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Keeping business safe from fire and flood

16 March 2016

When thinking about security, most companies focus on the danger posed by intrusion and the theft of equipment and data, often spending large amounts of capital on protecting the premises from these threats. Many businesses, however, fail to recognise – and act on – the very real danger from Mother Nature.

During the past ten years, and as recently as a few months ago, flooding in Cumbria and Lancashire has proved to be devastating not only to homes and personal property but also to businesses in the area. In 2005, Carlisle based metalwork company Byers Bros lost £150,000 worth of equipment to flooding and their insurance premiums had only just returned to normal when the floods hit again in 2015. Although it’s impossible to control the environment, there are a number of measures that a business can put into place to safeguard its assets.

All businesses in susceptible areas should have a flood plan in place and a template for this can be downloaded from along with a practical flood-plan guide and useful contact information. Ensure as much advance warning of a flood as possible by signing up to alerts from The Environment Agency.

As always, prevention is better than a cure so, where possible, fortify the building by installing automatic flood-proof doors and windows - although this can be a costly exercise, it can pay for itself quickly should a flood hit. If it is not possible to install new doors and windows, flood-guards and floodgate air-brick covers can be quickly fitted when flooding is imminent and these will, for a time, stop water from seeping through gaps in external doors and ventilation bricks. Once a flood warning has been issued, make sure that important equipment and valuables are not kept in the basement of the building – where possible, these should be stored securely at a level as far from the floor as possible, and documents and digital data should be stored securely in a water-tight container. Not only will keeping property in a safe protect from the elements but may also favourably affect a company’s insurance policy, and, keeping insurance documents safe means that the lengthy process of claiming can be started as quickly as possible!

Water-resistant safes such as the Masterlock Fire Chest come in a number of sizes and will remain watertight for up to 72 hours, providing protection for valuable and sensitive documents and data and allowing vital time for the contents to be moved to a safer environment.

Just as ruinous to a business, if not more so, is the threat from fire. Between 2013 and 2014 there were 22,200 fires recorded in commercial buildings in the UK and the damage can be devastating – In 2005, CD and DVD manufacturer VDC Group in London suffered a fire from which the company was, ultimately, unable to recover. Every time there are flames within a business property, there is a very real likelihood that the business will lose everything in that building due to the fact that any items that survive the fire will quite possibly then be drenched by the building’s sprinkler system.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order introduced in England and Wales in 2006 states that it is the responsibility of the employer to carry out a fire risk assessment to identify hazards, recognise staff at risk and to evaluate, reduce or remove the risks. It is a good idea for a business to have nominated personnel for fire safety and training courses are usually available from a local council or authority. This is not a role to be taken lightly as the Enforcing Authority has the power to ensure that this responsibility is met and, if it is not, to penalise the offender, either financially or by imprisonment.

If the business premises contain any dangerous or unstable substances, these must be stored correctly in conjunction with government guidelines and important or sensitive documents, valuables and digital data should be stored in a fireproof storage unit or a fireproof filing cabinet that is tested to withstand temperatures of 700 degrees for an hour. Some products protect contents for up to two hours at a staggering temperature of 1010° - which may mean the difference between having vital documents to hand or having to go through the time-consuming process of replacing them. Different types of materials burn at different temperatures so it is important to ensure that the safe that you are buying is fit for purpose. It is also worth checking to see that the product includes an After-Fire replacement guarantee. With forecasters predicting more stormy weather ahead for 2016, this is a vital time for businesses to protect their premises in order to avoid costly damage repairs, destruction of equipment and products and loss of income resulting from a temporary close of business.

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