The winter can be a particularly costly time for businesses, with risks such as flooding, snowfall and freezing temperatures potentially causing equipment breakdowns and closures. Henry Simpson, commercial director for leading FM support provider and disaster response experts, Adler & Allan, explains how to mitigate seasonal risks and deal with issues effectively, safely and with minimal impact on business operations.
Flooding has hit the headlines in recent years with excessive rainfall, bursting river banks and extreme high tides a regular component to a modern British winter. Causing devastation to countless homes and businesses, it is a risk that is unfortunately here to stay; one that many more businesses have to deal with and should be prepared for…
Apart from flooding, winter can mean frozen pipes and equipment failures, with the knock-on effect of all of these problems resulting in issues such as power outages and subsequent downtime. The best line of defence is planning; to save machinery and keep staff safe.
Know your risk
The first step in mitigating risk is understanding what could possibly go wrong. When it comes to flooding, just because you haven’t been flooded yet, it doesn’t mean this won’t happen in the future. A Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) will help identify potential problems, which can then be dealt with before they become an issue. In general, risk assessing a business will help tighten up operations and safeguard employees.
Once you know where potential problems lie, you can take steps to minimise their impact or stop them all together. For businesses in high risk flooding areas, this could include installing flood defences, or less permanent steps such as putting together a plan designed to limit damage. Procedures like moving electronic equipment, stock and critical records, will save your business thousands of pounds and keep downtime to a minimum.
As far as safety goes, making sure electrical appliances are disconnected and the gas supply is shut off in the event of excessive rain or snowfall will reduce the risk of fire. Staff must all be briefed on evacuation procedure, with a designated person in charge of disaster planning and response.
In an ideal world, your business should have a ‘plan b’, for example, an alternative location to operate out of. This may be difficult for organisations that rely on heavy machinery, but for office staff at least, there are work spaces to rent or you could let staff work from home.
Keeping a building and its equipment in good order is essential to efficient operations regardless of any potential disaster. In the winter, issues caused by freezing can be minimised by keeping pipes and any associated tanks in good working order. This is particularly important for tanks that store fuel, used for back-up power supplies – often the case for data centres. And, regardless of the weather conditions, regular servicing and fuel testing will ensure that if disaster does strike, loss of productivity is avoided.
When it comes to reducing flood risk, maintaining drains is key. Floodwaters are often contaminated with sewage or other hazardous materials, which can cause pollution in addition to general water damage. Closing hand operated valves on piping will prevent backflow through floor drains or plumbing fixture.
If pollution is a risk to your business, then a designated employee in charge of correct spill procedure and any associated clean-up kits must be assigned. This is essential for ISO14001 compliance.
As a facilities management provider, demonstrating your ability to keep businesses operational is essential. Organisations that are able to avoid losses most of the time, despite operating in environments where there is a high potential for error, are identified as ‘High Reliability Organisations’ (HROs). As an HRO, business streams may increase, with potential customers more likely to put their trust in a company that has a good asset resilience track record.
Strategy and planning is key to ensuring your business or that of your clients, rides difficult periods; be they due to market or environmental forces. Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) and preparing for the worst will help keep downtime to a minimum, stop pollution and safeguard employees.
Words by Henry Simpson, commercial director at Adler & Allan
Henry spent 10 years in the army before joining Adler & Allan in 1998. He has been commercial director since 2000. Adler & Allan was instrumental in the flood clean-ups in recent years and work alongside FM providers to deliver disaster planning and response, fuel services, PPM and asset resilience.
Adler & Allan supplies a range of FM support services; PPM, fuel polishing, flood mitigation and protective coating and linings. For more information, visit: www.adlerandallan.co.uk