Case study: Orwell Housing Association

  • Flooding can cause significant anxiety and upheaval for vulnerable tenants
  • When Lowestoft in Suffolk was hit by a serious flood surge in 2013, Orwell Housing Association was able to minimise the impact
  • We explain how we supported Orwell before and after the incident

Orwell Housing Association was formed in Ipswich in 1963, employing no staff and managing a handful of properties. Today, Orwell provides a range of services including housing, support and care services.

The majority of Orwell’s housing is located in and around Ipswich and Lowestoft. Although these areas had not experienced flooding since 1953, Orwell recognised it was important to consider measures that would protect properties, and more importantly their occupants, should flooding occur.

In 2008, Orwell worked with Zurich’s in-house Risk Engineering team to introduce and agree appropriate measures and flood barriers.

On December 5, 2013, the emergency flood plan we developed with Orwell was put into full effect when Lowestoft was hit by a serious flood surge.

Staff working in Orwell’s care homes were able to position flood barriers in place to protect the properties. While the water eventually overwhelmed the barriers, their deployment had crucially bought enough time to safely evacuate those inside, and move property and items upstairs, including the lift cars, which meant they could be used once the water had subsided.

Upon notification of the claim, we immediately instructed loss adjusters and a preferred remediation supplier; both were on the scene quickly to begin the process of drying out the property. Given the scale of the task, we also introduced a specialist remediation project manager, Davis French & Associates, who helped ensure the whole operation was as efficient as possible.

As the lifts and utilities were still working, many of the occupants were able to remain in situ – with the upper floors largely unaffected. This was crucial given the vulnerability of many of the elderly residents, who would have found moving out extremely traumatic.

We continued to visit Orwell post-event to review flood protections and consider what could be incorporated into the scope of reinstatement work.

“Zurich’s immediate response was fantastic and the flexible and open approach was crucial in allowing us to implement what was needed in the first few days after the flood incident,” explains Steven Crissall, Assistant Director of Property and Construction at Orwell Housing.

“The guidance and communication from start to finish was exceptional and certainly made our tenants’ lives more manageable during this very difficult time. Drying out a building of this size was very complicated and having Davis French on board was invaluable in getting the building up and running at the earliest opportunity.”

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