Turning the tide on flood cover

February 23rd 2021

Tim Coulson, of our Edinburgh office, looks at the devastating impact of flooding and outlines steps farmers and landowners can take to minimise the risk of damage and costly repairs

It is a hard but inescapable fact that climate change is transforming our weather patterns – with potentially devastating consequences.

According to a new report by researchers from the Water Resilient Cities project at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, parts of Scotland face a 34 per cent increase in flooding in the next 50 years.

The high risk, and high level of uncertainty, associated with flooding events is reflected in limited affordability and availability of flood cover, particularly when it comes to commercial properties.

The government-insurer Flood RE initiative, a scheme to make flood cover more affordable, does not apply to commercial businesses. Consequently, commercial premises – including occupied and unoccupied let buildings and farm buildings – are at risk of being significantly underinsured – or not covered at all.

With flooding events expected to become more commonplace, it is imperative that farmers and landowners take the necessary steps to reduce their risks, become more resilient, and obtain appropriate cover.

Firstly, they should look to ways in which to keep flood water out of their buildings, including the use of flood boards, flood proof doors or barriers, sandbags, and airbrick covers. Exterior measures can include the installation of drainage ditches and dykes.

Secondly, efforts should be made to limit damage, should flood water get in.  Resilience measures include the sump pump systems, water compatible walls and floors, raised electrics, raised plinths, flood alarm systems, and careful storage of valuables. Raising electrical sockets and fuse boxes at least 1.5 metres above floor level and running cabling to these from ceiling rather than floor level can also save on costly electrical repairs.

Thirdly, farmers and landowners can go down a non-traditional insurance route. Products are coming to market, which can be a lifeline for farmers struggling to obtain insurance.

Parametric insurance, for example, is a non-traditional insurance product that offers pre-specified pay-outs based upon a trigger event. Unlike traditional insurance policies, pay-outs are set and based on flood water level, rather than damage.

Once flood waters reach a certain depth, there is an automatic pay-out, and as this is pre-agreed by policy holder and insurer, costs are kept at a minimum.

As well as benefiting from lower premiums, farmers and landowners can avoid protracted wait times for pay-outs and be safe in the knowledge they have a safety net.

Finally, with flooding events on the increase, it is advisable to keep tabs on postcode flood risks. This can be done via the Scottish Environment Protection Agency’s long-term flood risk service.  Visit map.sepa.org.uk for more info.

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