Dear Editor,

The floods of 2013 cost small businesses across the country a colossal £831 million according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). With figures like this, it is vital that businesses are prepared for unpredictable weather. Following the events over Christmas 2013, many companies will have looked to prepare for and mitigate the risk and impact if storms were to strike again.

By identifying a spectrum of potential issues or problems before a business is faced with them, it enables companies to prioritise these issues and then to put policies and systems in place to deal with them. Depending on the nature of the risk, this might mean that a business is able to reduce the effect of an issue completely or minimise the effect, or (if neither of these is possible) put in place a plan to deal with the consequences.

As a business, it is important to ask the right questions to ensure cover of everything from employees and customers, to the supply/customer chain. What would be the impact of the entire street where your office is based being under water? How will it impact on your insurance? Perhaps more crucially, how will it affect your business continuity? Are you set up for remote working? In 2013, many UK companies discovered the implications of not addressing these questions meant greater flood risks and impact on their businesses.

Similarly, a company looking at new premises should also consider flooding and unpredictable weather. Following the shock of last year, it is increasingly important to properly investigate potential locations. This includes speaking to those with local knowledge and paying close attention to the results of the Environmental Search that your property lawyer should provide you with. In addition, the Environment Agency offers a Floodline which allows businesses to check whether they are located in a flood risk area and offers flood warnings for those in areas of high flood risk.

Those companies that have learnt from the 2013 floods are undeniably at an advantage. As last year displayed, weather conditions can impact staff and business continuity. Previously 16% of firms reported staff absences due to flooding and 32% of small businesses in flood-hit areas have seen a reduction in demand for goods and services while transport was disrupted. However, with procedures in place, companies can keep impact to a minimum.

With storms and snow set to hit the UK for the next few weeks, businesses that learnt from 2013 will weather the storms better by assessing and proactively identifying the challenges they may encounter. However, if your business hasn’t already, make 2015 the year for your company to identify the challenges and ultimately prepare for a sunnier, risk-free future.

Diane Yarrow, Partner, Corporate & Commercial, B P Collins LLP

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