Flood claim flashback: Storm Ciara one year on

As part of our #FloodFebruary2021 campaign we caught up with three FloodFlash claimants from Storm Ciara last year. They each share their take on flood risk, their flood claim and the impact the pandemic is having on risk management. They also give first hand experience of business owners whose businesses have flooded and recovered to tell the tale.

We interviewed the following FloodFlash clients:

  • Steve Hodgson (SH): co-owner of Automotive Electrical in Mirfield. During Storm Ciara their sensor registered depths as high as 48cm
  • Oliver Evans (OE): the sales director at Oxera Repair Products also in Mirfield. The sensor installed at Oxera registered flooding of 96cm.
  • Martyn Gibbons (MG): who runs Knowl End Farm in Todmorden. Their sensor registered a peak flood depth of 120cm at their property during Storm Ciara.

Whether you’ve had flood claim or not it’s hard to disagree with the insight and wisdom they share.

Martyn Gibbons, who runs Knowl End Farm, talking to FloodFlash in the aftermath of Storm Ciara last year.

FF: People that have had a flood claim think very differently about their risk compared to those that haven’t. Can you share a little of your perspective on flood risk given your experience?

SH: We’re under threat from flooding and storms more. Whether that’s climate change or people building on floodplains or whatever. You can never take away watching your business flood. It’s your livelihood. Your workforce depends on it, your family depends on it. It’s heart-breaking.

MG: There will always be something that will come up and bite you when you least expect it. Whether it be a flood, whether it’s a rogue employee that wants to steal from you, whether that’s a massive pandemic or whatever. You must sit down and ask “what procedures can we put in place to stop that happening to preserve the life of the business?”

There’s times when we’ve flooded when you can’t see the end. You don’t know where the end is coming from. Now everyone is in that situation with COVID.

Steve Hodgson, Automotive Electrical

OE: When we moved to our business premises, we were told that the flood threat was 1 every 100 years. So we were relaxed about the threat of flooding and the damage it could wreak. That was until the boxing day flood of 2015 when we got a rude awakening. We just didn’t realise the damage a flood can do. Long after the clear up the emotional impact was still there.

Our 2015 claim took nearly 8 months to be compensated by our previous insurer, which at times felt like an uphill battle. It soon became apparent that our area was more vulnerable and prone to flooding than we were originally led to believe, and that we had to start to invest heavily in flood protection around our site.

Oxera has taken great efforts to make their business more resilient to flooding over the years. Measures include flood barriers and raising important stock off the ground.

MG: If you choose to ignore it and say “ah well it’s just one of those things it won’t happen again, lightning won’t strike twice in the same place” that’s all well and good. But we know it does. We’ve flooded 5 times here. Each time we’ve learned what can we do to make it better for the next time that it comes.

FF: COVID arrived just a few weeks after the flooding last year. How has your business coped during the pandemic?

OE: We are all experiencing tough times through COVID. Some business sectors are much more badly hit than others. I’ve heard it said that “we are all in the same storm, but maybe in different types of boats”. Thankfully manufacturing has recovered incredibly quickly and mercifully we are experiencing good growth as an industry. Our hearts go out to the hospitality sector; pubs, music and food businesses. Tough times indeed, especially so soon after the flood.

Some businesses have been luckier than others during the pandemic. Other FloodFlash claimants in the hospitality sector like the Blue Teapot cafe have been hit much harder.

SH: We had two weeks out getting back on our feet after the flood then there was the lockdown. We’re very fortunate in our line of business because we’re so specialised with the vehicles that we deal with. We work on a lot of frontline vehicles: police, ambulance and utility vehicles so we were issued certification to stay open.

It was difficult but it was very fortunate that we could stay open. We closed passing trade and self-isolated as a business. We’ve got a big area in which people can work at a distance. We were fortunate that we could carry on, but it still had a massive affect.

MG: We survived the first lockdown and the second lockdown. We’ll be here and come out the other side when it ends. It could have been a lot worse and there are a lot of people in a worse situation than we are. There are some people in a better situation than we are. We’re happily down the middle. We’re alive, we’re kicking. That’s all I can say really. We’re OK.

