Many businesses have been flooded out in the recent terrible weather and my heart goes out to them.
I think the collections industry should respond to the appeal made by David Cameron to banks and other financial services companies to play their part in helping people get back on their feet once the waters have receded.
If that means giving people a payment break in an arrangement to pay off outstanding debts in installments, I believe that’s a better long-term solution than reaching for a court order when people are struggling through no fault of their own.
We’ve written about contingency planning before, but the floods are a timely reminder to small and medium enterprises to have in place a disaster recovery plan – whether it be for flooding, and IT failure or ill-health knocking your business out of action.
I read some advice from Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance about what to do if your premises are at risk of flooding. Among the main points are:
- Keep your insurance policy documents in a watertight bag in a safe place.
- Save your insurer’s helpline number in your phone.
- Prepare a ‘flood pack’ and make sure that everyone knows where it is. It should include: a torch, battery-operated radio, a first aid kit, warm clothes, blankets, bottles of water and spare batteries.
- Keep your mobile phone charged and nearby.
- Have sandbags and boards to block your doors at the ready – some councils will provide these.
- Know how to switch off your gas and electricity at the main fuse board. You’ll need to do this if you receive an order to evacuate or if water starts to enter business.
If you are flooded, Royal and Sun Alliance also have some pointers. These include:
- Follow advice, such as evacuation notifications and procedures, given by the Environment Agency and your local council. The Environment Agency has a 24-hour information service called Floodline on 0845 988 1188. Advice can also be found within their website.
- Advise staff not to touch any electrical equipment that could be affected by water.
- Once flood water has begun to recede, if the weather and security permits, open all windows during the day. Air outside the building will be less moist than that inside, so it helps to dry the building out. Turn off heating to save energy. By mid-afternoon, the air outside will be moist, so close your windows and put the heating back on.
- Do not dry damaged items by exposing them to extreme levels of heat as this could result in further damage or fire. If your central heating is working, turn it on at a low, constant temperature so that everything dries out gradually.
- When salvaging valuable paperwork, remove excess water and keep tightly together. Leave to dry naturally.
- Don’t immediately dispose of damaged furniture or fittings. They may have a salvage value or be repairable and will certainly need to be inspected. Take photos and store in a dry place.
- Once the floodwater has receded, remember it may be contaminated. Be careful what you touch and look out for signs of pollution.
- Do not attempt to redecorate straight away. It may take months for a property to dry out properly. Check with a decorator.
I hope that’s useful advice, particularly if you keep important documents on your business premises. That’s why back-up at a second site is often advised.
Before the next flood alert it’s worth doing one more thing: check your insurance is up to date and whether it covers you for flood damage.
I do hope that your business or home is never flooded out. If you want advice on business continuity or disaster recovery, then SJ Collections can help point you in the right direction.