How to protect your business from storm and weather damage

Safety and insurance

10 November 2020

From heavy rainfall and high winds, to snowstorms and freezing temperatures, the weather in the UK can be extreme and, at times, unpredictable. That’s why it’s important business owners are prepared for every season and all climates.  

Whether you’re hairdresser with a stylish city centre salon, a tradesperson with a fully kitted-out workshop, or a butcher with a local high street store; the one thing you have in common is that you’ll want to protect your business premises at all costs. You’ll also need to consider the safety and well-being of your staff and customers.

AXA’s guide explains how to best weather-proof your premises and provides tips and advice on how to keep your staff and customers safe during difficult weather conditions.


High winds

Snow and ice

Preparing for a storm

Storm insurance


How to protect your business premises from floods

According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, 300,000 commercial properties in the UK are at risk of flooding. Here are some tips to help small business owners protect their business premises from flooding.


If your business is in an area prone to flooding, there are things you can do to help minimise any water damage. Here’s a quick summary of the National Flood Forum’s guidance:  

  • Raise sockets, fuse boxes, wiring and any electrical devices to at least 1.5m above the floor.
  • Use water-resistant materials in your kitchen and bathroom (e.g. stainless steel, plastic or solid wood) rather than chipboard.
  • Store valuable items and any important documents on high-mounted shelves.
  • Move the boiler and white goods to the second floor or mount them to a wall.
  • Replace wooden window frames and doors with UPV.
  • Replace old air bricks with self-sealing air bricks or, for a temporary fix, use air brick covers.
  • Keep a supply of sandbags. You might be able to get them for free from your local council.

During a rainstorm

If there’s a flood warning in your area, here’s what you could to do to minimise the damage caused if water enters the property.  

  • Turn off your gas, electricity and water supply.
  • Put sandbags down in areas where water can enter the property. But be careful, if your problem is with groundwater flooding, sandbags won’t help.
  • Move valuable items, equipment or stock upstairs or take them away entirely. This includes money in the till and important paperwork such as title deeds or insurance documents.
  • Consider making copies of your important documents should the worst happen – some insurances require this (e.g. book debts).

For more information about what your business can do to prepare for flooding, visit the government’s website here.


How to protect your business premises from high winds

The Met Office describes severe gale or storms as being winds of 47 mph or above. Such high speeds can cause serious damage to property and wreak havoc with your business. Check out these tips on how to best batten down the hatches and protect your business premises from high winds.


  • Check your roof regularly. Look out for any missing slates or tiles and make sure everything is secure. Debris on the ground and leaning chimneys are tell-tale signs that your roof could need attention.
  • Clear your guttering and pipes and make sure they’re fixed securely. High winds can seriously damage guttering, so regular checks throughout the year are really important.
  • Use sealant or draught-excluders on windows and doors. Not only will this prevent the temperature in your premises from plummeting, you’ll also use less energy on heating and your business will be that little bit greener.

During a windstorm

  • Park your car or work’s van away from trees in a sheltered area. Read AXA’s guide on how to stay safe behind the wheel during high winds.
  • Ensure all outdoor items (e.g. signage, foliage, seating areas) are brought inside or are properly secured. If they’re not, they can cause damage to other parts of your property or someone else’s.
  • Lock all your windows and doors. You might even consider protecting your windows and glass doors with plywood to protect them from flying debris.


How to protect your business premises from snow and ice

With heavy snowfall estimated to cost the British economy £1 billion per day, it’s important small business owners are well-equipped for the colder conditions. Check out AXA’s tips below.


  • Insulate all external pipes and any internal pipes that are in unheated areas (e.g. basement or loft) with foam or rubber tubes. These tubes should then be checked regularly as they can erode over time.
  • Make sure outside drains are clear. If they’re already blocked, snow fall will only make the problem worse.
  • Clear your gutters to avoid a build-up of snow and ice. Fixing or replacing them can be costly and time-consuming if they’re seriously damaged.
  • Clear the outside area to prevent them from becoming obstacles. This could be anything from sandwich boards, decorative items like plant pots, or outside seating areas.
  • Know where your internal stop tap is so you can turn off the water supply in an emergency. It’s sometimes called a stop valve or stopcock.

During a snowstorm

  • Put the heating on for at least an hour a day. This will keep water running through the pipes and ensure your premises are more comfortable for staff and employees.
  • Put salt or sand on any paths and outside steps. It’s a good idea to have stock all-year round so you’re never caught short.
  • Consider changing your opening hours or working from home if possible. You might even avoid outdoor activities altogether and postpone non-essential outdoor tasks.
  • Avoid making any non-essential business journeys in your car or van. If you need to cancel customer appointments of deliveries, give them advance warning and explain the circumstances.


Preparing for a storm

Get ready: know when a storm is coming

You can check if your business premises are at risk of flooding by signing up to the Met Office’s weather alerts. Click the links here to check the risk of flooding if you’re in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

The Met Office also has a dedicated Twitter account where you can keep an eye out for weather updates.

Be prepared: have a business continuity plan

Even with advanced warning and plenty of preparation, severe weather can strike at any time and cause serious disruption to your business. Bad weather can cause several things to go wrong at any one time and things can unfold in unexpected ways. For example, a storm can cause damage to nearby power lines leaving you without internet or phone services for days.