FF: Having weathered a catastrophic flood claim and a pandemic in the same year you clearly have a resilient business. Has your attitude to managing risk/insurance changed at all since flooding or during the pandemic?

SH: It’s the same as anything else. Whatever you might be up against, whether it’s flooding or fire. Or anything that can damage your business, we always try to save what we can to then make it easy for business to continue. There’s a lot of effort that goes into preparing for the floods. Even though we didn’t flood [during Storm Christoph] there’s still a lot of downtime moving stock, making sure customers vehicles are safe and so on. We try and limit the amount of time it would take to get going again.

We try and use technology to predict what’s going to happen, we have the apps. There are sensors further upriver and we know we’re going to get it 2 hours later than what happens up there. [During Storm Christoph] I spent the night here to make sure that if we started flooding someone was here. We don’t just lock the gates and walk away and think “if we flood, we flood”.

MG: During Storm Ciara [flood water] went as high as 1.2m. This time it didn’t even register. It came up and went down very quickly. We watched and monitored it. We worked with it and put pumps in the vulnerable areas. The result is that when water came [during Storm Christoph] it didn’t get anywhere near. The river was within less than a metre of what it was during Ciara so the work that we’ve done has clearly paid off.

OE: We now look very carefully at weather reports and rising river levels given we flooded in 2015 and again with storm Ciara last year. We are now much better prepared as a business and around our site generally. We protected our warehouse with lots of high-level racking and flood gates.

MG: I don’t think COVID has changed our approach, but it has made us more aware. There are good things that have come out of it. Hard as the pandemic has been, no one likes walking around with face masks on, on the positive side we haven’t lost one day of people being off for a cold or flu. That’s down to the increased vigilance of everyone out there wearing masks etc.

We’ve put new procedures in at work and changed the way we do a lot of things. I think the world can learn from this. If you just pay a little bit of attention from now onwards there can be benefits for the individual and the companies that he or she works for.

FF: What would you say to businesses that have a flood risk who worry about spending money on insurance whilst finances are so tight due to COVID?

MG: You can’t just sit back and wait for the next time. You’ve got to do something positive. You must stop, look, understand and implement new ways of doing things. That’s what we do here. Every time that something happens, we asked why has that happened? And what can we do to stop it happening again? You can’t have the same thing happen over and over again. You have to move forward.

Previously it had been a huge headache preparing spreadsheets and photos of damaged goods, proof of skip wastage costs etc. Also having to barter and settle for much less than the actual damage! We had a perfect response from FloodFlash.

Oliver Evans, OXERA Repair Products

OE: FloodFlash just made everything so easy. Nobody can really fully appreciate the impact of a flood until it directly impacts you! The clear up time, the damage, the “if only’s”. More importantly the emotional hassle.

FloodFlash were just a joy to deal with. Whilst it might seem like a good short-term saving in difficult financial times to possibly not insure against this kind of risk, it provides tremendous peace of mind, and we can wholeheartedly recommend them.

We were pleasantly surprised, shocked, and amazed at how quickly that they paid out the flood claim. We got the money paid directly into our account the following day! Such a difference in comparison with our previous insurer. Previously it had been a huge headache preparing spreadsheets and photos of damaged goods, proof of skip wastage costs etc. Also having to barter and settle for much less than the actual damage! We had a perfect response from FloodFlash.

SH: It takes a weight off because we know there are companies like FloodFlash are doing what you’re doing, and you know what happens and you’ve seen it first-hand. When we first read what it was all about, we were dubious. “Is this too good to be true” type of thing. We’ve learned that it is what it says on the tin and you guys do what you say you are going to do. It was a massive thing for us and our business, and the families of our employees. It’s been a massive benefit to us.

FloodFlash Storm Ciara claimants answer a similar question just after their flood claims.

About FloodFlash

On January 22nd 2021, FloodFlash fully settled a commercial property flood claim in 9hrs 44mins without leaving their desks. With traditional insurance that process typically takes months, and when it does, businesses fail. FloodFlash uses computer models and IoT tech to bring parametric insurance to the mass market. The result is a business flood claim that protects cash flow and survival. Click here to find out more about award-winning cover from FloodFlash or download the 2021 Commercial Risk Report for FREE to become a commercial flood risk expert.