Just look at what happened to UCLA’s campus after a water main burst, sending more than 20 million gallons flowing through the campus. While the Los Angeles Times suggests that the UCLA incident may be more of a red flag for the city’s infrastructure, business owners should be ready to mitigate flood damage no matter what the cause.
Here are three legal tips to consider to keep your business high and dry after a flood:
1. Check the Premises for Safety Hazards.
Flooded properties present a number of safety hazards which don’t stop at the slip-and-fall risk presented by standing water. Depending on the source of the floodwater, water-borne bacteria, toxic mold, and other contaminants on your business’ property can be a major liability — not to mention the dangers of electrocution, gas leaks, and weakened structures.
You don’t want to be caught in a premises liability suit shortly after a flood, so make sure to:
- Turn off the main power (only if you can reach it without stepping in water);
- Have the main gas valve turned off;
- Check for signs of sagging roofs, floors, stairs, etc.; and
- Look for frayed wires or damaged electrical equipment.
- Once it is safe to enter your business, remove all standing water with wet/dry vacs and dry and restore any electrical devices.
2. Document the Damage.
For safety and insurance purposes, employers should be diligent about documenting the damage done by a flood. Consider these tips:
- Itemize your business’ possessions;
- Save any property or lease documents relating to the business property;
- Enlist employees’ help in recording any damage to personal property;
- Highlight any spots that may have potential mold growth; and
- Take lots of pictures.
Collecting this information as soon as it is safely possible will ensure a smoother transition to normal working conditions for your employees and your business.
3. Check Your Insurance Policy.
Your business should have some form of property insurance, which depending on your policy may cover damage from floods. Often flood insurance is offered as a separate policy, and it is especially important in high-risk flood areas.
If the flooding was not a natural occurrence, like at UCLA, you may also wish to contact a business attorney to discuss your options.