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While Australia has experienced severe drought and devastating bushfires in recent months, the weekend’s fierce storms and flooding across Australia’s east coast have been a sobering reminder that varied and extreme weather events can arise quickly and catch even prepared communities and businesses by surprise.

Alongside the impact of gale force winds, the threat of flood can often come with a broader impact radius.  Loss causes can be as simple as a stormwater blockage or built-up debris in roof gutters.

With the clean-up from recent storms and cyclone damage now in earnest but with further potentially devastating wet weather ahead of us, performing a flood risk assessment and putting effective mitigation plans in place will help reduce any future impact.

The dreadful truth

Even in weather events that came with advance warning, many organisations failed to have a functional flood mitigation plan in place, and as a result, suffered greater losses than those with effective plans in place. Loss situations were wide and varied. Examples include:

  • Leaving high value contents in below ground areas, where all contents were destroyed,
  • Leaving lift cars on the bottom level of the buildings, when they could have been sent to the top,
  • Having all essential services: electrical switchboards, fire pumps, generators; badly damaged from water, as they were located in the lowest parts of the building,
  • Not maintaining submersible pumps, resulting in the pumps failing to activate when water levels reached a certain height.

While you can’t stop a loss, you can reduce the severity of a loss, and the potential interruption to your business through practical risk management.

Planning ahead

A flood mitigation plan will help you prepare for a flood event. It should be instructive, and help ensure your business is not only prepared for a flood, but also prepared to recover from this type of peril.

If your operations are within a flood prone area, it is important that you remain vigilant of Bureau of Meteorology alerts. It’s also critical that sites in a defined flood zone have a prepared flood mitigation plan.

This should include:

  • An overview of flood threat (potential impact from flood water)
  • The facility’s approach to flood response and protection
  • Flooding scenarios
  • Area maps
  • Impact of floodwaters
  • Flood response
  • Action matrix: What is needed?
  • Description of required actions: What to do?
  • Staff assignment matrix: Who will do what?
  • Materials and supplies matrix: What to use?
  • Contractors list/phone numbers: Who to hire?
  • Security response
  • Fire protection response

It’s also important that tenants of leased premises connect with their landlords, or building managers, regarding flood response planning ahead of the event. This will ensure that any preventative measures are aligned with the sites overall response plan and capabilities.

The right coverage

In addition to having the appropriate mitigation plan, organisations need to clearly understand what type of cover they have and how it will respond in the event of storm damage, versus a flood.

In general terms, a flood is often defined as the release of water from a natural course such as a river, dam or stream onto otherwise dry land. This differs to storm water run-off which may be described as a body of water making its way to a water course.

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Tony Walther

Tony Walther  

Risk Consultant, Aon
Contact Tony