when developing a plan include identifying the typical weather events in your area that could trigger flooding, how the water would enter your site, exposure to flood maps and recognizing the type of flooding and the behavior of the water as it enters your site.

Preparation in advance of a flood event

When weather events forecasted indicate an increased potential for a flood, review your flood emergency response plan and alert the response team. Start with the “easy” actions – tasks you will not mind taking even if flood waters don’t affect your property. Easy actions may include filling fuel tanks serving emergency generators, verifying that dewatering pumps are in service and working and that outside drains and catch basins are clean, and verifying that all fire protection systems are in service.


As the threat of flood increases, now is the time to complete the “tough” actions. These are the actions you may want to take when there is some certainty that flood waters will threaten your location. Tough actions to take may include protecting and relocating vital business records, removing outdoor equipment, anchoring portable buildings or trailers to the ground, securing outdoor equipment, installing flood gates, raising critical equipment up off of the ground or from below-grade areas, initiating a shutdown of production equipment, and turning off fuel services and non-essential electrical systems.

Recovery following a flood event

As the water recedes, begin cleanup operations, removing or relocating debris, sediment and mud from important areas first. As water-saturated storage and furnishings are removed, dehumidification, washing, disinfecting and other cleaning operations can begin.

Always keep in mind that dangers and risks at your site do not necessarily retreat as the water recedes. Floodwaters can dislodge storage, equipment and debris, creating unforeseen hazards. After the flood event, your site may become an unfamiliar obstacle course that can hamper the response team. In addition, the potential for the release of energy, electrical shocks or impounded water should be examined and mitigated before personnel enter the flooded areas.

Survey the severity and extent of the damage caused by the flooding. Set priorities for the cleanup and recovery process. Begin to request any additional supplies and resources that may be needed, minimize interruptions to production and place pumps in any below-grade spaces, such as basements to begin the water removal process.

For more information and a sample of our Flood Emergency Response Plan, download our Guide to Flood Emergency Response Plans.

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