Between storms, flooding and sometimes extreme heat, the UK certainly gets its fair share of seasonal weather. And if we’d have written this same article 20 years ago, it would’ve looked very different.
Global warming has meant the increased likelihood of much harsher conditions in a previously stable-weathered country. For example, average rainfall (2009-2018) has increased by 5-6% when compared to previous years (1960s-2010).
Harsh weather can cause serious problems for your community leisure organisation or cultural trust, especially as global warming is worsening. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to preparing for extreme weather, including risks, management and how you can start preparing.
What is extreme weather in the UK?
Extreme weather is when the weather conditions are considerably different to average.
For example, the average summer temperature in the UK is a daily high of 21 degrees Celsius. If the UK starts seeing highs of 30 degrees Celsius, this is much higher than average - usually referred to as a heat wave - and could be considered extreme weather.
Aside from difficult working conditions, extreme weather has lots of implications for other areas of your community leisure organisation or cultural trust. For example, buildings, roads and infrastructure are all built with materials that compliment the weather conditions in each country. Seriously adverse weather could create difficulties in these areas and risks to your organisation and its people. So, let’s take a look at some of the different types of extreme weather.
Whereas some weather is more likely to happen throughout specific seasons, such as snow in the winter, the Environmental Agency advise that flooding can happen at any time.
There are six main types of flooding in the UK:
• River flooding
• Coastal flooding
• Surface water flooding
• Groundwater flooding
• Sewer flooding
• Reservoir flooding
Regardless of how ‘at risk’ you think your location is, it pays to be protected and have a plan in place should the worst happen. Some things to think about include:
Flood risk assessment
The first step when thinking about how your community leisure organisation will cope with any extreme weather will be a risk assessment. This will help you highlight all risks associated with the concern, put mitigation plans in place, as well as incident management should the worst happen.
Some ideas could include:
Plans for before flooding
• Keep up to date with warnings.
• Prepare an on-site flood kit including insurance documents, torches, warm clothes, food, blankets and a first aid kit.
• Prepare your property for flooding to lessen the impact. If you ever need to make a claim due to flooding, you may need to demonstrate how you’ve tried to lessen the flooding impact to your building and its contents.
Some things to consider here are checking your flood risk regularly (via resources like the Environment Agency), signing up for flood warnings, using sandbags, airbrick covers and floor pumps and moving as many items as possible to higher ground to lessen damage.
This could also include installing check valves to stop floodwater backing up into drains and constructing flood barriers to stop water entering the building.
• Prepare a flood advice guide for staff, helping them understand what they should and shouldn’t be doing before, during and after flooding.
Plans for during flooding
• Stay up to date with local weather advice by watching the news or listening to local radio.
• Try and avoid areas that could present a flash flood risk (like rivers, streams and drainage channels).
• Turn off utilities, but don’t touch electrical equipment if you’re standing in flood water.
• Avoid walking through moving water.
• Don’t drive in flooded water. Encourage staff to move to higher ground until it’s safe to re-emerge.
Plans for after flooding
• Remember that although flooding in your immediate area may be improving, flooding in surrounding areas may still persist.
• Find out whether it’s safe to leave or enter property from emergency services.
• Continue to avoid moving water/driving through water.
• Avoid damaged areas unless working alongside special services such as the fire brigade.
• Re-enter buildings with extreme caution (be wary of hidden damage, contamination etc.)
• Avoid walking through flood debris due to falls risks, damaged items or hidden animals.
• Take photos of damage to your property.
• Call your insurance company if you need to make a claim and discuss next steps.
If traveling is essential
• Remain on solid ground and avoid standing in water.
• Take alternative routes home. Potentially provide staff with an up-to-date list of safe surrounding routes.
Make sure you have the right insurance
When considering risks for your organisation, charity or leisure trust insurance will likely be at the top of your list of things to review. There are various types of charity insurance depending on your needs. For example, cyber insurance, motor and fleet insurance, charity event insurance etc.
When you come to thinking about extreme weather, you’ll likely be considering business interruption insurance. This covers your organisation in the event of flooding (and other extreme weather like storms) and if you’re insured with Endsleigh, you’ll be covered for loss of revenue and any additional costs incurred following physical damage to your property.
The UK hasn’t been short of storms over the last few years, with Storm Evert, Storm Darcy and Storm Christoph throughout 2021 alone. Whilst research predicts that UK storms are set to reduce, the wind intensity is thought to increase – presenting risks of deep-rooted damage to buildings, not to mention the risk to people.
Storm risk assessment
As with flooding, the first stage of mitigating any weather damage to your organisation is by assessing the risks. This will allow you to map out different scenarios and consider the measures you need to put in place to prevent as much damage as possible, whilst also ensuring your duty of care to your staff.
Charity insurance for storms
Having business interruption insurance in place will make sure that your organisation is covered if you’re no longer able to operate due to storm damage. It’s worth checking the level of cover you currently have (via any charity buildings insurance in place), then considering business interruption insurance as a next step.
Lessening storm impact
There are various things you can do to prepare for a storm, and these will likely be included within your storm risk assessment. They could include:
o Signing up for and keeping up to date with local storm updates o Either locate vehicles in garages or indoor carparks, or park them out of the way of anything that could cause them damage (like trees, fences, lampposts and buildings). o Make note of loose outdoor items that could be taken by the wind and cause damage (such as picnic benches, other outdoor furniture, ladders etc.), then secure them. o Close windows and doors and ensure they’re secure.
What to do in a storm
Storms can be incredibly dangerous, especially when involving high winds and flooding. Here is some storm safety advice from the Met Office that you could build into your risk management plan.
o Stay indoors. And if this is not possible, stay clear of buildings and trees.
o If you’re near walls/fences, do not gather on the sheltering side as this is where the wall will fail should the wind make it collapse.
o Don’t go outside to repair damage whilst the storm is in progress.
o If leaving the building, try and do so via the sheltered side.
o If opening workplace doors, ensure they are securely closed afterwards.
o Avoid driving unless completely necessary.
o Delay your journey if possible
o If driving, avoid exposed routes like bridges/high open roads.
o Drive slowly, be aware of side winds.
o Take extra care if towing.
What to do after a storm
Following a storm, the Met Office advises:
o Avoiding touching electrical/telephone cables that have been affected by the storm (that have been blown down or are hanging).
o Avoid walking close to walls, buildings and trees as they could have been weakened by the storm.
o Check on vulnerable neighbours in case they’re in need of help.
Did you know that there are around 2,000 heat-related deaths in the UK every single year? Whilst we usually welcome the warmer weather as a nation, it’s also extremely important to make sure your organisation is prepared to deal with the hotter months – particularly if you work outside.
The risks of extreme heat can be severe and affect staff health whilst also putting strains on general utilities and health and fire services. Careful attention should also be paid to certain groups of people who are more vulnerable to heat (for example younger children and older people with pre-existing health conditions).
Hot weather risk assessment
For all the reasons outlined above, it’s a good idea to have a risk assessment plan in place for hot weather too. You may like to tie this in with the Met Office’s Extreme Heat warning where very low, low, medium and high categories are used to communicate risk. Then you can plan further action based on these categories.
For example, where the risk is high, the warning system recommends changes in working practices and daily routines. This is where you may consider working from home arrangements, or the switch-on of your community leisure organisation’s air conditioning system.
Managing hot weather in work
There are a number of things you can do to manage hot weather in work and mitigate risk to your staff. These could include:
o Ensuring your workplace temperature is reasonable. You could even implement your own thermal comfort risk assessment.
o Invest in fans or air conditioning units to help staff keep cool. Use blinds and windows to block out the sunlight.
o Encourage staff to use sun-screen and wear appropriate clothing to protect them from burning.
o Ensure that there is plenty of suitable drinking water to keep staff hydrated.
o If your dress code is formal, consider relaxing it to allow staff to dress in cooler clothes.
o Be lenient with staff when commuting to work and appreciate that the hot weather affects roads and public transport in general.
o Consider vulnerable workers and put special measures in place to support them.
Cold weather, snow and ice
The winter months present more dangers to both personal and environmental factors of your community leisure organisation’s workplace. And although some may consider the likes of ice and particularly snow a rare treat in the UK, it can be catastrophic for organisations who don’t have plans in place to manage risk.
The dangers touched upon are more than just a decrease in temperature. Management need to be considerate of all elements of cold weather health and safety, including rapid heat loss, wet clothing, snow, ice and so on.
Winter weather risk assessment
The HSE’s Approved Code of Practice for the workplace states that organisations should ensure arrangements are made for the minimisation of risks that could occur from snow and ice. Here are some key things to think about:
o Measuring the impact of cold weather on employees.
o Mitigate a decrease in body temperature with prevention
techniques such as heating systems, regular breaks, appropriate clothing, delaying tasks until the weather improves etc.
o If jobs still need to be undertaken, put controls in place such as protective clothing, allowing more time for workers to complete tasks, provide a heated shelter for breaks etc.
o Continuously monitor cold conditions and take relevant action following your risk assessment.
o Remove fallen leaves as they can create a slip risk.
o Monitor both indoor and outdoor conditions and always ensure you’re working within health and safety regulations.
o Consider internal maintenance such as the prevention of burst pipes. You can do this by regularly servicing your heating system, keeping your heating on through the winter months and even making sure external taps are off.
Snow and ice
o If relevant, assess indoor and outdoor lighting to ensure workers have a good view of current ground conditions and can avoid hazards.
o Assess slip risk and implement a system to manage it. Did you know that over half of leisure claims are for slips and trips?
o Continuously review outdoor areas used by workers and ensure they’re safe to walk on. For example, using grit on outdoor steps, car parks etc., or covering walkways.
o Continuously monitor the weather and temperatures to ensure you can enable prevention. For example, ensuring there are procedures in place to clear snow and ice and prevent icy surfaces forming.
o Monitor weather updates to ensure action is taken when freezing temperatures are forecast.
o Create temporary alternative walking routes to focus on quality over quantity.
o Consider closing other routes, particularly dangerous ones like icy steps, ladders and roof walkways.
o Consider wider implications such as public transport and whether it is safe and sensible to require workers to travel to work if the weather is severe.
o Pay careful attention to vulnerable groups, such as older, disabled and pregnant workers.
Covering your community leisure organisation or cultural trust Part of your organisation’s extreme weather risk management plan could include having business interruption insurance in place. This would protect your organisation against risks like storms and flooding, so that you’re covered should the worst happen.
With over thirty years’ experience and over 3,000 not-for-profit customers in the UK, we work with market-leading insurers to provide competitive coverage, expert consultation and specialist advice for charities, community groups and not for profit organisations.
Speak to one of our specialist account managers to find out more about business interruption insurance for community leisure organisations today and get a quote.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for general guidance and should not be seen as legal advice.