Some have blamed the 2013 floods on global warming, but whether you agree with that or not, there has been an uncommon number of states affected by severe flooding. In 2012 alone, Hurricane Sandy caused $50 billion in damage and forced retailers to rethink their natural disaster readiness plans. Whether you were affected by Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast or one of the more floods in the Midwest last year, flood damage and recovery is a daily reality for many, and having a plan in place is crucial for all.
In 2013, flooding swamped various parts of the Midwest, and according to the National Weather Service, more than 150 gauges were in the flood stage across the United States; almost all of them were in the upper Midwest. Thirty-seven were in the major flood stage, which refers to extensive inundation of structures and roads, and produce significant evacuations. The severe rain has caused a surge of high water which has slowly made its way down the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, causing the Mississippi River to be at or near its peak. With all these floods, business owners will need to be prepared for possible flooding if this unfortunate situation were to happen again.
Water damage is a matter of grave concern to retail owners because it is highly detrimental. Water can damage equipment, property and inventory, and cause mold. However, the worst effect of water damage is having to temporarily close your business. For this reason, it is important to prepare for a flood, and it’s just as important to have emergency responders available who can provide timely support in restoration and cleanup.
Consequences of Water Damage
Flooding in a retail store has various consequences. For store owners, financial loss is the most obvious result of water damage with potential damage to the property itself. Water damage from inside the building accounts for about 30% of insurance property claims by businesses. Water damage could also lead to significant disruption of store operations and ultimately loss of business. Also, there is a strong likelihood of losing market share when a store is forced to shut down temporarily. This may unfortunately result in customers looking elsewhere to make their purchases. Therefore, it is very important for retailers to be ready and prepared for such damages to avoid and minimize loss.
The best way to protect your business from loss due to water damage is to take action ahead of time. Having a preparedness plan involving an emergency response team can reduce losses by up to 80%. It is very important to have a clear and well organized plan for what employees should do if there is any kind of water damage or flooding in a store. A good emergency response team should have a team of client service professionals and service partners to facilitate a quick response to any emergency, any location, any time, 24 hours a day. They should also be equipped to handle all emergencies, such as sewage, flood, molding due to water damage, and remediation. As a company, you should also have a plan ready for operating and financial procedures during an emergency, including employee safety, communication systems, and a safe alternative office and storage location. Having an emergency plan is important, but it is just as important that your staff knows about the plan. Educate the staff about the company’s emergency or disaster plan and how they can protect themselves in the event of a flood or any other emergency.
In addition to advanced planning, here are a few simple things that you can implement to the everyday running of the business to further help protect your property and investment against potential damage:
- Regularly check pipe and plumbing joints for any leaks, particularly those located in vulnerable areas or those that are made of materials that degrade more easily.
- Before cold weather hits, cover pipes with insulation to prevent heat loss that results in frozen pipes, leading to pipe bursts.
Recovery after a crisis involves activities, both short term and long term, that are necessary to continue business and return to normal operations. Having a well-developed strategy is critical to enable a speedy and timely recovery. After the water damage cleanup and before reopening the retail store, make sure to do the following:
- Assess the premises carefully before re-entering the store.
- Watch out for damaged electrical wirings and uneven flooring.
- Check if water flow into the store caused heavy stock to shift.
- Have maintenance personnel check the electrical service before turning the power on.
When it comes to water cleanup and restoration, it is best to leave these tasks to trained professionals who know the proper methods and applications of cleanup. Hiring a good interior maintenance services (IMS) company that will be there for you every step of the way is key to getting your retail store or location back in business as quickly as possible. A good IMS company understands the adjustments that need to be made to environmental elements, such as temperature and humidity, to stop the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew. Moreover, they are fully aware of the urgency of the situation and make their services available 24 hours a day nationwide. This ultimately increases the chances of restoring the store to its pre-damaged condition. There are some immediate things that you can do to begin basic cleanup if there is no electrical hazard to the store:
- Moving merchandise to an elevated place and then extracting as much water as you can while waiting for the IMS cleanup team.
- If the store experiences flash flooding that has left front windows broken, the manager should see to it that the windows are boarded up immediately to protect the property against weather elements, looters and vandals.
- If the roof of the store is leaking, equipment and merchandise should be covered with plastic.
- Use empty trash cans or buckets to collect dripping water.
- The store manager or supervisor should record and document the incident and all costs incurred due to the water damage. Prompt action on the part of the store manager and staff will help reduce the cost and time needed for repairs, leading to quicker recovery.
Being prepared is the Number 1 thing you can do as a business owner to ensure your store is back in working order in a timely fashion. Stay abreast of your local weather through the weather channel or by visiting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at www.noaa.gov.
Having an IMS provider that you can trust with all your stores is a huge help in terms of preventative maintenance and emergency services if and when you may need them. If you don’t have an IMS provider, consider contacting one to include it in your overall budget; the results will often save huge dividends.