Here you will find advice and guidance for businesses in the event of a flood.
Preparing for a flood - advice
In the event of a flood warning, it is important everyone is prepared to protect their possessions and premises. Do not underestimate the level to which the flood water may rise. You should:
- obtain sandbags or other flood defense devices
- stock disinfectant
- contact your insurers, who should state the steps you need to take to satisfy your policy requirements
- move equipment and furniture to the next floor or well above the estimated flood level if possible
- consider the risks from heavy lifting to the health and safety of your employees
- switch off electrical and gas installations and equipment
- make sure drains from your premises are running efficiently
- place unsealed food that can’t be moved in airtight containers
After flood - advice
As the flood waters recede, council staff will be available to offer advice.
Floodwater will often be contaminated by untreated sewage, which remains after the floodwater has gone. Wear rubber boots and gloves in and around the affected property. As a business, you must consider the safety of yourself, your employees, the general public and contractors who enter your premises.
Make sure you comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
when staff are carrying out work activities they would not normally be doing.
Rats’ urine, which can be found in flood water, can lead to Weils Disease (Leptospirosis) if it’s accidentally ingested or comes in contact with open wounds. Initial symptoms are similar to flu.
Consult a doctor if this is a concern and tell them you’ve been flooded and if you have ingested flood water. Wash all cuts and cover with waterproof plasters.
Anyone receiving a puncture wound during flood recovery should have a doctor determine whether a tetanus booster is necessary.
After flood advice for food businesses
Our health and safety team can offer advice to businesses affected by flooding on food hygiene and health and safety, in particular proper cleaning and disinfection of equipment and the proper disposal of flood-damaged equipment, food and drink.
- Don’t eat any food that has been touched or covered by floodwater or sewage.
- Always wash your hands before preparing food.
- Clean and disinfect work surfaces, plates, cutlery, kitchen utensils, etc. If you have a working dishwasher, this is a more efficient way to clean and sanitise smaller items or use a suitable disinfectant. Throw away any heavily contaminated items.
- Don’t prepare any food or re-open the establishment until the premises has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
- All food that may have been contaminated must be destroyed. Initially this must be double bagged and placed in a sealed container to prevent attracting pests.
- Clean and disinfect the inside of your fridge and food cupboards, if they have been touched by floodwater.
- Don’t use work surfaces, plates etc. if they are badly chipped or damaged.
- If your power has been cut off and your fridge has not been working for more than four hours, throw away the food inside. Provided doors are kept closed, food should remain frozen in disconnected freezers for up to 24 hours. If food has defrosted, it should be safe if treated as chilled food, refrigerated and used up within a couple of days. If frozen food has risen above 8ºc for more than four hours the food should be thrown away. Also throw away any food that you would eat frozen, for example ice cream.
- If you are unable to keep high-risk food under adequate temperature control, you must close your business.
- If you become ill or suffer any gastric symptoms following the clean-up, please visit your GP as immediately. No-one should handle or prepare food if they are suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting etc.
Contact us if you need a certificate for insurance purposes, or help in disposing of equipment, goods and damaged food.
It is essential all flood-damaged food and drink is correctly disposed of to ensure it cannot be consumed and cause illness. If you are in any doubt about the safe disposal of such items, please contact us for advice.
Cleaning up after a flood
Health risks can be minimised by taking general hygiene precautions. It is essential that, throughout the clean-up, the health and safety of your staff and any other people who have access to your premises are not put at risk.
Your responsibilities under health, safety and welfare legislation still apply, even during these difficult times.
- Make sure your staff are aware of these precautions while carrying out the cleaning operation.
- Anyone involved in the cleaning should wear protective clothing including gloves, overalls, suitable footwear and cover cuts and open wounds with waterproof dressings.
- All river debris, furnishings, equipment and other items which have to be disposed of must be dealt with as carefully as possible. People must not be put at risk of coming into contact with potentially contaminated rubbish that may contain hidden, sharp or jagged objects.
- All surfaces must be cleaned with hot soapy water and then disinfected.
- It is vital disinfectants are used as the manufacturer’s instructions recommend.
- To dry out your premises, once the mopping up operation is complete, ventilate the building as much as possible and gently heat the affected rooms. Use a dehumidifier if necessary.
contact your insurers before
disposing of any equipment. If you’re in any doubt about disposing of or disinfecting equipment, contact us.
Making your premises safe again after flooding
Only when your premises is safe should members of the public be allowed back in.
The flood water may have disturbed rodents, which could have entered your premises and damaged wiring and furniture. If this is a problem, contact our pest control team on 0345 600 6400.
Electrical equipment and electrical installations can pose serious safety risks if they have been damaged by flood water.
- Switch off electrical installations and equipment.
- Do not operate equipment which is in water or while standing in water.
- Keep away from any live equipment submerged in water.
- Have any installations or electrical equipment that has been flood damaged checked by an approved electrical contractor before it’s used again.
- Contact your electricity supplier if you have any concerns about your electric supply up to your electricity meter.
Gas equipment and gas installations can pose safety risks if damaged by flood water.
- If possible, turn the gas control valve (usually situated adjacent to the gas meter) to the 'off' position.
- Ensure all gas appliances are turned off to minimise the possibility of water entering the gas supply pipes in your home.
- It is crucial to have the appliances inspected by a ‘Gas Safe’ (formally CORGI) registered engineer before being used again. The appliances may look and appear to be working normally, but the flue or ventilation systems which are essential for normal operation may have been adversely affected by floodwater.
- If you smell gas, or suspect a gas leak, call National Gas Emergency Service immediately on 0800 111 999.
The quality of the drinking water to your premises may have been affected. Northumbrian Water will monitor the quality, but if you have any queries or concerns about your water supply contact them on 0345 266 0585.
Any taps which have been submerged in contaminated floodwater should be cleaned using a bleach solution and run for 30 seconds prior to the water being used.
The following facilities may need specialist help following flooding:
- Lifts and hoists - should be thoroughly checked by a competent person to see that flooding hasn’t affected safety.
- Swimming pools - must be drained, thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. After refilling the pool, the water should be tested for remaining harmful bacteria.
- Chemical residue - from open containers for example, can be harmful or become harmful if combined with other chemicals. Consult your chemicals supplier for advice.