Flood preparation for small business

Having a plan in place to cope with floods can help reduce the impact on your business and help you to recover quickly.

Depending on your business's location, you can be impacted by different types of floods such as river or creek flooding, overland flow (when water travels over land during heavy rainfall events) and storm tide flooding when sea levels rise above normal levels flooding coastal areas, or a combination.

It's important to understand the different types of flooding, how your property may be impacted and what types of flooding your insurance policy covers. Even if your business premises are not directly flooded, access and supply routes may be cut off during a flood having a significant impact on your business.

To get back to business sooner, use these 4 stages to help your business manage a flood:

Top 10 tips to manage a natural disaster

Use these top 10 tips to prepare your business. For detailed steps, continue reading below.

  • Tip 1

    Make a plan

    Identify your risks and plan what you will do, including evacuation plans

  • Tip 2

    Review insurances, policies and finances

    Before storm season check your insurance and finances are adequate to cover your business

  • Tip 3

    Prepare your business

    Prepare your premises – clear vegetation and loose items, back up data and pack emergency kit

  • Tip 4

    Plan for alternatives

    Plan for power outages, loss of deliveries, access and alternate ways to operate

  • Tip 5

    Monitor the incident

    Listen to emergency alerts, know where to shelter or evacuate and follow advice

  • Tip 6

    Assess impact on your business

    When safe to return, assess and photograph the damage, and contact your insurer and bank

  • Tip 7

    Connect

    Connect and communicate with staff, customers, guests and community

  • Tip 8

    Financial recovery

    Apply for financial assistance and other business support

  • Tip 9

    Communicate and promote

    Develop marketing strategies to communicate with customers and promote positive news or deals

  • Tip 10

    Recovery planning

    Consider what you've learned and update policies, plans and staff training

Prevent and prepare before a flood

Consider what actions you can take to prevent or reduce the likely effects of an incident and prepare steps to plan for, respond to and recover from unavoidable events.

Make a plan

Develop a business continuity plan to help you prevent risks, prepare for potential impacts, respond to and recover from a severe weather event.

Complete a business continuity plan to help you prevent, prepare, respond and recover before an incident or crisis occurs.

Steps to include in your plan:

  • identify key events and risks most likely to impact your business
  • plan how to respond to key risks and incidents (e.g. changes to goods or services delivery)
  • identify staff roles and responsibilities in an emergency and share team contact details
  • identify and record customer, supplier, insurer and emergency contacts
  • identify and record local emergency alerts, warnings and contacts and update channels
  • write an emergency evacuation plan and procedures (e.g. identify assembly points, assign roles, shutting down operations procedure)
  • conduct regular emergency drills with staff/visitors/customers/guests and document in your emergency plan
  • create an event log to record information, decisions, actions, and 'before and after' damage photos for insurance purposes
  • create a recovery plan to document steps after an incident.

Prepare your business

When planning for an extreme weather event consider alternative ways to operate if power, supplies, buildings, properties, roads and communications are cut off or unavailable.

  • Before storm season, check insurances are up to date, and adequately cover your business, assets and any rebuilds or repairs that may be required.
  • Photograph equipment or assets to show pre-event condition.
  • Review and document how you will manage orders and cancellations.
  • Check you have financial reserves and emergency cash on hand.
  • Use the small business disaster resources.
  • Plan for extended power outages by getting a generator and fuel.
  • Ensure you have enough stock, supplies or spare parts in case your power or access is cut off.
  • Identify alternative off-site locations to operate from.
  • Plan for flexible staffing arrangements (e.g. work from home, online meetings).
  • Plan how you will manage work orders, cancellations and following up on your insurance.
  • Backup your data and store off-site or use cloud storage.
  • Save digital copies of key business documents, for example:
    • insurance
    • business registration
    • property deeds
    • key contracts
    • licences
    • certificates
    • awards.

Pack an emergency kit

Having an emergency kit handy can ensure survival, and help you return to business sooner.

  • First aid kit – check contents are current and complete
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) – for example, masks, gloves, safety glasses, hand antiseptic, disinfectant
  • Radio – portable battery powered
  • Torches and batteries
  • Spare batteries, power boards and power banks
  • USB memory sticks or flash drives
  • Computer storage (portable hard drives/data storage, backup tapes, discs)
  • Spare keys and security codes
  • Mobile phone with credit available, plus chargers (portable and car)
  • Marker pens (for temporary signs) and general stationery
  • Hazard tape
  • Utility knife
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Waterproof bags and containers for valuables
  • Tie down straps and rope
  • Cash
  • Keys for buildings, vehicles and equipment
  • Important or valuable equipment that is easily moved
  • List of visitors or customers (on premises or expected) and contact details

Respond during a flood

Know where to get the most up to date information and where to get help if you need it. Always phone Triple Zero (000) in a life-threatening emergency.

  • Follow emergency services advice to shelter or evacuate.
  • If you have CCTV leave it running to capture video of potential damage for insurance purposes.
  • Activate your business continuity plan (includes emergency plan)
    • secure vehicles, equipment and supplies
    • unplug electrical equipment, shut down master electrical board and gas supply
    • collect your emergency kit
    • secure your premises
    • evacuate premises if you need to leave.
  • Communicate regular updates to staff, visitors and customers.
  • Advise customers and suppliers about your business operations and evacuation plans where relevant, including:
    • in-person to customers on your premises at the time
    • online to all other customers.
  • Use your social media accounts (if available), website or phone to advise customers and stakeholders about your business operations.

Recover after a flood

It can take months or years for some businesses to fully recover from severe weather events. Having a plan to respond and recover from a severe weather event can help speed recovery. Consider deferring big decisions about your business's future until later.

