Joey Tabone, Head of The Prince's Business Emergency Resilience Group writes about the importance of building in resilience when helping communities recover from flooding.
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The floods caused this winter by Storms Eva, Desmond and Frank left scores of businesses across the UK adversely affected, in many ways. As well as suffering from direct damage and loss of stock, many businesses are continuing to be affected by loss of trading, as deliveries are delayed and customers go elsewhere for goods and services.
Power and transport disruption caused by the floods also has serious negative effects on tourist numbers, as well as residents’ abilities to access local businesses. And because the flooding took place over the vital Christmas and New Year trading period, the financial impact on many businesses is particularly severe.
So making sure business as usual returns to the affected areas as soon as possible is imperative, especially as the economies of many flooded communities are reliant on small businesses. And with flooding sadly being an increasingly common event in these areas, businesses have to be helped not only to recover this time, but build up their ability to recover from similar events in the future. The BERG network supports small business owners to build in more resilient repairs so that next time around, the time taken to get back trading is minimized.
Flood resilient repairs means reconstructing or reinstating a flood-damaged building in such a way that, although flood or storm water may enter a building, its impact is reduced. In other words, no permanent damage is caused, structural integrity is maintained and drying and cleaning occur more quickly when flood water recedes.
What are resilient repairs?
A huge range of resilient repairs that can be made, including raising power-points above likely flood levels, laying plaster horizontally so that only the water-affected lower sections need to be replaced, and installing sump pumps to remove flood waters quickly.
Installing non-return valves in sewers can have a huge effect. Much of the damage to homes and businesses was caused by contamination as sewers failed to cope and water rose up through toilets. Sewage contamination meant carpets, doors and even flooring has to be replaced.
Other basic measures include installing concrete and tiled floors which don’t sustain water damage, flood-proof external doors or flood barriers to doors. While measures such as these may not stop flood water entering completely, they will help to reduce the impacts and get things back to business, more quickly.
Getting back to business in Cockermouth
The huge value resilient repairs can have was shown in Cockermouth, a small Cumbrian town which was flooded in 2009 and this winter. In 2009, the majority of the high street stores and business were submerged in over a metre of flood water. A huge effort by local traders meant many of the towns brightly-coloured shopfronts were back open for business after a few months, although it took more than a year for business to get back to normal.
Over Christmas, the flood water came again. This time, newly instated flood defences meant the waters rose less rapidly than before giving business owners more time to prepare. Resilient repairs put in after the first floods meant that fewer businesses suffered long term impacts. Cockermouth’s Toy Shop, run by Jonty Chippendale, was open just two days after the floods, thanks to resilience measures including new concrete flooring – a far cry from 2009 when it was shut for several months. Read a Q&A with Jonty about how he kept his business trading.