Flood prevention: How to keep your business afloat

With a growing need for a head-on approach to flood mitigation, Kevin Frewin, technical development manager at BSI UK, looks at the importance of standards in current flood prevention products

Flooding is one of the most common and widespread natural disasters in the UK, with millions of properties being at risk from flooding from rivers or the sea. Fitting a Kitemark flood protection product and using a Kitemark installation company can go a long way to providing the required protection. Following the widespread flooding caused by Storm Desmond in December 2015, flood resistance and resilience concerns have risen higher up the agenda for both businesses, developers and homeowners alike. To date, £13 million has been spent on repairing the damage to bridges in Cumbria following the floods and that figure is only set to increase. With around 15,000 homes and businesses having been affected by the floods, flood protection has never been more important.

While government policies in the UK do not advocate the building of dwellings in areas with a significant risk of flooding, the current lack of affordable housing could lead to an increased likelihood of development on low or residual flood risk areas. National flood risk management policy typically requires developments to be safe, to avoid increasing flood risk elsewhere and, where possible, to reduce flood risk overall, so it is critical that new buildings in these areas are designed and built appropriately to cope with floodwaters and minimise the time for reoccupation after a flooding event. There are also a significant number of existing properties at risk from surface water flooding that would particularly benefit from resistance and resilience measures.

How can businesses protect against flooding?
Taking into account the changing weather conditions that may lead to increased rainfall, there needs to be a head-on approach to flood mitigation. To anticipate this there is already a series of preventative measures in place. Flood mitigation or protection products can be used for commercial or domestic use and usually come in three versions – building apertures, building skirts and wall sealant systems, temporary perimeter systems and demountable perimeter systems.

The effectiveness and performance of these products is evaluated against the flood mitigation/protection products suite of standards, PAS 1188 and the anti-flooding devices for buildings, suite of standards, BS EN 13564.

The PAS 1188 suite offers the best guidance for the growing issue of flooding, with BSI certifying a wide range of flood mitigation/protection products to ensure they meet the performance requirements and function as designed. The PAS 1188 suite specifies the requirements for the designation, factory production control, installation documentation and marking for different types and configurations of flood protection products. They also cover the method of testing and give an allowable leakage rate, which is very low for the various types of products.

The suite of four documents (PAS 1188-1; PAS 1188-2, PAS 1188-3, PAS 1188-4) were developed with input from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Environment Agency, Department for Environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) and a number of other organisations, and aims to define terms and definitions within the area of flood protection products.

It sets the norm for good practice and provides a test method for companies and organisations to help them attain a Kitemark for flood protection. As the need for that extra confidence when safeguarding people’s homes and businesses grows, so does the need for the BSI Kitemark. In this case it differs by providing reassurance that the product has been rigorously tested in simulated domestic or commercial property environment facing flood conditions and certified by an independent third party.

The Kitemark is predominately found on building apertures and entrances to properties including boards and flood doors, as well as wall aperture closure systems and foam products. It is also applicable to: temporary installations for use away from buildings; building skirt systems and wall sealant systems intended for the temporary sealing of the above or below ground external faces or buildings and properties; demountable installations for use away from buildings; and anti-flooding devices for faecal and/or non-faecal wastewater for use in drainage systems of buildings operating under gravity.

Based on a maximum height of flood water, building aperture products are designed to prevent the water from entering a property in enough quantities to do any serious damage and it is highly recommended that those living in a flood risk area, install the necessary Kitemark products using a Kitemark flood product installer to protect from the devastating effects of flood damage.

What are the benefits?
The PAS 1188 suite and the associated tests are beneficial to insurers as it is becoming increasingly important for them to know that flood mitigation/protection products are effective. Insurance companies are now offering flood cover based on the actual risks of flooding. In high risk areas where permanent defences may not be viable they might want to know what other local flood protection measures can be taken. Insurers often take account of effective action people have taken to protect their homes or businesses, including the use of Kitemark flood products where these can reduce the flood risk affecting those properties.

Flood risk assessors, surveyors and consumers also need to understand which environment and location a product is best suited for. Additionally, the suite of standards require manufacturers to supply product guidance and user manuals, these include details for product deployment and installation instructions.

What about flood product installation?
In addition to the flood protection products themselves, homeowners, businesses and developers also need to take into account the installation of the product. The Kitemark for Installation of Flood Protection Products aims to improve the installation of flood protection products and includes a robust definition of the installer’s survey that focuses on the suitability of the Kitemark product for the aperture being protected. It should provide home and business owners with the assurance that any Kitemark Flood Protection Products have been installed correctly by Kitemark certified installers and will provide the level of protection the product is designed and tested to achieve.

It requires the installer to ensure they and the home or business owner are fully aware of the flood history, future flood risks and all points where flood water may enter. Whilst the scheme cannot guarantee to prevent all flooding, it is an important element in the defence against flooding. It will help determine that the Kitemark product is fit for purpose, fitted correctly and will protect to the specified flood level. If water exceeds this level however, flooding might occur, for example in the case of overtopping.

The scheme is available to all installation companies that can demonstrate an appropriate level of competence, normally via training and practical assessment. It has been designed specifically so that both individual organisations and those who operate in conjunction with a trade body or group of companies can benefit from it and the widely recognised Kitemark.

There are four main elements to the Kitemark scheme for the installation of Kitemark Flood Protection products: there is a process in place to assess and validate the competency of the installers; a survey is undertaken of the aperture where the Kitemark product is to be fitted to check for vulnerabilities and ensure its suitable and fit for purpose; the installation will be checked to ensure that the product is installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions; and a practical site test is carried out to demonstrate the effectiveness of the installation.

What is the BSI Kitemark?
The BSI Kitemark is a symbol that almost 70 per cent of consumers recognise and represents quality, safety and trust. Any product or service must be rigorously assessed in order to achieve and maintain the Kitemark. It provides an independent third party endorsement that a service consistently meets the requirements of the appropriate standards or scheme.

All flood prevention products that have a BSI Kitemark are independently tested by BSI. The factory production controls are assessed on an on-going basis to ensure the quality and performance of the products.

Whilst it’s not always possible to counteract the effects of flooding, it is possible to put the necessary steps in place to mitigate the damage. For those unfortunate enough to suffer from a flooding event, it can still be a life-changing event for businesses, consumers and developers who suffer the repercussions of it. Not only does the question of how protected are we, come up, but what can be done to limit or prevent damage? The steps are there to be taken, be that before, during or after a flooding event.

BSI (British Standards Institution) is the business standards company that equips businesses with the necessary solutions to turn standards of best practice into habits of excellence.

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