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Driving flood resilience to challenge climate change

Driving flood resilience to challenge climate change | Insurance Business

Driving flood resilience to challenge climate change

The following is an opinion article written by Jonathan Davison, strategic development director of the BDMA. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Insurance Business.

Climate change is without question a subject that is passionately debated on both sides of the argument, however, with rising sea levels and a higher level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the vast majority of the scientific community argue that the impact will be significant over the coming decades. Consequently, The Met Office has recorded that the UK’s summer rainfall is decreasing on average, meanwhile winter rainfall is increasing.

Climate change is affecting the damage management and wider insurance market significantly. Like many years before 2018, rainfall and stormy weather has caused havoc in the UK and has led to devastating floods causing property damage to many businesses and homes. Of course, there are more factors to consider for flood risk such as building locations, building types and the land below and around properties – however, with an increase in construction plans to cope with a growing population, it simply increases the flood risk probability to home and business owners.

Ultimately, we cannot control or prevent adverse weather conditions, but as an industry we can encourage flood resilience to further protect consumers, and education is the key.

Jonathan Davison (pictured), strategic development director of the BDMA, was involved in The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs’ The Property Flood Resilience Action Plan, where he was in Task Group 2 which focused on embedding resilience in small businesses. Here he provides insight into how we can work in partnership to guide and advise consumers…

Educating consumers
Floods are often seen by consumers as ‘something that will never happen to them’, or at least a once in a lifetime situation. This may well be the case, yet some counties within the UK or particular building types are more susceptible to a flood situation. Either way there needs to be better education available for consumers signing up to a property insurance policy. Insurers need to be explicitly clear with customers when they take out a property insurance policy. Furthermore, insurers should be discussing flood resilience measures and providing advice to consumers on improvements that can be made to protect buildings. These discussion points can further insurers’ approach to treating customers fairly.

Rewarding policyholders
More emphasis should be placed on encouraging and making policyholders aware to make flood resilient changes to their properties. If insurers could recognise and reward policyholders for taking these actions, there would likely be higher motivation for consumers to apply resilient changes to their buildings.

Demonstrating empathy
When policyholders make a property claim due to flood damage, it is a distressing time in their lives. Our job as an industry is to provide the best possible solution that we can, with empathy front of mind. Policyholders need the reassurance that insurers, loss adjusters, damage management companies and others will do the best job by them, regularly communicating, acting promptly and ultimately aiming to shorten the claim lifecycle to ensure their lives can return to normality as soon as possible. Damage management technicians can add further steps to this customer service by providing further information on resilient measures, and, of course, such messages need to be aligned to the insurer’s instructions and the policy cover itself. In addition to repair work, new measures can be taken such as water-resistant building materials e.g. insulation, flooring or wall boards. Additionally, there could be further changes made to properties such as drainage pumps and (or) drain channels. Higher wall sockets and switches, as well as kitchen appliances are also commonly being implemented. Advice like this will demonstrate extra value.

Upskilling technicians
Today damage management technicians need to be up to speed and skilled to deal with both flood resilient and non-flood resilient properties. Technicians need exposure to the differing processes involved between these property types. The industry has seen a big push towards awareness and exposure with the completion of the Flood Resilient Repair House, at BRE’s innovation park. This really is an asset to our industry, raising awareness among professionals of repairing and refurbishing a flooded house which may also be at risk of future flooding. It has been adapted with flood resilient elements such as insulation, doors and windows. It also demonstrates just how resilient we can make properties today, without limitations.

Work in partnership
As experienced through my involvement in The Property Flood Resilience Action Plan, flood resilience is an initiative that is much more powerful when embraced by the various business interests within the wider insurance industry. A partnership between flood recovery, damage management and wider insurance stakeholders ensures that a clear vision is in place to lower flood risks and champion flood resilience.