Flooded small businesses relying too much on insurance cover

Floods in Cockermouth

Floods in Cockermouth

New University of Salford research carried out among businesses in Cockermouth in Cumbria following catastrophic floods in 2009 has found that only a very few have taken flood-protection measures – despite an average 1,750% rise in insurance excesses being reported among the businesses surveyed.

The research team from the University’s Centre for Disaster Resilience is now calling for businesses to make greater use of trained professionals such as chartered surveyors who can recommend effective mitigation and prevention improvements to their facilities.

In the study, of the businesses which had implemented at least one measure, the most common action was to review insurance. Comparatively, only 11% had installed flood resilient wall finishes and a similarly low percentage had moved stock and equipment above floor level.

In light of the current guidance it is important that communities at risk of flooding learn to live and adapt to flooding by implementing some of the above adjustments to their property and processes rather than totally relying on insurance.

These issues are not only relevant to Cockermouth. In 2009 the Environment Agency identified that 5.2 million (or one in six) properties in England are at some risk of flooding, but in 2013 an agreement between the government and insurance industry is set to expire – potentially resulting in much higher premiums.

As a result the researchers are keen for there to be more surveyors who have knowledge of flood prevention and resistance techniques and more businesses taking up advice which can prevent significant costs, damage and disruption.

The project was funded by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Education Trust and Allerdale Borough council. Salford’s lead researcher, Dr Bingunath Ingirige said: “Climate change and rising insurance costs mean that SMEs need to begin investigating other ways to reduce the impact of flooding.

“Chartered surveyors have the potential to play a major role in this area as providers of this advice and merge this area of expertise within their current portfolio of activities.”

In light of the upcoming expiry of the agreement between the government and insurers to offer flood cover, Alan Cripps, RICS Associate Director added: “RICS would like the government to consider providing a flood insurance fund to make sure homeowners and businesses are not placed at unnecessary and unaffordable risk.”

Dr Les Tickner, the Flood Recovery Co-ordinator for Allerdale Borough Council, said: “Cockermouth has a unique independent retail offer housed predominantly in Grade 1,11 and Grade 11* listed buildings.

“The repairs had to be undertaken in a way that protected the heritage and integrity of the buildings. This detailed case study analysis of flood affected businesses has resulted in practical reinstatement proposals for SMEs that may be at risk from future severe weather events.”

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