Why this code could help ease the flooding misery for Yorkshire businesses - Bev Adams

For many businesses across Yorkshire, the onslaught of flooding over the last few months has been an unwelcome repeat of too many recent winters.

Dr Bev Adams is the head of climate resilience at Marsh Risk Consulting

Some towns have become household names for all the wrong reasons, with Storm Ciara just the latest to damage properties, incomes and lives in Hebden and Sowerby Bridge, Todmorden and Mytholmroyd.

It may be many anxious months before business returns to normal, and before compensation is paid. Many now see that we cannot keep tackling floods the same way, with civic barriers and traditional insurance alone. What some do not realise is that insurer-funded flooded property restoration, if properly executed, could be their greatest weapon in future floods.

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But if claimants do not demand resilient repairs and adapt now, they may well find themselves in the same agonising position again all too soon.

On February 10 in Westminster, Defra launched the Code of Practice for Property Flood Resilience, with this aim in mind. The ongoing trials of residents and businesses in the Calder Valley, now dealing with flooding as a regular occurrence, were exactly the audience in mind when the code was first commissioned.

Jointly authored by leading insurers, together with climate and property risk experts, it comprises world-leading, structured advice and guidance for businesses (and home owners) to make their properties flood resilient, and its standards should be applied from now on. That said, the onus for now is on the claimant to demand code compliance.

The code is just as important for properties before they flood as well as those where the worst has already come to pass. Flood resilience measures can be installed as part of ongoing risk management activities, repair and maintenance programmes, and new build design. As climate change threatens, resilience must become part of our national DNA.

The elements of the code are not new: it is a structured end-to-end guide deploying existing technologies and practical good sense. When I was mapping flood recovery in Cockermouth in 2015 after Storm Desmond, a number of businesses were trialling some of these technologies. But they had to figure it out for themselves, amidst conflicting advice and a lack of clear, objective standards.

The code changes all of that, giving businesses a framework for confident action that makes a real difference and resilience practitioners a framework to deliver against for their clients.

The code contains guidance on modifications to both keep water out and, perhaps more crucially, how to design properties so that they can swiftly be put right again with minimum fuss, cost and delay if water comes in. These twin concepts – resistance and recoverability – work together to drive down the expected cost of flooding at a property, and when properly implemented can help to make flood insurance more achievable and affordable. Taking ownership of resilience now is the best way for businesses to address flood risk, as more and more of us live in the shadow of it.

The code contains practical advice on resistance measures, such as installing air brick covers and external barriers, plus design tweaks to maximise recoverability.

If we are to be ready for the realities of climate change – and Yorkshire is at the forefront of this – then many more businesses will need to consider property flood resilience to be as essential as health and safety compliance.

Climate change will see much of the UK move from a barrier-focused flood defence strategy to one where we will have to accept some flooding in our lives, as many people and businesses across Yorkshire already do.

However unwelcome that is, the code enables businesses to take control of the situation in a way insurance and civic defences alone never will. That way, when the worst does happen, the truly resilient will be back to business-as-usual while others are still counting their costs.

The code of practice for property flood resilience can be downloaded at www.ciria.org/copforpfr.

Dr Bev Adams is Head of Climate Resilience at Marsh Risk Consulting and co-author of the Defra Property Flood Resilience Code of Practice