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The effects of floods on small business

Flooding, like all natural disasters, can have a big impact on individuals, businesses and communities. While physical safety is a priority during a flood, it is also important to take care of yourself and your mental health, particularly after the immediate threat of danger has passed.

Communities and small businesses need support to maintain mental wellbeing, and to prevent mental health problems developing. So what can you do to support your mental health and your small business before, during and after flooding?

Before a flood

Preparedness is key. Being prepared will help you, your family, and your community work together to get ready practically and emotionally for a potential disaster. Preparation will increase your confidence and ability to deal with disaster, think more clearly and act according to the emergency plans.

Preparedness for your small business is also important. Ensure you are properly insured to suit your location and the likelihood of flood damage, as well as potential loss of income.

The Australian Psychological Society recommends the following four steps to mentally prepare for floods:

  1. Anticipate that the situation will be stressful
  2. Identify your typical physical and emotional responses
  3. Manage your feelings and thoughts with simple breathing and self-talk
  4. Engage meaningfully with at least one trusted person

If you have experienced a flood or other natural disaster and were not prepared at that time, you can use your past experience to help you be more prepared for any future floods or other adverse events.

During a flood

Your local community is so important. You are all experiencing the event, sharing information to keep each other safe and supporting each other during and after the event. A community will then work together to repair damage and restore services.

Keep yourself safe, keep in contact with your family and friends and look to local authorities such as state emergency services for advice on weather conditions and the safest options.

In an emergency, call 000.

Remember, your personal safety is most important during a flood. You are the most important resource in your small business, don’t take unnecessary risks and stay out of flood waters. You can return to your business when it is safe to do so.

After a flood - common reactions

Following a flood or natural disaster, it is normal to experience emotional distress. Common reactions include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Worrying more than usual
  • Having trouble concentrating and making decisions
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Replaying the event and questioning your actions

When these feelings last more than a few weeks, or if you have any concerns about your emotional or physical health, seek help from your GP or mental health professional.

After a flood - mental health recovery

To take care of yourself and your mental health, or support the mental health of someone you know, here are some important pointers:

  • Connect socially with family and friends
  • Return to normal activities where and when possible
  • Accept help when it is offered
  • Limit the amount of media coverage you see and hear if it is overwhelming or distressing
  • Understand you are not alone in your experience, and that it is ok to express your feelings about the flooding
  • Try not to take big risks and make life changing decisions until you are ready
  • Have a plan to deal with stress or reminders of the trauma, as well as the financial situation

After a flood - business support

Look out for local and state government responses to flood-affected areas. These may include information on loans, recovery payments and other small business supports.

  1. Prepare for an insurance claim process by taking the following steps:
  2. Gather as much information as possible
  3. Make the claim as clearly as you can
  4. Be prepared to answer any further questions by your insurer
  5. Your claim must be accepted or denied within 10 days of being received
  6. If a decision is not made, or your claim is rejected, you can make a complaint or ask for an internal review.

For insurance and legal assistance, you can contact the Insurance Council of Australia’s disaster hotline on 1800 734 621. Please note that claims cannot be made via this hotline.

Legal Aid may be able to provide legal advice to people affected by disasters on a range of issues including insurance, tenancy, credit and debt problems. Or look to your local or state based legal aid service.

Further reading

Recovering from floods

The Australian Psychological Society has a resource promoting safety, comfort and help after a flood. (PDF)

More Resources