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Companies must prepare for more extreme weather

The floods in Emilia-Romagna underlined the importance of preparation when faced with extreme weather emergencies.

This summer Europe was again hit by extreme weather. In May, the wealthy region of Emilia-Romagna suffered six months of rainfall in just 36 hours.

More than 43 towns and villages were flooded, 15 people lost their lives and the Italian government provided €2bn in aid for farmers and business owners affected by the event. The provisional cost of the damage amounted to €7bn.

The region is also home to many businesses and industries, and a lack of preparation exacerbated the devastating impact.

At times like these, restoration firms such as BELFOR play a critical role in helping these companies to recover and return to business operations as quickly as possible. But companies can also help to limit the disruption they face by devising, implementing and practicing an emergency plan.

Unlike traditional property insurance, the priority is not raising funds to finance the recovery. It is restoration services such as BELFOR that are typically the first to receive a call in these situations.

Since the beginning of May, BELFOR worked around the clock with more than 200 technicians to enable damaged companies to resume activity as soon as possible. The company was able to call on its International Major and Complex loss Project that has supplied extra manpower and equipment to support the Italian team.

For example, machinery restoration specialists were sent from BELFOR DeHaDe (Germany), along with industrial dehumidifiers and new mobile electronics cleaning trucks. BELFOR has also set up a logistics centre in the Italian town of Forli to handle the distribution of manpower and materials to construction sites within the affected area, and to act as an additional base for electronic remediation efforts in the region.

But even with these steps, the demand far outstrips the supply at times like this. As Filippo Emanuelli, general manager for BELFOR Italy says: “Our phones are ringing non-stop. Businesses need to get back to business fast – they have customers to serve and many of them won’t wait.”

BELFOR has addressed the demand for services by establishing RED ALERT, an emergency service that prioritises clients at such times as the immediate aftermath of a flood. One RED ALERT client is German industrial parts distributor Würth Group.

Matthias Beck, head of Insurance and Risk Management at WÜRT, said: “When I received the call, I could immediately reassure my Italian colleagues: BELFOR is coming, they have the resources, we know each other well. WÜRTH is a RED ALERT client and therefore we have priority status.”

BELFOR also runs a number of training programmes where clients can engage in scenario planning and testing, and establish what their preparations should comprise. The first step is to assess the likelihood of a flood and your company’s exposure to this risk. For example, much of the Emilia Romagno region is below sea level.

There are also a number of simple but often forgotten steps that companies can take such as procuring an emergency generator in case of an electrical blackout, stocking up on emergency protective gear for staff, and ensuring emergency equipment is stored in an appropriate location and not the basement. It is even important to allocate a site or location where the mud produced by a flood can be disposed.

It is unlikely that Emilia Romagno will be the only area in Italy to be affected by extreme weather this year and further into the future. The southwestern region of Campania suffered torrential floods, also in May. And then in November, a state of emergency was declared in Tuscany after torrential rain of around 200mm in four hours led to severe flooding and at least three fatalities.

One consequence of the Emilia-Romagna floods is a much greater awareness of the need to prepare for extreme weather and the devastation it can cause. “The preparedness of our customers was instrumental in enabling them to get back to business quickly,” says Lucia Marocchi, product manager at BELFOR Italy.

“It is a lesson that many other Italian companies have learnt. At BELFOR, we have received many more enquiries about our priority assistance programme while a large number of companies want to take part in our training programmes to be better prepared for the next extreme weather event or any challenge that climate change will bring.”

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