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Protecting your commercial property from the growing threat of floods

In the event of a flood, an emergency plan and the right equipment could save you money, and maybe even save lives.

Image of flooded street with reflection of people walking on street

Flooding is the costliest natural disaster in Canada, and it’s becoming even more common as rising global temperatures lead to increased rainfall across the country.

Securing commercial real estate against flooding is vital because it can save lives and protect property owners from the cost of damage or business disruption. Here’s what you can do to stay above water, even if your commercial building is affected.

The cost of flooding

Today, it’s business as usual. Tomorrow, your commercial property could be several feet under water and you might not be able to enter the building, use equipment or access important documents. If worst comes to worst, you might lose clients, miss deadlines or even be forced to close your business.

Flooding has had negative financial impacts across the country. In June 2013, for example, heavy rainfall in Alberta led to the worst flooding in the province’s history. An estimated 180,000 people were unable to access their office buildings in downtown Calgary for nearly two weeks. This led to 5.1 million lost work hours—or a $500 million loss to the province.

In addition to the financial cost, floods can have a human cost. In August 2018, two people were trapped in an elevator in a commercial building and nearly drowned when it filled with water during a flash flood in Toronto.

The good news? There are steps you can take to keep your building and the people who work there safe. Plus, the right insurance policy will help you deal with the financial impact of flooding.

How to prepare for flooding

To help you protect your people and commercial property, we spoke with Natalia Moudrak, Director of Climate Resilience at the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, a Waterloo-based research institute that’s helping Canadians adapt to climate change. Below, she recommends six practical measures you can take to stay a step ahead of the storm.

1. Create an emergency plan

The emergency response plan for your building should include procedures for safely evacuating its occupants in the event of a flood. And remember, a plan is ineffective if it isn’t shared—verify that your building operations staff and tenants are aware of the guidelines and carry out an annual drill.

2. Update emergency contact information

Make sure that you have the current contact information for risk management consultants, insurance adjusters and insurance brokers on hand so that you can move swiftly in the event of a flood. On that note, you’ll also want to maintain up-to-date contact information for building tenants and other stakeholders so you can easily communicate with them in an emergency.

3. Back up insurance documentation

Any paperwork that you need to access business interruption insurance —such as financial statements, lease agreements and inventory counts—should be updated regularly, backed up electronically, and stored offsite. When selecting a storage site, consider a location that is unlikely to be hit by a flood at the same time as your building.

4. Inventory critical equipment and supplies

Invest in critical flood-fighting equipment and supplies, such as sandbags, sump pumps, portable generators, fuel, portable lights, extension cords, dehumidifiers, and protective clothing, and store it onsite and above the likely flood level.

5. Install a backup generator

Install an onsite backup generator that can power at least one elevator, all the building’s sump pumps and heat pumps, the boiler, smoke evacuation fans, the fire sprinkler and fire alarm systems, stairwell pressurization systems, and emergency lighting equipment for 24 to 72 hours.

6. Equip elevators with water sensors

Any elevators in your building should be equipped with water sensors that prevent them from proceeding to levels that are flooded. These sensors can save lives.

Want to ensure your commercial real estate will be protected in the event of a flood? Reach out to your insurance broker to discuss your options today, and check out the complete list of recommendations from the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation to learn more about protecting your commercial property from floods.

Intact Adaptation Action Grants

Through the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, we’re helping Canada become a more climate-resilient nation. Now you can join in the effort by submitting your climate adaptation project to the Intact Adaptation Action Grants. This year, we’re investing $1 million in charities that are developing practical and effective solutions that help protect people and communities from floods, wildfires, extreme heat, wind or hail. Visit the Intact Foundation website to learn more and to apply.