Business Reopening Guide After a Flood Loss
When you’re a business owner, flooding can impact more than your physical business space or property. The water damage can be devastating to your immediate environment, but it can also disrupt business operations for a long time if proper recovery steps are not taken quickly.
These floods can be caused by several sources, many of which are nearly impossible to see coming. Whatever the cause, the businesses that prepare for these types of disaster situations in advance will be able to reopen with the least amount of disruption.
Here’s what to do after your business experiences a flood loss and how you can prepare for water damage recovery in advance.
Immediate Steps to Take After a Flood
Oftentimes, a common reaction after a flood is to start saving as many physical items as we can, maybe even sending employees into standing water to salvage property.
This gut reaction is one of the most unsafe courses of action you can take. Depending on what’s sitting in the water and how long it’s been there, you could be sending staff into potentially black water with lots of bacteria. You could be putting yourself and your employees in harm’s way, especially if your flood is from a sewage issue.
Instead, remain calm and take the following immediate next steps:
- Put health and safety first
Don’t touch water over two inches deep. Avoid any water located under or near extension cords or outlets to prevent electric shock. If you are able to safely navigate any standing water and enter your property, do so wearing appropriate protective clothing. Even the tiniest bit of water could be contaminated by chemicals and sewage, so wear waders, rubber gloves and boots to stay safe.
If you feel it is safe to enter the water, triple check you have shut off the building’s electricity and water. Then, if you can enter safely, do so and check for gas leaks. Gas leaks can occur after floodwaters shift foundations or trigger stresses within your building. The water can also flood appliances or pilot lights, causing gas to leak into the room.
There are several indicators of a natural gas leak, like hissing noises, sulfur smells and bubbling near flooded areas. However, if the floodwater is approaching any gas-fired appliances or equipment at all, the smartest thing you can do is skip these gas leak checks and evacuate the property as quickly as possible.
Even after the flood is cleared up, make sure your carbon monoxide detector has been tested and is running smoothly! Sometimes appliances still work after a flood, but maybe leaking carbon monoxide which you cannot see or smell.
- Report the loss to your insurance
The first person you should call is your insurance agent. Give them a fast heads up as to what’s happened, answer their questions and let them know you will report back with as much relevant information as you can provide. Calmly explain the situation, giving them a chance to prepare the necessary documentation in advance.
- Document damage
If you can safely enter the property, take photos of the damage you see, including carpet, furniture, and business possessions.
- Protect belongings
Again, if it is safe to do so, save your most valuable items. As long as they are away from the flood and not contaminated by any water, collect them in order of priority. You can prioritize your list in order of what items would be the hardest to replace first. For example, essential documents like titles, deeds, certificates, and financial records would come first. Then, any easy-to-move essential objects like machinery, computers, light furniture, etc.
We cannot stress this enough: If you doubt the item in question has been contaminated or would require you to put yourself in danger to collect it, then leave it. Property is replaceable, but your health may not be.
- Identify the source of the flood (sump pump, floor drain, leaking roof, foundation, other)
There are many causes of flooding: Heavy rains. sewer back-up, a malfunctioning sump-pump, broken washing machine hose, leaky or broken pipes, leaking water heaters, etc. It can be hard to determine root cause right off the bat, so instead find the physical source of the flood. Is the water coming from your sump pump, floor drain, foundation or leaking roof?
- If possible, stop the leak
Again, if safe to do so and the cause of the flood is clear, take steps to stop the water from entering your space. With proper protection, you can replace the batteries in your sump pump, board up a leaking window or roof, etc.
- Call for help
Once the immediate threat has been neutralized, call a professional disaster cleanup company for assistance. Use a company that is IICRC certified, licensed and bonded. Many scam companies target homeowners and businesses who have just experienced a flood loss, so do your homework before selecting a reputable agency!
To ensure you’re better prepared for a business flood loss, we created this quick chart so you can keep these next steps close by. Click here to download.
Why Businesses Should Have A Disaster Recovery Plan
Many businesses that are unprepared for flood loss end up scrambling to make the call to a professional for cleanup help. They often end up falling for scams or finding themselves on a large waitlist. This is especially true in situations with heavy rains. If other businesses in the area have experienced flooding after a night of thunderstorms, the waitlist could be extremely long.
This long waitlist prevents businesses from reopening quickly, but it can also exacerbate any water damage. The longer water damage goes unresolved, the more time the damage has to become worse. Click here to see what happens to properties and items when water damage is left untreated for periods of time.
The best way to make sure your business receives prompt cleanup service after a flood is by establishing a disaster recovery plan in advance. Part of a recovery plan involves signing a contract with a disaster cleanup business saying you have an agreement they will come out to help you quickly in case of unexpected issues.
Having a priority service agreement with a provider and a detailed recovery plan helps your business get back up and running faster and minimizes downtime. It also helps minimize cost impact as the water is cleaned up quickly and cannot damage the facility any longer than necessary.
Around 75% of small businesses do not have a disaster recovery plan in place. This is especially troubling because companies without any recovery plans often end up going out of business shortly after facing a situation involving floods or other unexpected issues.
Many businesses may not worry that an unexpected catastrophe will strike their business, but the same survey found that over half of businesses reported facing a downtime situation within the previous five years that lasted longer than one full workday.
ServiceMaster Recovery Management and Flood Loss
When water damage or flood loss issue occurs at your property, often, the hardest part is just knowing where to begin and who to contact for help. But rest assured, as the national leader in water restoration and over 40 years in business, we have the experience to be your lifeline as you and/or your clients go through the cleanup process.
We know that everyone’s situation is unique and deserves the time, effort, and expertise to minimize disruption. This is why we have created a Flood & Water Damage Resource Center for you. This resource center explains what happens when a flood occurs at a property and gives all the necessary steps to safely return the property back to pre-loss condition.
We offer priority response services to our clients and provide proactive response options. This means that if a disaster is anticipated in your area, we will send equipment and personnel to your location prior to the event to make sure we’re ready to go. If a storm we thought would pass by quietly moves unexpectedly into the path of your building, we move with it.
To make sure you are aware of any impending threats, big or small, we send out alerts to clients to keep you informed. If a tropical storm is set to come your way or a wildfire may cross paths with your business, we want you to know.
ServiceMaster Recovery Management provides you with peace of mind in the event your business suffers a loss as a result of ﬁre, water or storm-related event. With a network of experts across 600 locations, ServiceMaster can respond quicker, manage more effectively and put you back in business faster.