The Rising Risk of Flood

Victoria Palmer and Robert Waller

 “Studies show that flood is the most expensive of all natural hazards, costing companies an average of US$6 billion in insured losses annually – yet most flood loss is both predictable and preventable” (FM Global, 2016).

Think about your own cultural institutions and all the heritage and history it holds; Are you prepared for a disaster to occur? How do your emergency preparedness stand up? Are you sure your readiness will limit your losses?

Presently, weather patterns are shifting and causing drastic frequencies in flood disasters. Accounting for 31% of all economic losses worldwide, flooding has become the top ten costliest natural hazard (IOP Science, 2016). Many institutions have taken standard precautions by storing their collection far from flood prone areas such as rivers and the coast, however this does not always protect you from a potentially devastating loss to your collection.

Today, larger institutions such as schools, emergency services, and hospitals are building on higher ground to protect against the 500-year riverine floods.  Beyond that, a responsible institution will be prepared for sheet flooding, dam failures, ruptured water mains, and other potential water hazards. Of concern in the Northern hemisphere at this time of year is frozen pipes – has your institution done work in recent years that might increase this risk? Even a small opening in an exterior wall could lead to freezing of pipes located near the opening given an extraordinary combination of wind and cold. Consider all options for protection from any plausible flood risk. This might include choosing the proper location for flood barriers, sealing walls and floors and providing flood pumps and other mitigation equipment that will help speed recovery.

Other areas to think about are the location of your electrical, computer and telecommunications equipment. Are they safely away from the flood level? Sump pumps and backflow valves can also be installed to handle the water seepage and prevent water from coming in the drains.

Is your institution located in a potential flood zone? Check out FM Global Flood Map to learn where and when you may be at risk.

Of course, a clear plan for what to do when flooding is imminent. To Ensure your institution is prepared, check out the FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheet 1-40.  It provides an interesting look at preventing and mitigating losses due to flooding and storm water runoff. Make certain your plans are up to date and have been practiced thoroughly. The following are some helpful resources to help you prepare your own institution for disaster: