The arrival of spring also signals the start of flood season—the natural disasters that account for 90% of all natural disaster damage, according to the American Red Cross. Additionally, annual costs to repair or replace damaged buildings could grow by roughly 25% from $13.5 billion in 2022 to more than $16.9 billion by 2052 due to climate change.
Restaurants nearly everywhere are at risk for flood damage, with those in higher altitudes most at risk in early spring, the Southwest with monsoon season in spring, followed by threats to the Southeast (the hardest hit areas) in late summer/fall.
Despite the yearly threat, there are flood-readiness essentials restaurants can adopt to better protect their business. Society Insurance, which provides coverage to the hospitality industry, has detailed five ways to better secure your restaurant against the rainy season, including how to use natural landscaping techniques, gutter work, foundation work, and water detection devices.
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1. Use natural landscaping techniques around your business. Large paved areas, such as surface parking lots, collect water and only have limited areas for drainage. Plus, if your community is flooding, these drains in your parking lot may be overwhelmed to a point where they aren’t helpful. Surrounding your building with a variety of shrubs, natural grass or bushes can help absorb excess water during floods.
Rain gardens, for example, are a type of landscaping that collects runoff rainwater. They can divide parking lots, flank walkways or be embedded into grassy areas. Additionally, incorporating an appropriate mulch into landscaping around your business can help protect your business’ foundation and exterior by slowing and absorbing water.
2. Make sure your gutters are clear. You should clean your gutters twice a year, and spring is one of the best times to do so. Cleaning your gutters ensures they’re clear of debris that could prevent proper drainage. If your gutters aren’t clear, water can collect on your roof or in the gutters themselves, weighing them down and potentially causing costly damage to your building.
Don’t forget that directing your downspouts and drains away from your restaurant’s foundation is just as important as clearing your gutters of debris. When high volumes of storm water are draining from your gutters, it should be diverted away from your building. If the water pools at the base of your building, it can cause significant damage to your building’s foundation.
3. Flood-proof your building’s most susceptible areas. The lowest point of elevation in your building should ideally be above the highest point expected in a flood. By learning your building’s base flood elevation (BFE), you can identify the areas of your business that are most vulnerable to floods. From there, you can determine what flood-proofing techniques will be most beneficial depending on your property’s level of risk.
If there are important areas below your BFE, dry flood-proofing techniques can involve impenetrable barriers, plates or coatings that prevent flood water from entering your property. On the other hand, wet floodproofing is a technique where highly durable areas are designed to allow water through, in effect creating a path of least resistance in order to protect your property.
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4. Shore up your foundation. Floods or torrential rainfalls can cause significant damage to your foundation. Water is incredibly powerful; when it seeps into your building, it can expand existing cracks and displace walls. Overall, when a building is subjected to flowing or standing water, the structural integrity can be damaged, leading to burdensome repair or rebuild costs.
Use caulk and other sealants to ensure the locations where pipes enter your building are sealed. Consider hiring a contractor to assess and restore existing damage in your basement or foundation before spring thaws or floods.
5. Use water detection devices. Water detection devices can monitor moisture levels around your building. If there’s flooding, they can alert you to areas where water is seeping in so you can triage these places and protect anything that could be damaged before it’s too late.
Spring is a time of new beginnings, but it’s also a time of risk. Melting snow is sometimes unable to be absorbed by the still-frozen ground, there are heavy seasonal rains, and other environmental factors can lead to spring floods. Being prepared for these risks can be the difference between a profitable spring and a summer spent recovering from it.