Preparation and planning are everything, when it comes to managing flood risk. Experts share their top tips for getting ahead of threats.

The flooding last month in the Persian Gulf is a stark reminder that flood risk is a global peril.

Communities were left submerged in the most severely affected countries of United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.

The amount of rainfall recorded exceeded historic levels. Indeed, the heavy rainfall saw more than a year-and-a-half’s rain falling in under one day, the heaviest rainfall for 75 years, which overwhelmed the city’s drainage systems and infrastructure.

Additionally, rapid urbanisation and development may have exacerbated the flooding by reducing natural water absorption areas such as wetlands and green spaces.

Lack of preparation

When it comes to flood mitigation, preparation is everything, something experts say was lacking in the most hard hit middle-east countries.

While the rain was extreme, the region is no stranger to intense precipitation, according to Steffi Uhlemann-Elmer, PhD, director of model product management at Moody’s RMS.

She said: “It is the scarcity of these events that challenges awareness for the hazard and leads to a lack of planning and preparedness. The Gulf region is an area that is typically underserved with solutions for managing flood risk.”

Jonathan Jackson, CEO of Previsico added: ”Poorly planned construction and inadequate flood mitigation measures further contributed to the severity of the flooding. Overall, a confluence of factors including climate change, urbanisation, and inadequate infrastructure played a role in the severity of the flooding in Dubai.”

The impact on businesses

The impacts of the floods on businesses in Dubai have been significant. Many businesses, particularly those located in low-lying areas or areas prone to flooding, have experienced damage to their premises, inventory, and equipment.

Disruption to transportation and logistics networks has also affected supply chains, leading to delays and increased costs for businesses reliant on timely delivery of goods and services.

International travel was significantly disrupted. Speaking at the Arabian Travel Market at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Ahmed, president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and CEO and founder of the Emirates Group, said that the recent Dubai rains had resulted in a financial impact on the airline.

“I won’t talk numbers, but the recent rains cost us a lot. We needed to park 260 aircraft with 160 gates, putting up 26,000 people in hotels in Dubai. And I think we were exceptionally hit hard on the baggage side,” he added. 

Jackson said: “Temporary closures of businesses due to flooding and related cleanup efforts have resulted in financial losses and lost revenue. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) may be particularly vulnerable to the economic impacts of the floods, as they may lack the resources and insurance to recover quickly from such events.”

Lessons for risk managers 

Risk managers can learn several lessons from the recent flooding in Dubai.

Firstly, it underscores the importance of conducting comprehensive risk assessments that consider both natural and man-made factors contributing to flood risk.

Jackson said: “Risk managers should take the approach of ‘prepare, act, and prevent’. This involves measures such as investing in flood-resistant infrastructure and flood warning systems, implementing robust contingency plans, and regularly reviewing and updating insurance coverage to ensure adequate protection against flood-related losses.”

Additionally, collaboration and communication between stakeholders, including government agencies, businesses, and communities, are crucial for effective flood risk management and response.

How businesses can better protect themselves from flooding

Organisations can better protect themselves from flooding by implementing a multi-faceted approach to flood risk management.

This may include investing in infrastructure improvements, such as flood barriers, drainage systems, and green infrastructure to mitigate the impact of floods.

Incorporating flood risk considerations into site selection, land use planning, and building design can also help to minimise vulnerability to flooding.

Jackson concluded: “Businesses should use flood warnings as part of developing and testing emergency response teams and business continuity plans to ensure response readiness.

“Additionally, maintaining up-to-date insurance coverage, including flood insurance, where applicable, can provide financial protection against flood-related losses. Overall, a combination of mitigation, preparedness, and response measures can help organisations better protect themselves from the impacts of flooding.”