Initial recovery (hours and days following event)

  • Protect yourself, your family and staff.
  • Monitor emergency broadcasts for updates.
  • Return to your premises only when safe.
  • Return to premises when safe and secure dangerous debris.
  • Assess damage to buildings, assets, vehicles and equipment.
  • Record decisions and photos and/or videos of damage in an event log for insurance claims.
  • Find disaster clean-up tips.
  • Estimate repair, replacement or relocation costs.

Early recovery (days and weeks following event)

  • Review your business continuity plan (includes recovery plan).
  • Consider reopening options (e.g. alternate premises, hired equipment or contractors, reduced hours or services, online services).
  • Recover data and business records.
  • Repair or replace damaged systems or equipment.
  • Continue to update customers and suppliers about your business operations – use our suggested messages.
  • Provide positive news to customers on your website and social media.
  • Post photos and videos on your social media to demonstrate when your business is back up and running.
  • Connect with other businesses in your industry and disaster recovery centres to find out how you can help your community, or they can help you.
  • Accept community support – people want to help and you are not alone.

Long-term recovery (months or years following event)

  • Look after the mental health and wellbeing of your staff and family, as well as yourself.
  • Consider alternative roles or tasks for staff.
  • Stay connected to your local community, industry and neighbouring businesses.
  • Remember it's okay to accept assistance, even if you think others are worse off.
  • Consider how to reduce the impact of future events on operations and buildings.
  • Replace destroyed equipment, stock, records and documents.
  • Answer emails promptly and thank people for support.
  • Consider how to promote your business – use innovative ways such as videos, photos and promotions to get the message out that you are back up and running.
  • Celebrate and let people know how you've recovered.
  • Record lessons learned from your business recovery (e.g. adequacy of insurance policies, and IT, accounting and record-keeping systems).
  • Update your business continuity plan, and business policies and procedures.
  • Review and update your emergency plan and procedures.
  • Schedule regular emergency evacuation drills, and provide appropriate training for staff.

Communicate

Communication can be crucial before and after a severe weather event. Your staff and customers need to know if the event has impacted your business, if you will close, and when you will reopen.

Consider who your business might need to communicate with before, during and after a severe weather event. Think about how you will communicate if there are power outages.

Key stakeholders may include:

  • staff
  • customers or guests
  • clients
  • suppliers and distributors
  • banks and insurers
  • industry body or association
  • regulatory body or agency.

Before a severe weather event

Once you've received a disaster alert, use social media channels, your website and/or doorway signage to advise all stakeholders about your business operations. If possible, you should talk to your staff face to face and phone or email your key customers, clients or suppliers who may be directly impacted.

During a severe weather event

Usually staff will shelter at home during a disaster, but if your business is responsible for looking after guests or customers, make sure you advise them about how to get advice and updates (e.g. advice from authorities, updates from local ABC radio).

After a severe weather event

If available, use your social media accounts, website or phone to advise customers and stakeholders about your business operations.

  • We value all of our (customers/clients) and will keep you updated as best we can.
  • We are well prepared for events like this and have activated our response plan.
  • Our business will close from (time/date) until it is safe to return and resume operations. Please stay safe and follow emergency services advice.
  • Please stay safe and follow emergency services advice.
  • If you are in a life threatening or dangerous situation or require emergency assistance, please phone Triple Zero (000). For all other weather event updates visit (provide details).
  • Please listen to the advice of emergency authorities at all times.

Initial recovery

  • We have been following authorities' advice and plan to reopen our business as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Our doors may be temporarily closed, but you can still buy and order online. Visit our website at (add your website address).
  • We wish all of our customers and clients a safe recovery.

Later recovery

  • We are now open for business and ready to welcome our customers back.
  • Please be patient with us as we work to resume full operations.
  • You can continue to contact us on (provide details).
  • In the meantime, please visit our website (provide website address) to place an order.

Contact your bank

  • Ask your bank about financial hardship options, for example:
    • changing loan terms
    • temporarily pausing or reducing repayments
    • deferring repayments and interest payments (all missed payments and interest will need to be repaid)
    • waiving fees and charges
    • consolidating your debt
    • finance to help cover cash flow shortages
    • deferring upcoming credit card payments
    • increasing emergency credit card limits
    • waiving early termination fees to access term deposits.
  • Provide loan details (account name and number, payment amounts) and an overview of your financial situation.
  • Request a hardship variation by using the sample letter generator from the Financial Rights Legal Centre to send to your bank.
  • Your bank must advise you within 21 days about your hardship request. If you can't negotiate a variation, you can:

Contact utility providers

  • Contact your utility providers' hardship team about electricity, gas, phone or water bill payment options.
  • Contact your insurer if you:
    • aren't sure the event is covered by insurance – you may be able to claim under your business interruption or income protection insurance
    • have lost your policy documents – your insurer will have a copy.
  • Contact the Insurance Council of Australia (phone 1800 734 621) if you have questions about your policy or don't know who your insurer is.
  • Check if your insurance policy:
    • funds clean-ups
    • requires authorisation before repairs begin
    • provides emergency or advance funds for wages or recovery activities.
  • Gather all information about the claim:
    • complete an event log
    • items to claim and when purchased
    • equipment, furniture etc. that had you've had to throw away
    • photo and/or video evidence.
  • Make a claim and resolve issues:
    • lodge claim as soon as possible – don't wait for a full damage assessment before making a claim
      • insurers must fast track a claim if you can demonstrate 'financial need' (read item 64 of the General Insurance Code of Practice) – if the insurer agrees, an advance payment must be made within 5 days
      • your insurer must inform you of their decision within 10 business days of receiving your claim
    • contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority on 1800 931 678 if you can't reach agreement with your insurer
    • phone Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 651 188 if you need information and advice on how to get a claim paid.

Go back to Small business disaster hub for other industries and disasters.