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Flood protection, preparation, response and recovery

Flooding comes from many sources: heavy rains, melting snow, dam collapse and levee failures, ice jams and tidal storm surges. Floods can be sudden, but others can give days of warning. Being located within a flood zone certainly can put a business at risk, but being outside an established zone doesn’t guarantee safety. Prudent business owners will be familiar with the flood history and base flood elevations of the bodies of water nearby, coupled with an action plan should a flood occur. Recognize that just because a body of water hasn’t flooded before, does not mean that it never will. Ice jams, unusual heavy snows with rapid thaws, new construction, and new roads or bridges can all alter flood potential. Note that fires at damaged sites are not uncommon after a flood due to spilled hazardous materials, floating flammable gas cylinders, damaged electrical equipment, cutting and welding repairs, and other hazards.

Protection and preparation

  • Establish if the site is located near official flood zones, streams, creeks, tributaries, rivers, lakes, oceans, retention basins, storm drain outlets, dams, levees and other bodies of water. Use a surveyor to determine site elevations and low points, and act on the findings.
  • Create suitable permanent levees or flood walls where possible. Plan the placement of sand bags to divert water away from critical buildings. Estimate the number of bags needed and the time needed to fill and place them.
  • Provide barriers or eliminate low-lying doors and other openings in exterior walls. Waterproof basements.
  • Provide shut-off valves on sewer and other drainage lines to prevent reverse flow.
  • Stockpile sandbags, sand, gasoline-driven water pumps, squeegees, mops, shovels and other supplies to combat and clean up floodwaters.
  • Maintain all water-damageable materials and stock on skids or in racks. Do not use basements to store critical equipment or materials.
  • Establish vendor contracts for restoration of critical equipment and machinery, hot sites, etc. Also, identify vendors who can provide dehumidification and cleaning of buildings and materials.
  • Take inventory of unsecured outside equipment and materials. Establish methods and actions to secure these when needed. Ensure all LPG tanks are strapped to their saddles. Anchor other tanks that may float during a flood, including attention to underground tanks. Plan for the handling and securing of hazardous materials, such as gas cylinders and flammable liquid drums.
  • Provide for emergency communication equipment.
  • Provide generators or other means of emergency power, and test unit(s) periodically.
  • Provide flood protection for fire sprinkler pump houses.


  • Alert employees, emergency response teams and management.
  • Maintain a flood watch center.
  • Place sand bags at low points and at doors, then follow planned placements to seal off buildings.
  • Shut down processes, boilers and furnaces. Coat machinery with rust-preventive materials. Shut off electrical power except the power-operating sump pumps, fire pumps and other critical equipment.
  • Move electronic equipment, critical tools and equipment, vital business records and other damageable materials to higher levels or other locations. Verify that stock, materials and equipment are skidded; remove critical equipment and tools from basements.
  • Close gas and propane lines from outside site tanks. Close sewer and drainage line valves. Secure all hazardous materials and shut off their supply piping systems.
  • Bring inside or tie down equipment, tools, cans, barrels and other containers, furniture and other unsecured items.
  • Move trucks, cars and other mobile equipment to higher ground.
  • Verify that fire protection equipment is operational.
  • Prepare emergency equipment, check fuel levels in generators and pumps, conduct start tests, check flashlights and prepare other provisions.
  • Evacuate the facility in a timely manner to safeguard all employees. Follow all orders from authorities.
  • Provide for safe shelter, escape boats, life jackets, non-perishable food, water, lighting, radios and other necessary items for any emergency personnel who will remain in the facility during the flood.


  • Survey site for damage.
  • Activate business continuity plan.
  • Restore any damaged fire protection systems.
  • Maintain pumps.
  • Attend to hazardous material spills, floating cylinders, dislodged tanks and other dangerous items.
  • Begin salvage efforts.
  • Remove standing water. Begin dehumidification.
  • Remove mud, silt and combustible debris.
  • Have all electrical systems, process systems, and heating equipment inspected by experts before repowering. Replace submerged circuits.
  • Have electronic equipment serviced by restoration vendors.
  • Replace motors on submerged equipment and tools. Disassemble power trains, bearings and other components. Dry, remove silt and lubricate. Recoat with rust preventatives.
  • Use hot work permit program for any welding and cutting.


Travelers documents

To access these documents, log in to our Risk Control Customer Center at and type all or part of the title in the “Search All Products” field.

  • Disaster Recovery Guide
  • Emergency Planning - Do Your Employees Know What to Do?

Web Sites

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Key Facts About Flood Readiness
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Emergency Preparedness and Response
Environmental Protection Agency – Flooding
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – Flood
National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – Floods: The Awesome Power
Red Cross – Are You Ready for a Flood or a Flash Flood?

Find more topics to help protect your business.