Keeping Your Business Afloat During Flood Season

Flooded street

During the warmer months of spring, summer and fall, most regions of the United States are exposed to flooding risks. Even those outside a mapped flood zone should have an action plan ready, as nearly “25 percent of all flood damages occur in relatively low risk zones,” shares the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS).

Develop a plan for flood readiness and prevention by assessing your business's unique risks and creating a disaster recovery plan before the waters rise. Ready Business, a program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), encourages businesses to be prepared for inland flooding in these six categories.


The Six S’s of Flood Readiness


Employees play a crucial role in the growth and sustainability of your business. Their protection is of highest priority, so it’s important to consider the ways you can train them to respond in the event of a natural disaster. As part of your flood preparation plan, you may choose to incorporate employee activities to help your staff become familiar with emergency protocol and evacuation routes. Ready Business shares a staff checklist on page 32 of their Inland Flooding Toolkit that you can use as a starting point for developing a plan.

Things to Keep in Mind During a Flood Warning:

  • Do not attempt to go through flood waters by walking, swimming or driving. Remember: Turn around, don’t drown!
    • It only takes six inches of moving water to knock a person off their feet, and one foot of moving water can whisk away a vehicle.
  • Avoid crossing bridges over rapidly moving water.
  • Act according to your situation. This might mean moving to higher ground, evacuating or staying in place.

Brian Gleason, GuideOne’s Senior Risk Manager, advises business owners to “cease operations and immediately evacuate if water has entered the facility and is anywhere near electrical service.”


Your community should have a land use plan that includes the location of any floodplains and levees. These factors impact where flooding will occur and how the city will direct the excess water. Checking with a city planner or engineer can help you determine how rising water will affect your business’s location and inform you of any policies regarding the implementation of sandbags or other barricades. It is usually “the property owner or tenant’s responsibility to secure the building,” Gleason explains, and these responsibilities may include filling and placing sandbags in the anticipation of flooding.


If flooding is predicted in your area, move critical contents at least one foot above the building’s Base Flood Elevation (BFE). Critical contents may include computers, electronics, files, chemicals or any other valuable business property.


Nonstructural building components — such as mechanical, electrical or communications systems — may be in danger of damage during a flood. If there is time, Gleason recommends halting all utilities at the meter or main shutoff. “Utility service should not be turned back on until the building is dry,” he says. He also suggests contacting a licensed contractor or equipment supplier for “information about how best to remediate flood dangers and how to protect internal systems.” You can refer to page 35 of Ready Business’s systems checklist for more resources on evaluating appropriate courses of action for protecting your business’s systems.


Putting together the best risk mitigation plan for your building may begin with calling in a professional. Structural or design engineers can help determine solutions that will minimize your potential structural risks. These professionals can also assist in implementing dry or wet floodproofing methods unique to your building.    


Building relationships with other local businesses creates a stronger community and can make all the difference in a time of need. Following a flood, your business may be able to aid others and vice versa. Start by taking inventory of resources you have and asking other organizations how they could use a helping hand. Page 19 of the Ready Business Inland Flooding Toolkit outlines just a few of the ways you can serve your community in the event of flooding:

  • Relief kits — packing, storing or distributing
  • Charging stations — cell phones, battery-powered tools, portable power banks
  • Food preparation — offering a sanitary kitchen for preparing or serving meals
  • Volunteer — you may be able to connect with a local organization

For additional information, you can read our Safety Resources on Flooding Preparedness or visit the links below.


Ready Business ToolKit by FEMA

Prepare Your Organization for a Flood Playbook by America’s PrepareAthon

Prepare for Emergencies by U.S. Small Business Administration


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© 2024 GuideOne Insurance. GuideOne® is the registered trademark of the GuideOne Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.