Factory flood recovery – what you need to know

Although family homes tend to be front and centre on the news, factory and industrial flooding often causes much more serious issues for both emergency services and communities. Having worked with many businesses struggling to recover from flooding, at Cornerstone we now work on both flood preparedness and factory flood recovery.

Flood alert but no water yet

Damage to a business isn’t only physical. If a flood alert has been issued for your area, you will have to decide whether to shut down production, secure the site and send workers home, potentially losing money, or continue production and risk a greater catastrophe if flood waters arrive unexpectedly quickly, trapping your staff and breaking through while machinery and equipment is still vulnerable. As a general rule, prevention is better than cure, and most insurance companies will support this – contact your insurer directly if in doubt.

Flooding is happening now

Factory and industrial flooding is a serious issue for the individual business, its staff and also for emergency services and the wider community. Human safety is the priority in an ongoing flooding situation, which might include:

– ensuring that staff and customers are safe

– securing any toxic or hazardous materials

– preventing leaks which could endanger the water supply (such as of diesel fuel)

– ensuring machinery is shut down safely

– switching off gas and electric supplies, including generators

– providing safe access for emergency services where possible

Ideally, your business should have a clear emergency plan including checklists of actions which need to occur. If you have been caught unaware, it is important to inform emergency services of any particular hazards that your factory contains, particularly if the rising waters mean that they are at risk of becoming general hazards. As an example, if an underground fuel tank at a petrol station is breached, the escaped fuel will not only contaminate flood waters but can also cause a fire hazard.

Flood waters have receded

Securing the premises is the critical first step here, and should include both making sure that the building is safe to enter (that no serious structural damage has occurred) and that your property is safe from potential looters. Ideally, you’ll already have a contact and possibly a contract with a firm like ours which specialises in emergency flood response. However, if not, it’s essential that no unqualified personnel enter an at-risk building – secure the perimeter and wait for the experts as water damage, such as weakened flooring or standing water, can be well hidden.

Drying out

Clearing flood waters away and drying out structures, surfaces and equipment is part of our core business. The severity of the water damage and whether the water is clean, grey or black will have a significant impact on recovery timescales. Most flood damage is classed as black water, meaning that water may be contaminated with sewage, debris and other waste, and thus is a hazard to those attempting to deal with it. Our teams use various kinds of industrial-strength pumps and drying equipment to remove standing water and restore structures to pre-flood dryness, so that restoration can begin. We also offer specialist drying services for delicate materials and equipment. It’s important to understand that full drying can take weeks or months depending on the circumstances.

Restoration and renovation

Once drying is complete, structural and cosmetic repairs can begin. At Cornerstone, we work with both businesses and insurers to create damage reports, insurance claims and building mandates. Our multi-disciplined approach lets us service a wide range of industries, working with property types from family homes to large factories. Our transparent decision making process lets you easily see what our recommendations are, and why we’ve selected them as being the most cost-effective and efficient. We provide each of our clients with a dedicated claim manager, making communication easy and clear.

Flood preparedness – getting ready for next time

If you’re reading this, it may well be too late for flood preparedness. However, this is the best way to prevent and minimize damage due to flooding. Flood preparedness takes two main forms:

1. Structural flood preventions

2. Emergency response planning

Structural flood prevention is any change to the fabric of your building or the situation of departments and work processes to reduce the risk of damage during an unexpected flood. It typically helps prevent or reduce damage from other disasters, such as a burst pipe. A few examples include:

– ensuring that delicate equipment, such as machinery, computers and servers, are situated in low-risk areas (such as the second floor)

– storing only items which won’t be damaged by water in high-risk areas (such as the basement)

– blocking up holes and gaps which might let flood water in

– raising the footprint of the building

– choosing not to build in a high-risk area

Obviously, some structural changes can’t be made once the building is complete and occupied, while others are always possible.

Emergency response planning covers the actions and behaviours you expect from employees and management when a flood alert affects your area. This might include:

– erecting flood defences, such as sand bags

– moving machinery and equipment to designated areas

– making equipment safe and secure (e.g. shutting off electricity and gas)

– securing any dangerous, toxic or hazardous substances

– emergency shutdown procedures

– evacuation procedures

Obviously the details of your plan will vary depending on your industry, site needs and expected flooding scenarios. However, it’s important to be thorough yet flexible so that your workers have a clear idea of what to do when disaster strikes.

Services such as ours are often part of business flood damage prevention and recovery planning as we work directly with companies and as assessors on behalf of insurance firms. We are often able to advise on flood planning strategies so please contact us with any questions.