The year 2007 saw the worst floods in England since 1947. This just happened to coincide with the start of the worst financial crisis in the UK since the 1930s. Both events had a big impact on people, property and businesses; and both highlighted a need for better information, accurate data that can assist in commercial risk management.

As we recover from one crisis (Covid) and enter another (Ukraine) this new report launched yesterday, The 2022 FlashFlood Commercial Risk Report brings the issues up-to-date, because since 2007 things have only got a lot worse. Floods are becoming a more frequent and severe risk factor that businesses must take into consideration if they are to remain viable – they are statistically more likely to suffer damage and business interruption from flooding than they are from fires (Estates Review 2009).

The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 (FWMA) introduced significant changes in the way that flood risk is managed in the UK. It defines more clearly the roles and responsibilities of public authorities, but the provision of flood defences remains a discretionary power, and available resources will always limit the effectiveness of these in many parts of the country. All flood risks will never be eliminated.

Taking responsibility

Local or central government’s failure to provide adequate flood defences does not give rise to a right to compensation on the part of property owners and occupiers. They must take the primary responsibility for protecting their own land and buildings against flooding.

Understanding and interpreting flood risk can be complex. The amount of information and guidance to help businesses has increased substantially in recent years and this report – The 2022 FlashFlood Commercial Risk Report – is no exception; it highlights the extent of the risk and the actions that can be taken to minimise flooding risk.

Writing in his introduction to the 2022 edition, Dr Ian Bartholomew, FloodFlash Chief Science Officer says:

“The past 12 months have been characterised by great challenges and opportunities in the struggle to make the world more resilient to extreme weather. Devastating flooding across Europe and Asia was matched by the widespread wildfires in the US. With a backdrop of huge losses world leaders met to renew a global ambition on climate change at COP26 in Glasgow.

“We aim to help more people recover from catastrophe using parametric insurance. The first step is to help those at risk understand their exposure and what they can do about it. By reading this report, you’ve made a small but significant commitment to help those efforts.”

One very disturbing fact highlighted in the report is that 40% of small businesses close for good after catastrophic loss from flooding.

A crucial element in all flood risk assessment and business interruption is having the correct insurance in place. The aim is to prevent the risk in the first place, but also to help the business recover from a flooding, events that are now recurring more often, off-the-scale events that even a few years ago would never have been expected.

Fully understanding the exposure a business has to flooding and business interruption is the first step in dealing with the risk. Secondly, having a disaster recovery plan in place, both of which are objectives this report aims to address.

According to the report there are over 436,000 commercial properties in Britain that have at least a low level of flood risk. That’s 27% (over one quarter) of the total commercial property stock. Of those with some level of flood risk, almost 300,000 buildings (18% of the total), are defined as at least a moderate level of risk.

The cohort of properties at significant risk of flooding is over 236,000. That’s 14% of the total number of commercial buildings in Britain, which together these categories represent over half of all properties and those businesses with a flood risk are more likely to have a moderate or significant risk level of risk than a low risk.

Significant risk means a property is in a 75 year zone. It would be likely to flood at least once every 75 years. This would give the business a 33% chance of flooding over the length of a 25 year mortgage.

Moderate risk puts the property is in a 200 year zone, meaning it might have a 1 in 10 chance of flooding over a 20 year period.

Low risk means the property is in a 1,000 year zone which gives it a 1 in 50 chance of flooding over any one 20-year period.

You can access the The 2022 FlashFlood Commercial Risk Report here

The graphic below summarises quickly the flood risk to businesses in Britain, courtesy of


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