Prepare and Protect Your Business from Floods
Each year, the United States suffers hundreds of millions of dollars in flood damage. Small businesses, which are the economic and often social engine of many communities, can be the most adversely affected by floods.
Flooding can occur anywhere, often with little or no warning, and with devastating consequences. More detail is available about these topics in IBHS’ Power of Water: How to Prepare and Protect Your Business from Floods.
Understand Your Flood Hazard
First and foremost, it is important to know your property’s flood risk, which is based on FEMA flood maps for your community. You can learn what your flood risk is by visiting FEMA Map Service Center’s website, or by contacting your local building department to look at your local flood maps. Additional information on Determining Your Flood Zone Designation and What the Flood Maps Mean is available on FEMA’s website.
Move Away From the Water
While it may seem obvious, proximity to water is the number one risk factor for flooding. It is always a best practice to locate your property as far away from bodies of water as possible. If this is not possible, other prevention measures described below should be considered, such as elevating your business or flood-proofing your building.
Elevate Your Property
The most effective ways to reduce or avoid flood damage are to elevate the building properly and/or choose a location well outside a high-risk flood plain. If such a location is not possible, the best way to increase the safety margin against flood damage is to raise the elevation of your building above FEMA’s Base Flood Elevation (BFE) for your location. IBHS recommends that buildings be at least 3 feet above the BFE, to account for flash flooding or higher than expected flooding levels. You can learn what the BFE is on your property by contacting your local building department.
Consider Flood-Proofing Your Property
Sealing a building to prevent water from entering is called “dry flood-proofing” or “flood-proofing.” It is important to determine whether dry flood-proofing will provide the protections your property needs before choosing this option; this also should be done by a professional to ensure it is correctly installed.
There are a variety of dry flood-proofing measures from applying a waterproof coating or membrane to the walls, to strengthening walls to withstand flood water pressures. A professional can help to determine whether any of them are right for your situation.
Protect Your Basement
Even above the BFE or outside the floodplain, basements are prone to floods because water may flow down into them. They also may have an increased hydrostatic pressure exerted upon them when the surrounding ground is saturated. There are a number of additional measures business owners can take to reduce the likelihood and scope of basement flood damage. These include inspecting your basement for water leakage or entry, and correcting potential problems, such as re-grading the land to slope away from the building or caulking cracks. It is important not to store valuable equipment, documents, or inventory in any crawlspace or basement where flooding is possible.
Take steps to reduce health and environmental damage in the event of a flood, such as anchoring fuel and propane tanks to prevent them from being swept away, installing sewer backflow valves, and protecting wells from potential contamination.
Get Flood Insurance
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) makes flood insurance available to commercial owners and renters. As is the case with residential property, costs vary depending on how much insurance coverage is purchased, what it covers, and the property’s flood risk. NFIP coverage limits are up to $500,000 for a commercial building, and up to $500,000 to protect its contents. Insurance coverage also may be available from private insurance companies, depending on your business’ location, building and business characteristics, and property value. The best way to learn more about flood insurance benefits, costs, and options is to contact your insurance agent or visit the IBHS Flood Insurance web page.
© 2012 Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety