How to Cope with Flooding

The Thai company Coverage has sent out advises to companies about how to cope with flooding.

Background for the flooding
Essentially this is the run-off from the North of 3 major storm/typhoon events that crossed Vietnam and China and dumped large volumes of rain onto the mountains in Thailand’s Northern areas. This run-off can only find its way out to the ocean via the river systems, and unfortunately, all the major river systems run through the very flat areas of central Thailand. The only outlets to the ocean for these river systems are through the major Port (Samut) towns and Bangkok. Obviously, the tidal flows of the Gulf of Thailand have an effect on the speed of this natural drainage system – when the tide is high less water can flow out, and when the tide is low, more water can escape.

The Risk
In a normal year with a normal volume of rain and run-off the river systems can manage the water as it passes through central Thailand, but this year the sheer volume of water (from 3 storms rather than just 1 or 2) has placed enormous pressure on dams and river banks, designed to protect towns, villages, farm land and the cities. When the build- up of water reaches a certain level the banks of these structures collapses due to the weight of the water, or they simply overflow and water starts drain to lower areas. Once this process starts, the power (speed times weight) is usually too great for any immediate human intervention, and thus Ayuthaya and other towns have already been inundated, and some lives lost. Many factories have been closed down, and much economic damage has been done.

It now seems as though the relentless flow of the water will mean that significant parts of the capital Bangkok will also be affected. At this stage, no one can predict exactly what areas will be affected, how badly or for how long. Some locations may not be affected at all. The water will drain at some point in time.

What you can do – Tips for businesses
For business owners, there may be little or no interruption. Coverage and Andrew specialize in preparing companies for these types of events. This flood could not have been stopped, but the effect on any business can be lessened by taking proactive steps, being organized and developing and implementing a recovery plan.

We all know electricity and water do not mix, and that telecommunications relies on electricity to operate – with this knowledge we can reasonably assume there may be some interruptions in various areas of the city to power or telephone (including internet and pay TV systems) operations. Simple candles and old fashioned battery driven radios can be useful in these situations at a personal or family level. Tap water contamination is unlikely but possible.

A good supply of water, and food, along with considered opening and closing of refrigerators can ensure these supplies can easily last longer than any anticipated power outages or floods draining. Consider how you will heat food in the event of no electricity.

Moving Equipment
Ensuring valuable assets or equipment are kept away from ground level is advisable. Many companies within the city operate in office towers so this may not be an issue, but for factories or ground floor businesses, this is something that should be considered now. Sandbags, if available, can limit the entry of water, and there are some good designs available on the internet – the key is considerable weight and a plastic sheet cover to limit leakage.

Operations and Staff
For some companies staff access will be an issue, and safety should be considered at all times. If staff can work from home, then this may be advisable. Ideally you will have tested this previously to see what technology and management is needed. In a planned situation, your business could have a second location from which to operate. If this is the case, plans should be made to move decision making to these locations now, so they can be implemented quickly and as needed. If this is not the case, consideration of alternate sites should be made. Hotels are good for temporary offices.

Contact lists for home telephones, mobiles (remember to keep them charged up while electricity is available) or email addresses should be quickly reviewed now.

If you have insurance that may or may not cover flood damage, it would be advisable to speak with your broker and keep a copy of the policy document available. Photographs of key items that may be damaged should be taken if possible.

Back-ups are often not taken, or recovery tests not performed. It may be too late for these things at this stage, but some discussions with the IT staff or suppliers would be a good step to see what may or may not be available in certain events.

Supply Chain Interruptions
Many companies will not be affected directly by the floods, but some will have key suppliers that cannot operate, or even be limited by transport issues due to closed roads, trains or possibly airports. In these cases it is critical to be considering “stocking up” or sourcing alternate suppliers. If your company is affected by these supply chain issues, you should be pro-actively informing your key (or all) customers, to ensure they are informed, and show them your commitment to them. The last thing you will want after the water has gone is to find out your key customers have considered replacing you due to the “flood” risks in Thailand. Trust us – we have personal experience of winning the whole Coca-Cola delivery deal for Australia because our plan worked, when our competitors didn’t even have a plan.
Make the Plan – Communicate!
Whatever your location or circumstance, the key is to think now and develop a plan (and keep reviewing the plan to ensure flexibility) so that you can quickly respond as required. Keeping key (or all) staff informed of events, the plan and any actions being taken is always good management, but even more important during these type of situations.

Who can help you?
Andrew Durieux is an Australian Citizen, Director and Principle Consultant for BCP at Coverage. For more than 10 years Andrew has focused on BCP, Crisis Management and Risk Management, providing these services on 4 Continents and for a wide variety of clients which range from small Thai operations to US Stock Market listed companies operating across many countries. Andrew is a qualified member of the Business Continuity Institute of the UK, and is a regular consultant to the UN, WHO, International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies, ASEAN Ministries of Health, and the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre in the area of Human Pandemic Influenza, similar scenarios and Crisis Management in general.

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