That’s why it’s important to have a tried-and-tested plan ready and waiting should the worst happen. Business continuity is about maintaining business functions or quickly resuming them in the event of a major disruption (e.g. a storm). Think of business continuity as having a back-up plan.

A business continuity plan should outline procedures and instructions for staff members in the event of a disaster. The plan should cover things like:

  • Business processes
  • What to do with equipment and/or stock
  • Who is responsible for what
  • Emergency contact details
  • Back-up power arrangement

Top tip: Keep a copy of your business continuity plan off-site in case you can’t access your premises or internet servers during a storm.

Safety first: think about your customers and staff

Keeping your people safe should be your main priority. Not only is it the mark of a responsible business owner, but it could also save you money in the long run by avoiding costly legal disputes. For example, if a customer were to slip and injure themselves in your premises, they could seek compensation by bringing a personal injury claim against you. The same applies to staff members and you could even be prosecuted under the Health & Safety at Work Act.

The first thing you’ll need consider is whether it’s even safe for you to open at all. If you do open during tricky weather conditions, it will make you stand out and your customers will appreciate the effort you’ve made.  However, you’ll need to make sure it’s safe and how you do that will depend on the type of business you run.

Here are some of the things small business owners could do to keep their staff and customers safe:

  • Up-to-date contact details: During periods of extreme weather, it’s vital that you’re able to communicate with your staff, customers and suppliers. An up-to-date contact list should include mobile and home phone numbers as well as home addresses and email addresses.
  • Work from home: Severe weather conditions can lead to dangerous driving conditions and disruption to public transport. So, where possible, allowing employees to work from home and setting them up with the right equipment will come in handy during stormy seasons.
  • Staff training: If a storm kicks in when your staff are already at work, make sure they know what to do by communicating the business continuity plan and holding regular training sessions.
  • Additional safety measures: Whether it’s wet floor signs, salted pavements or reduced opening hours; small changes can make a big difference.
  • Encourage online or phone sales: Check out AXA’s guide to getting your business online here. However, keep in mind that you’ll still need to cater to those who do come to your premises with appropriate safety measures.
  • Avoid face-to-face meetings: Consider using something like Zoom or Skype or rearrange entirely. Just make sure you’re in regular contact with clients and don’t just assume meetings or events will be cancelled if the weather’s bad.


Protecting your premises: Storm damage insurance

In most cases, general business insurance policies like Professional Indemnity, Public Liability and Employer Liability insurance won’t provide cover against the direct effects of a storm. However, these policies (depending on the wording) will provide protection should anything happen to your customers or staff when they’re in your premises as a result of bad weather. For example, Public Liability insurance might help if a customer brings a personal injury claim against you if they slip on a wet floor on your premises.

To make sure your business premises are protected against damage from storms, you should consider Contents insurance with additional Buildings insurance. Depending on the level of cover you need and the type of business you run, this might be called Commercial Property insurance.


AXA’s policies: a quick summary

Contents insurance

Contents cover can help you replace things like fixtures and fittings, floral displays, mirrors, and employees’ personal belongings if they get damaged. AXA’s Contents insurance covers:

  • Contents
  • Stock
  • Tenants improvements
  • Shop front
  • High-risk stock (depending on occupation)

Optional extras:

  • Loss of money
  • Deterioration of stock
  • Goods in transit

However, you’re not covered for damage caused to items kept on the ground unless the items are raised at least six inches from the floor. For more information about what’s covered in AXA’s Contents insurance, visit the website here, or check out the online PDF.

Building Insurance

With AXA’s Building Insurance you’ll be able to include things like outbuildings, external signage, patios and car parks to your policy. However, if you don’t bring outdoors items (e.g. outdoor seating, fences, posts) inside or secure them properly, you can’t claim your insurance if they’re damaged in a storm.

For more information about Building Insurance, check out the online policy document.  

Commercial Property insurance

Buildings and content Insurance is sometimes known as Commercial Property Insurance, depending on what’s covered in the policy. For more information about AXA’s Commercial Property Insurance, visit our website here


What to do when the worst happens: insurance claims for weather damage

If there’s any damage to your business premises, equipment or stock, you should tell your insurance provider as soon as possible. You might want to look over your policy summaries to check what you’re covered for and have your policy number to hand.  If your business insurance is with AXA, we have a 24-7 emergency phone number for claims (0300 303 2944).

It’s important that you only go back to the property if it’s safe to do so. You can arrange any emergency repairs if they’re needed to prevent further damage. But for other repairs or things that need replaced, you should wait until you have spoken to your insurance provider.

You should also avoid cleaning up straight away. Instead, take photos of any damage or things that need replaced. Your insurance provider might want to inspect the property themselves to authorise any work and assess whether items need fixed or replaced entirely. And when you do get the go-ahead from your insurer, keep all the receipts of repair work and, where possible, get a few different quotes to make sure you’re getting a fair price.

For more information about AXA’s Business insurance claims process, visit the website here.


Running a small business isn’t easy. Protecting it is.

Running a business is hard work. That’s why we’re doing all we can to make your insurance a bit simpler. From working to pay claims quicker to cutting down on business insurance jargon, find out what we’re doing to help.