The rising risk of flood;
This year, devastating floods have left an indelible mark from Indonesia to South Carolina, leaving billions of dollars of damage and lost revenue in their wake.
Studies show that flood is the most expensive of all natural hazards, costing companies an average of US$6 billion in insured losses annually—yet most flood loss is both predictable and preventable.
First, let’s talk flood maps
As the number of extreme flood losses continues to rise, the task of accurately evaluating flood risk and recommending appropriate mitigation strategies, products and services is gaining momentum.
Local flood maps are available in many countries covering major urban communities. These maps focus primarily on highlighting high-hazard flood zones—those greatest at risk of flood from rivers and seas.
To help businesses worldwide expand into areas where information on flood potential is lacking, FM Global’s researchers developed new global flood maps to aid in making more informed choices on how to best keep flood waters at bay. Technological improvements in data acquisition have made it possible for accurate global flood maps to be generated with more ease than ever.
Using an innovative flood mapping model that is based on physics and includes historical, elevation and updated precipitation data, these first-of-their-kind maps help businesses identify areas exposed to moderate-frequency (500-year) and highfrequency (100-year) flood events—which is especially critical in parts of the world where flood data is deficient or inconsistent. This includes parts of Africa, Asia, Australia, Central America, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Western Europe.
“Flood mapping outside the United States is not always available or consistent,” says Dr. Hosam Ali, director of structures and natural hazards research at FM Global. “Developing a global map requires lots of data from different fields. Detailed mapping throughout the world is a major undertaking. Thanks to the work of our hydrological sciences team, businesses worldwide now have access to more detailed flood hazard information than ever before.”
To illustrate his point, Ali cites a client in India that relied on the tailored risk expertise of FM Global’s flood specialists, along with the data found in the global maps, to help determine the best location to build a new facility.
“Our client was considering two locations and sought our guidance to help choose the one that was less prone to flood,” says Dr. Yasir Kaheil, senior lead research scientist and technical team leader of the hydro sciences team. “Thanks to our global maps, and the customized advice of our engineers, our client made an informed decision that will benefit them for years to come.”
Similarly, the global flood maps helped one FM Global client understand their flood exposure in a new location in Turkey. The maps have also been used to point out flood exposure for two other prospects, with a combined 450 locations around the world.
The global flood maps are available for client use on the Map Center in MyRisk®—a comprehensive, interactive, global information tool that enables clients to understand weather threats, safeguard facilities, view outstanding exposures and protect facilities remotely.
Second, are you doing enough?
Our world’s climate is changing, and some weather patterns are shifting. Property loss from natural catastrophes has been, and will continue to be, ever more costly, due to the rise in world population, a rise in value at risk, the increasing vulnerability due to globalization of business and growth of outsourcing, and the rapid development of emerging markets which are less resilient.
More businesses are questioning if they’re doing enough to prepare for and adapt to these catastrophes. FM Global constantly evaluates the implications of natural catastrophes and develops innovative methods and practical engineering solutions to improve its clients’ resilience to business interruption and mitigate potential property loss.
But just how should businesses plan to stem the rising tide? The obvious response is to locate in an area far from low-lying river, coastal or other flood-prone areas. If that isn’t possible, however, there are some proactive steps businesses can take to reduce their risk of potential flood damage and business interruption.
Stuart Ulsh, a senior engineering specialist at FM Global and flood hazard expert, acknowledges that flood preparation and awareness is key. “Facilities located within high-hazard flood zones will eventually experience major flooding. In addition, we have always recommended that clients not build in moderate-hazard (500-year flood-exposed) areas. Building codes and regulations are now calling for critical infrastructure occupancies, such as utilities, emergency services, schools and hospitals, to build higher or protect against the 500-year flood level.”
Nearly one in 10 commercial facilities are already located within a flood zone, and the best loss prevention practice for these properties is unremitting vigilance. Facilities at risk for flooding must prepare well in advance to keep water out of business-critical areas, and limit downtime and service interruptions. Smart businesses have a clear plan for what they will do when flooding is imminent, including choosing the best location for their flood barriers, sealing walls and floors, and providing flood pumps and other mitigation equipment that will help maintain business continuity.
Among the preparations businesses can take to reduce the impact of flood, Ulsh recommends permanently moving all electrical, computer and telecommunications equipment safely out of low-lying interior and outside areas to settings above the flood level. He also suggests using sump pumps and backflow valves to handle water seepage and prevent drains and sewers from allowing water to enter a flood-protected area; relocating highvalue stock and equipment; and installing permanent or temporary barriers to protect buildings against flood waters.
“While a business can’t prevent a flood from occurring, it can enhance its resilience by getting its property ready for whatever precipitation extremes it’s likely to experience,” says Ulsh. “This can’t happen, however, if a sufficient contingency plan is not in place. Without one, buildings, machinery, data centers, transportation networks, supply chains, employees and customers are all at risk.”
