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What Can You Do to Reduce the Risk of Flood Damage?
While flood insurance can greatly reduce the cost of flood losses and rebuilding, there are six mitigation measures that can help prevent your business from flooding in the first place, even if your business resides in a Special Flood Hazard Area. If your business has sustained previous damage or is at high risk, one of the following mitigation projects may be a good investment and give you peace of mind.
Raising your structure so that the lowest floor is above the flood level. This can be done by elevating the entire structure, including the floor, or by leaving the structure in its existing position and constructing a new elevated floor within it. The method used depends largely on construction type, foundation type, and flooding conditions.
- Wet Floodproofing
- Modifying the uninhabited portions of the structure (crawlspace or unfinished basement) so that flood waters can enter but not cause significant damage to either the structure or its contents. This allows interior and exterior hydrostatic pressures to equalize, reducing the likelihood of wall failures and structural damage.
- Moving your structure to high ground, outside flood hazard area. When space permits it may be possible to relocate the structure to higher ground on the same piece of property. Once relocated, utility lines are connected.
- Dry Floodproofing
- Sealing your structure to prevent flood waters from entering. Making it watertight requires sealing the walls with waterproof coatings, impermeable membranes, or supplemental layers of masonry or concrete. Doors, windows, and other openings below flood levels are equipped with permanent or removable shields and backflow valves must be installed in sewer lines and drains.
- Construction of Levees and Floodwalls
- Constructing flood protection barriers around the structure to help hold back flood water. Levees are typically compacted earthen structures; floodwalls are engineered structures usually built of concrete, masonry, or a combination of both.
- Tearing down a damaged or high risk structure and either rebuilding properly somewhere on the same property or moving to a structure on other property, outside the regulatory floodplain.
Clearly, these measures are not cheap, but in the long run they may save you tens of thousands of dollars and a lot of grief. If you have a history of flood insurance claims, you may be able to get some financial assistance for the above-mentioned projects.
Explore these options with a qualified professional. Your local building department will explain permitting and regulatory requirements that apply to such projects.
Develop an emergency communication plan such as the one in your hurricane plan for communicating with employees, customers and vendors about the status of your business.
Make sure your employees are familiar with the procedures for shutting off utilities and preparing your business for impending disaster
Give serious consideration to purchasing flood insurance. Keep insurance policies and contact information where you can find it in a hurry and take it with you.
Safeguard important records and documents. Follow the procedures in your Hurricane Plan
Flood Preparedness, Safety & Recovery TipsBefore a Flood Threatens
Have emergency supplies on hand
- Find out if your business is in a flood prone area. If you are new to the area ask neighbors, your local public works, planning and zoning, or emergency management organizations about local flood history.
- If you busines is in a frequently flooded area, stockpile emergency building materials like plywood, lumber, nails, hammers, saw, plastic sheeting, shovels, plastic bags, and sandbags.
- Consider raising or otherwise protecting your water heater, air conditioning equipment, electric panel, furnace, and other important equipment if they are likely to be flooded.
- Plan and practice alternative evacuation routes. Consult with emergency managers if you are unsure of flood evacuation routes. Your plan should include the safest route to where you plan to ride out the storm, public shelters, or evacuation routes out of the area.
When a "Flood Watch" is issued:
- First aid kit and essential medications
- At least 3 gallons of water per person for 3 days
- Bleach or purification tablets for water purification and disinfecting
- Protective clothing & raingear.
- Battery operated radio, flashlight, and extra batteries
When a "Flood Warning" is issued:
- Listen to local radio or TV stations for weather information, advisories, and advice.
- Bring outdoor items indoors.
- Move files, furniture and valuables to higher floors or elevate them as best you can. If you can't elevate furniture, place baggies around their legs.
- Top off your vehicle's gas tank, in case an evacuation notice is issued or you decide to leave. (Don't expect to be able to purchase gas at the last minute)
Returning to a Flood Damaged Business Can Be Dangerous
- Continue to monitor local TV and radio stations for storm developments.
