As businesses and residents across the UK count the cost of the floods - and with unsettled weather forecast to continue for several days - the torrential rain is a timely reminder for businesses to think about what they would do to minimise the risk of their offices being flooded.
In the worst case scenario, if you fail to plan, you may not have a business to run. Here are some top tips on how to survive the winter.
• Assess the risks in your area. Find out if you are on a flood plain. People often think "I'm nowhere near a river. I'm fine." Wrong! Water goes down... but water also comes up too!
• Sign up to the Environment agencies Flood Line system to receive alerts for your area
• Get a map with your premises on it and look at the routes in and identify different access routes, just in case one becomes blocked
• Look around your office. Are you in the basement? Do you have lots of paper stored on the floor? Just two inches of water can be devastating to that server you have sat on the floor in the corner!
• Get a list of contact numbers for staff to be used in an emergency
• Get a list of your top 20 clients. They'll be the ones bringing in 80% of your revenue. Yes, all customers/clients are important but if you can't call all your clients so think smart.
• Speak to your landlord or head of facilities and find out who will be called in the event that an emergency occurs when you're not in the office.
• Get the number of a company who specialise in drying out water damaged businesses and sort out a contract.
• Pull together all the above and compile into a one/two page plan.
• Pull senior managers together and tell them how it all works - exercise them by rehearsing!
When the Water Comes
If you're expecting flooding in your area then take the following actions;
• Keep the radio or television tuned to weather or emergency information.
• Be aware of flash flooding. Do not wait for instructions to move if authorities think flash flooding is possible.
• If you're in the office start moving anything that can be damaged up to higher floors (or at least off the floor!).
• Have an emergency kit in the office (wellies, gloves, sandbags, torches, sleeping bags etc).
• Have an emergency kit in the car (wellies, thick socks, a water proof coat, gloves, torch, sleeping bag).
• Unplug all electrical devices - yes, even that server sat in the corner (please tell me you don't have a server in the corner of the room!).
• Get your plan out and ensure key people in your business are also aware of the increased risk.
• From your planning you'll be aware of streams, ditches, drainage channels and other low-lying areas. Remember water runs down hill! You may be nowhere near the rain fall, when the flash-flood hits your front door!
• Request that gas and electrical services are switched off.
• If you have to evacuate make sure you assign someone to securing your premises.
Looking After Your Own Personal Safety
As a business owner, remember that your people are your greatest asset (No people. No business). If you have a fantastic server room and all your telephony is diverse-routed via an MPLS, it means nothing if there's no one there to answer the calls or use the systems.
Take Care of Your people
If you become aware of a risk of flooding, think carefully who you need and how they'll support you - and don't leave it until the last minute. If you feel is right to do so, then close the office/business early and get people to safety. If you're saying 'but we have a business to run' then feel free to go back to 1970 when mobile phones and laptops were science fiction. If you had done your risk assessment and impact analysis earlier then you would have a plan for remote working.
If the Rain Does Fall
Six inches of moving water can make you fall. So if you must walk through water, only go through water which is above the ankle (you can use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you if needed).
Driving through flooded areas is very dangerous. You have no idea if there is some obstruction under the water and you may find your engine becomes flooded too and then you're in running water with no means of escape.
Think through the risks and the impact to your business and implement plans and processes to reduce the impact on you and your business. Finally, one of my favourite quotes in British Continuity Management is very relevant - it wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark!