Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Manage flood risk

There is evidence that our changing climate is creating a greater risk of flooding. Also, decisions taken in the past about where to site developments have put a lot of property in flood prone areas.

Floods can be very damaging to your business, however planning in advance can help reduce damage as well as speeding up your  recovery and minimising losses.

This guide outlines what your business can do to prepare for and deal with the consequences of flooding. 


Relevant Business Topics:

All Business Topics

Additional resources


Useful Links

Floodline: Your business

Video Case Study: How to Prepare an Emergency Response for Your Business


Is your business at risk of flooding?

Flooding can be caused by a number of different events. You should consider the possibility of all of them when planning to protect your business.

Flooding can be caused by:

  • Flood water from rivers
  • Flood water from tides and storm surges
  • Surface runoff from land
  • Overflowing sewers
  • Burst pipes

Rivers, coastal waters and surface runoff

You can check if your property is at risk of flooding from rivers, coastal waters or surface runoff by using the flood maps for your area.

SEPA: Flood maps for Scotland

Northern Ireland: Rivers Agency

If there is a risk of flooding

In Northern Ireland you only need one number to report a flood.

0300 2000 100

When you ring, a member of staff will take all your details and contact the appropriate agency on your behalf. This is a non emergency number so if you are in danger call the emergency services on 999.

In Scotland you can sign up for flood warnings for your property. These are delivered direct to your phone when flooding is forecast.

SEPA: Flood warnings direct to your phone

Flooding from sewers

Flooding from sewers can be caused by heavy rainfall that overwhelms the drainage system. It can also be caused by blockages in the sewers that cause back up of effluent.

You can help prevent this by making sure that you never discharge anything into a sewer that could cause a blockage. This includes the disposal of used cooking oil from restaurants and food outlets. “Fat bergs” that result from fats and oils being disposed of down drains can block sewers and cause them to overflow.

You must have a trade effluent consent in place before you discharge anything to sewers and make sure you comply with its conditions.

Trade effluent: managing liquid waste

Burst pipes

Check the pipework in your business premises and see where there is a risk of pipes freezing.  You can reduce the risk by lagging water pipes and making sure that there is some heating on during very cold spells.

If premises are empty for a prolonged period during cold weather, you should consider turning off the water and draining pipes. If this is not possible then maintain heating and inspect the pipes at regular intervals.

Further information

NI Direct: Flooding in your area

Rivers Agency Northern Ireland

Scottish Flood Forum

SEPA: Floodline website

Flood preparedness

Prepare a flood plan

To protect your property, reduce losses and minimise downtime you should prepare a flood plan. This is particularly important if your premises are in an area that has a high risk of flooding.

You should:

  • Have emergency telephone numbers at hand
  • Know how to shut off all services; water, gas and electricity
  • Store chemicals, fuel and other materials and stock above potential water levels
  • Have contingency plans in place with suppliers and clients
  • Know who to call for assistance
  • Consider installing flood protection equipment
  • Train staff in how to respond in case of flooding
  • Make sure you are properly insured

For details of how to prepare a plan you can find further information from:

Floodline: Business

SEPA: Flooding - Guidance for regulated sites

NI Direct: Flooding in your area

NetRegs: Flood risk checklist

Protecting your property

You can reduce the risk of damage to property, stock and equipment by installing flood protection equipment.

We recommend that businesses use products that carry the BSI kitemark for flood protection products (PAS1188) or similar standards.

You can search through the list of products in the document below. It lists products such as

  • sandbags
  • restoration services
  • temporary defences
  • flood skirts
  • flood doors, vent guard etc.

National Flood Forum: Directory of flood protection products

Further information

NI Direct: Flooding in your area

Rivers Agency Northern Ireland

Scottish Flood Forum

SEPA: Floodline website

Insure your business against flood damage

Once you have assessed your flood risk, make sure you are properly insured. Flood damage should be included in standard business insurance for areas of low risk. However, you may have to buy it as an option, if you are in an area of significant risk.

Bear in mind that floods can be very expensive. As well as replacing stock and repairing damaged premises, your business could be disrupted for weeks or months. Check your insurance cover includes business interruption and other costs.