FM Global continues to help companies confront flood hazards head-on by offering a suite of cutting-edge engineering solutions based on scientific research and product testing that demonstrate the majority of flood loss is preventable.
maps + data = power
While the engineering solutions are indeed a vital resource, when paired with scientifically based FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheet 1-40, Flood, they deliver a potent one-two punch in preventing and mitigating losses due to flooding and stormwater runoff.
Incorporating nearly 200 years of property loss experience, research and engineering, as well as input from consensus standards committees, equipment manufacturers and others, Data Sheet 1-40 was recently amended with updated information and insight: Understanding Flood Sources and Their Characteristics explains how quickly floods can arrive based on a typical exposure and how to plan a mitigation strategy; Selecting Barriers to Protect Building Openings offers an expanded overview of typical flood-protection devices; and Flood Maps and Data has been expanded (and retitled).
The data sheet can be accessed at fmglobaldatasheets.com or via MyRisk.
Central to the success of the global flood maps and Data Sheet 1-40 is the expertise and customized loss prevention counsel FM Global also provides its clients. According to Ulsh, helping clients analyze their unique flood scenarios prepares them to implement the best solutions for when a disaster strikes.
“What a supermarket does to prepare for a flood versus a paper mill is very different,” Ulsh explains. “Our solutions are customized based on the flood exposure and our clients’ ability to cost-effectively prevent loss. Not only are we adept at evaluating flood loss potential, we’re better able to leverage our global flood maps and connect them to loss data statistics to help our clients prevent losses.”
Third, FM Approved products
The frequency of major flooding events worldwide has resulted in an uptick in the number of manufacturers offering flood mitigation products, such as temporary perimeter barriers, opening barriers and backwater valves, to help prevent floodwater from entering a facility.
While manufacturers have developed many new flood abatement products, not all have been tested and certified. With so many products on the market, choosing a company to bring a validated, permanent solution is challenging. That’s where product certification organization, FM Approvals, can help.
Working in tandem with FM Global’s research and engineering teams, FM Approvals partners with product manufacturers around the world to rigorously test and certify flood abatement products. Today, 52 different FM Approved flood products are listed in the Approval Guide (approvalguide.com), a comprehensive web-based reference database owned by FM Approvals and used by loss prevention industry specialists to identify quality loss prevention products.
According to Rich Ferron, operations vice president and manager of testing and certification for FM Approvals, Approval Standard FM/ANSI 2510, American National Standard for Flood Abatement Equipment, is the only standard in the world that evaluates the performance of the product in real flood conditions and the components and materials that comprise the product.
The standard is recognized by the world’s leading regulatory authorities, including the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
“It’s always been a bit like the Wild West in the flood mitigation product market,” says Ferron. “The FM Approvals diamond assures users that the product has been certified through extensive testing. We’re the only organization in North America that certifies flood mitigation products, and just one of three organizations in the world that does.”
Ferron and his team are currently refreshing FM/ANSI 2510 for republishing in 2017, most prominently in the area of waterproofing products. Waterproofing products for building penetrations is a critical part of a total structural flood-proofing solution. Structural penetrations exist through walls and floors where pipework, electrical conduit and ductwork are required to enter a building. Products in this category include collars, plugs, elastomeric seals and types of putty. Additional updates will include enhancements and clarifications to various aspects of the standard, including general requirements for flood mitigation pumps, perimeter barrier testing and component testing.
“I see that FM/ANSI 2510 needs to be revisited periodically to ensure it remains current with existing technology and prevention methods,” says Ferron.
Prevention is the best remedy
To excel in today’s ever-changing global climate, it’s imperative for businesses to consider and approach flood mitigation differently than they have in the past. There’s no time like the present to take action against their flood vulnerability and embrace products and methods that make organizations more resilient to property loss and business interruption.
“We want our clients to ask the tough questions. We want them to do the right thing,” says Ulsh. “That only comes when clients understand the solutions. We have found that when clients grasp the flood scenario and potential impact to their business, they’re more motivated to pick the right prevention remedy.”
A powerful advantage
New global flood maps, developed in-house, provide deeper insight into floodexposed areas and are now viewable in MyRisk
Climate change, globalization and urban development are main drivers of flood events worldwide. In this dynamic environment, flood continues to be a top risk management concern. Surprisingly, however, relatively little is known about the potential flood exposures that exist across the globe. But that’s all about to change.
FM Global researchers have developed global flood maps that help identify moderateand high-hazard flood areas, especially in parts of the world where flood data is lacking or inconsistent. In locations where flood mapping is more mature, FM Global maps provide additional perspective to generally accepted authoritative sources. Released in November 2016, these maps are viewable to clients and brokers on Map Center in MyRisk.
FM Global’s research scientists have collaborated with external scientific, academic and governmental organizations to create global flood maps that identify riverine and coastal flood zones that present a moderate- or high-hazard risk. When combined with our proprietary regional and local flood maps, our superior flood mapping capabilities provide greater detail regarding flood-exposed areas around the world. That means more insight into locating facilities, or which areas to prioritize for flood improvement.
This article first appeared in Reason magazine Issue 2, 2016, which you can read here