- Be alert to signs of flooding and be ready to evacuate on a moment's notice.
- If instructed by authorities, turn off all utilities at the main power switch and in your business and close the main gas valve.
- Join with neighbors and volunteers to put sandbags or other protection in place.
- Listen for evacuation instructions. Follow recommended evacuation routes - shortcuts may be blocked.
- Do not drive over flooded roads (you may not be able to see abrupt drop offs in water depths and/or your vehicle could float into trouble). If your vehicle stalls out escape to high ground immediately unless it is too dangerous to do so. As a last resort escape to the top of the vehicle and wait for assistance.
Some Important Safety Tips:
- Be wary of downed power lines in floodwaters. In addition, floodwaters can turn your business into one gigantic live wire. In extreme cases, just touching the building could cause electrocution.
- Shorted out wires may not be the only safety problem you encounter. Gas leaks, slippery mud covered floors and stairs, and loose water soaked ceilings/plaster are common bobby traps.
- Take your time...fatigue and impatience can put you at risk
- Check for structural damage to see if it is safe to enter
- Don't enter the flooded structure until you are sure the main electrical service is disconnected and cannot be turned on. Don't cross damp floors to shut off power at the fuse box
- Gas should be turned off outside, preferably by the utility company
- Gas lines should be turned off at the tank or meter... and let the structure air out to remove gas fumes...and don't smoke or use any open flames that might cause an explosion
- Be careful of slippery surfaces...falls are a common post-disaster hazard
Safely Cleaning a Flood-Damaged BusinessRemove all water as soon as possible from your business. Also remove carpeting and other furnishings that are water soaked. Once water is removed, begin removing moisture that has been absorbed by wood and other materials. Consider using fans and dehumidifiers to speed the drying process. Shut windows and doors if you use dehumidifiers. If you experienced severe flooding, consider hiring a professional water removal contractor.
Carpets and rugs are best cleaned by professionals. If you choose to clean them yourself, pull up water-logged carpets, rugs and pads and lay them out on a clean, flat surface like a concrete driveway. If rugs are placed face down, stains will wick to the back instead of to the face yarns. Hose off and, if badly soiled, add detergent. Work detergent into carpet with a broom and rinse well. Remove as much water as possible quickly using steam, fans or water-extraction equipment. Be careful not to get an electrical shock. To retard mildew and odors, rinse with a solution of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Do not bleach wool carpeting. Dry carpet and floor thoroughly before replacing to avoid mildew formation. Some shrinking may occur.
Layers of submerged plywood subfloors may separate. Sections that separate should be replaced to avoid floor coverings from buckling. Subfloor drying may take months. Check for warping before installing new flooring. If your subfloor is concrete, removing floor coverings will hasten drying of slab.
Wood floors are prone to warping and buckling. You may want to consult a carpenter to remove a board every few feet to prevent buckling.
Take furniture outdoors to clean. Hose or brush off mud. All drawers, doors, etc. should be removed. Remove or cut hole in back to push out stuck drawers or doors. Dry slowly out of direct sunlight to avoid warping. It may take weeks to months for furniture to dry thoroughly.
Wash out mud, dirt and debris as soon as possible with a hose and mop or sponge. Start cleaning from the upper limits of the flooding and work downward.
Remove wallboard, plaster and paneling to at least the flood level. Remove and discard wet insulation. Treat interior wall studs and plates with disinfectant to prevent growth of decay-causing organisms. Provide ventilation by opening windows and doors and using fans. Leave walls open for up to four weeks or until they have thoroughly dried. Delay permanent repairs until walls are completely dry. Control mildew in the weeks and months following the flood.
Submerged business equipment must be cleaned and dried before starting. With electricity or fuel turned off, unplug and open as much as possible to rinse or wipe clean and let dry. A business equipment repair person should check before reconnecting.