Business interruption insurance compensates a business for lost income, expenses and profits if a disaster, such as a flood, forces you to stop trading. It can be added to your policy if it is not included as standard.

The cost of the policy depends on the type of business and premises, your location and the length of disruption. By taking risk-reduction measures you may be able to cut your premium or level of excess. Discuss this with your broker or insurer as they will often be able to help identify which measures to take.

Thinking ahead will help make any insurance claim as straightforward as possible. Keep your insurance policy and an inventory of important possessions somewhere safe above flood level, such as an upper storey of the building. You may want to keep photographic evidence. An independent appraisal of the potential cost of repairs and replacements can also help.

If you are flooded, contact your insurer immediately and make sure that you keep complete records of everything you do.

NI Direct: What to do after a flood

UK Fire Service: After the flood has finished

Further information

British Insurance Brokers Association: Insurance broker listings

NI Direct: Preparing for a flood

SEPA: Preparing for a flood (PDF, 802K)

Dealing with floods - the aftermath


Make sure you have an evacuation plan for your building. You should practice this in the same way you would practice a fire drill.

You should examine the flood maps for your area to work out safe routes in and out of your building where roads should stay open.

Identify safe areas where staff can shelter during a flood.

After a flood


Contact your insurance company quickly, and provide them with information about the extent of the damage. Photographs can help prepare a plan for repairs.

Cleaning up

Flood waters can carry a number of potentially harmful materials, such as oil, sewage, chemicals and agricultural wastes. You should take care when cleaning up and protect staff against any risks.

Damaged goods and materials

Make sure any materials that are to be disposed of as waste are dealt with by a registered waste contractor. Some materials may be contaminated and may be classed as hazardous/special waste.

Duty of care for waste

Managing hazardous/special waste

New buildings in flood prone areas

Construct new buildings, or refurbish flood damaged buildings taking into account how design features can protect your business in the future.

GOV.UK: Flood resilient construction of new buildings

Further information

NI Direct: Flooding in your area

Rivers Agency Northern Ireland

SEPA: Flooding - Guidance for regulated sites

Scottish Flood Forum

SEPA: Floodline website

Flood risk and flood preparedness: who does what

Flooding is an issue that affects individuals, householders, businesses and communities. Dealing with flooding; predicting floods, preventing damage, emergency response and clearing up involves a number of different agencies.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland you only need one number to report a flood.

0300 2000 100

When you ring, a member of staff will take all your details and contact the appropriate agency on your behalf. This is a non emergency number so if you are in danger, call the emergency services on 999.

Northern Ireland: Report flooding

For information on flood defences:

NI Rivers Agency

Flooding can be caused by overflowing sewers and drainage. This is the responsibility of Northern Ireland Water.

NI Water: Sewer flooding

Rivers Agency operates scheduled inspection and maintenance to help ensure that watercourses are free-flowing.

NI Direct: Rivers and watercourses


Floodline provides phone alerts is your property or area is at risk of flooding.

Sign up for flood alerts on 0345 988 1188

Sign up for flood alerts for your property online:

Floodline: online sign-up

When you sign up you will be given a quick dial phone number where you can get further information about the flood risk in your area following a flood alert.

You can also get the quick dial code from the list below:

Floodline: Quick dial codes

For an overview of who does what in terms of flood warnings, responses, planning and prevention measures read the information from SEPA.

SEPA: Flooding - who does what?


Dredging of rivers is often seen as a way of preventing flooding. You may need an authorisation before carrying out such work. Specialists will also assess the situation and advise whether this is likely to be effective. Dredging one section of a river can cause worse flooding elsewhere, can lead to river bank erosion and the dredged material is often replaced by the next high flow event.

In Northern Ireland, to discuss works affecting watercourses and the possibility of dredging you should contact the Rivers Agency.

DAERA (water management unit) has recently published a handbook for landowners and people and organisations involved in carrying out activities that may alter the physical characteristics of flows of rivers and other water bodies, such as dredging.

DAERA: Surface Waters Alterations Handbook

Contact Rivers Agency

In Scotland you should contact SEPA to discuss any plans to dredge or carry out any works on a watercourse, you can also read the SEPA pages for land managers.

SEPA: Dredging, clearance and maintenance of rivers

SEPA: Silt control while dredging

Contact SEPA

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