With the Bureau of Metereology declaring the third La Nina is officially under way, above average rainfall is likely to return to northern and eastern Australia by early to mid-spring. With heavy rain comes the risk of flooding so people in low-lying areas may be well advised to prepare their flood response early.

Floods are unpredictable and potentially very dangerous, damaging infrastructure and cutting off essential services, as well as causing serious damage to property and threat to life. Never ignore flood warnings. Any kind of water source may flood due to inundation from heavy rainfall or high tides.

Having a plan and knowing what to do may significantly limit damage and decrease recovery time. With the exception of flash floods you should have time to take pre-emptive action when flood alerts are broadcast.

Prior actions to protect your business against flood risks

  • Your local council may be able to provide information about previous flood levels.
  • Make an updated list of business assets, room by room, in advance.
  • Ask authorities about recommended evacuation routes and emergency centres.
  • All staff should also be aware of evacuation routes and the assembly point.

Tips for preparing your premises for flood evacuation

  • Authorities advise that you should have an emergency kit ready packed with first aid supplies, a torch, portable radio, spare batteries and drinking water, and ensure staff know where it's located.
  • Vehicles should be fuelled ready to leave, with a car mobile phone charger inside. If you are on the water and plan to leave by boat, have it secured where you can reach it.
  • Safeguard important business data by backing it up to a safe location (such as the Cloud), while key documents can be stored in a waterproof container.
  • Before you leave the premises secure hazardous items, move portable equipment to a higher level and protect it with waterproof covers.
  • Sandbag toilets to prevent sewage overflow.
  • If you are on a property move your livestock and farm vehicles to higher ground and secure or anchor fuel tanks and equipment.
  • Turn off water, gas and power, disconnecting fuses, remove lightbulbs and empty fridges. Lock the doors.
  • Inform police or emergency services that you are evacuating.

Ensure your business insurance cover is up to date ahead of flood warnings

Review your insurance and make sure you understand what exclusions apply. Are outbuildings and vehicles included in your cover?

Other questions regarding your business insurance cover:

  • can you afford to stop revenue earning operations during a crisis or rebuild?
  • are you covered for total replacement if your premises are destroyed?

Consider getting a quote from a reputable builder for rebuilding your business premises at today's rates. You could also consider getting an insurance valuation report which estimates the total cost including aspects that may be otherwise overlooked: demolition, professional fees and escalation. Your sums insured and business interruption policies should cover a worst case scenario.

Returning to your premises after a flood

How you handle the return to your premises is critical for your safety, meeting regulatory requirements and moving on from the flood.

Wait until all-clear advice has been issued, the Department of Emergency Services warns. Monitor information lines, media or the internet for the updated status of your area.

  • Are the roads open and safe to drive? Your mobile phone should be charged and you should inform someone where you are going. Be aware of hazards like downed power lines which can create an electrical field in water.
  • Take a torch, protective clothing including gloves and rubber-soled footwear.
  • Do not enter the property until the authorities give you the go-ahead.
  • Check with electricity, gas and water utilities to check if supply has been reinstated. Do not switch electricity back on until it has been checked by an electrician. Also bear in mind that a flooded water supply must be assumed to be contaminated.
  • Proceed with caution especially in regard to floors, stairs and sagging ceilings. There may be holes underfoot, wet plaster is heavy and dangerous, and ceilings can contain large volumes of water.
  • Do not smoke or use an open flame as pockets of gas may be present.
  • Be aware that the drying out process can take months and that it is advisable to delay repairs and renovations until this is complete.

Making a claim for flood damage to your business

  • Call us straightaway on the 24/7 claims hotline - 1800 254 287 if you need to make a claim. We are poised to activate the Claims Catastrophe Plan on behalf of our clients in flood affected areas to facilitate a smooth claims process.
  • Take photographs to support your claim, first of the exterior and damage to other buildings on your property, then the interior and contents. Be systematic as these will assist your claims case.
  • Make lists of damaged items you need to claim on. Don't worry if you don't have your insurance documentation after the flood. Your insurer will have your policy on record.
  • If the premises are not usable, you will need to secure them before you leave. You may need to access temporary premises and your business income protection insurance will cover this. Contact us to obtain advice before authorising major repairs.

We'll safeguard you

Any home or business can sustain damage in a flood, which is why having adequate, up-to-date insurance cover is essential.

Talk to your local Gallagher insurance broker by calling 1800 240 432 for advice about risk mitigation, and the type of cover you need to best to protect your living and assets.


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