Flood-hit businesses - report published

Flood-hit businesses - report published

 

BUSINESSPEOPLE hit by catastrophic floods in a Devon high street have been talking about their experiences to experts from the University of Salford’s School of the Built Environment.

 

Entrepreneurs from Braunton found their shops under several feet of water just days before Christmas when the river Caen broke its banks in 2012.

In a study to test a government-sponsored business resilience toolkit, researchers from the School’s Centre for Disaster Resilience surveyed  microbusinesses in Caen Street at the heart of the flooding about their preparedness and early warning, the impact on trade and how they have adapted and organised since the flooding.

Arguably the biggest concerns were selling the business: “We had the business on the market slightly before the flood. It definitely had a bearing because it’s been on the market for three years now” and another said: “When I retire and I have to come to sell a building that floods. That’s the worst bit of it, it’s my retirement plan.”

Insurance risk

And insuring the business: “Yes, eventually we got [the insurance payment]…but as I said, you never get what you were hoping for, if you know what I mean.”

But respondents to the surveys, which included the latest cognitive mapping techniques, admit the nightmare experience wasn’t entirely negative.

“God forbid, you wouldn’t really want it to happen but when it does you do get a chance to look at your business and could we do anything better. So there was a mild silver lining,” said one owner.

And another admitted: “There was a bit of a buzz because we were on the national papers and on the news and being interviewed by BBC1 live. You shouldn’t be thinking ‘Oh this is great’ because it wasn’t great at all [but] I think it did help to be honest.”

Pride in adversity

Many also gained courage and pride in adversity:  “All the paper girls and boys came in the following morning. In fact, two or three rounds went out on the morning of the flood, so those customers never actually lost anything, so that was quite good.”

One SME took the opportunity to get the business up and running again within a day of the flood to demonstrate to customers the value of the business to them. Certain interviewees  admitted to ignoring Environment Agency flood warnings, preferring to trust their own methods: “We now move stock if there is eight hours of continuous rain, low air pressure and high tide!”

The research findings were presented to Braunton’s Parish Council and recommendations made in a bid to assist other flood threatened towns and business centres respond in the event of disaster.

In the past three years, two thirds of small-to-medium enterprises in the UK have been impacted by severe weather, costing an average £7,000 per business.

Very adaptable

Dr Bingu Ingirige, Director of Centre for Disaster Resilience at the University of Salford, said:  “Less than a quarter of microbusinesses have a resilience plan of any description

If we are to adequately cope with to future flooding, it is important to recognise that SMEs have very specific needs, and one size does not fit all.

“Businesses are very adaptable: - many were innovative using technology, sharing lessons with other businesses and striving to keep flooding high on local agendas. However, they cannot be effective on their own as resilience to theses disasters relies on everyone pulling together and that means cooperation from the authorities and the insurance industry, support from the local community and continuous monitoring of plans and contingencies.”

Paul Cobbing, CEO of the National Flood Forum said: “This is a great report that helps to highlight what really happens to businesses and the communities around them when they flood.”

‘Investigating SME resilience to flooding – the Braunton report’ by Bingunath Ingirige and Rachel Russell was supported by the Adaptation and Resilience in the Context of Change network (ARCC) funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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