Expert Insight: Dealing with water damage

Share this content


Hochiki looks at reducing the risk of water damage to UK business

Water damage is one of the most common causes of insurance claims across multiple sectors in the UK, from leisure, retail, hotels and restaurants, communication sites, utilities infrastructure, power generation and data sites, right through to cultural and heritage sites, hospitals, healthcare centres and education to name but a few.  It can occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from natural disasters such as flooding and storms to simple plumbing issues like leaky pipes and malfunctioning air-conditioning systems, particularly when they fail to regulate humidity levels, leading to condensation or the formation of ice.

Whatever the cause, the damage can be significant, resulting in costly repairs and disruptions to business operations and almost every building in the UK is at risk. Claims of this nature are consistently one of the most expensive, costing insurers an estimated £1.8m a day, and worryingly are on the rise.

Hotels, often with multiple floors, rooms, and amenities require a lot of plumbing. A common cause of water damage in hotels is leaking pipes, which can cause significant damage to walls, floors, and furniture. If left unchecked, the resulting damp environment introduces the risk of mould, which can be a health hazard to both guests and employees.

Data centres which store and process vast amounts of data can be significantly impacted by downtime caused by water leaks. Water entering a data centre can damage electrical systems, including power distribution units, servers, and switches. It can also damage cooling systems, which can lead to overheating and further damage to equipment.

The financial cost of water damage

Due to the spiralling costs of water damage claims, insurers are increasingly scrutinising how commercial property owners are effectively managing water damage risk and subsequently applying substantial premium increases and higher excesses to premises where there continues to be issues. Insurers are also demanding more stringent protections – especially for new and repurposed buildings. In fact, many insurers are now beginning to be involved at the design and construction stages to ensure protections are in place, much like they do with a fire risk assessment.

In addition to the cost of claims, water damage can also have other financial impacts on the insurance market, such as increasing premiums for businesses in high-risk areas or industries. Insurers may also need to invest in new technologies and services to prevent and mitigate water damage, which can increase their operating costs.

Preventing water damage

There are several steps that businesses across the board can take to prevent water damage and minimise the risk of insurance claims. Regular inspections of plumbing systems and roofs can help identify potential issues before they become major problems. In addition, it is important to have a plan in place for dealing with water damage, including procedures for shutting off water, evacuating guests, or employees, and contacting restoration professionals.

If water damage does occur, it is important to act quickly to minimise the damage and prevent mould growth. Hotels, retailers, financial, tech and commercial buildings should work with trusted professionals who can respond quickly to emergencies. In addition, the damage should be documented thoroughly, including taking photos and keeping detailed records of any repairs or replacements.

Investing in water detection systems, which continuously monitor for water leaks help to mitigate the risk of water damage. The installation of water leak detection systems is being recommended by commercial insurers more frequently as part of risk assessments and is often a requirement for full cover. These systems alert staff or building management teams to leaks and flooding before they can cause significant damage.

Selecting a leak detection solution

When looking to install a new leak detection system there are several features you should consider.

Programming for effective cause and effect – Look for leak detection systems which use probes and wires which can be freely allocated to any zones – this provides a greater flexibility in its use. An added benefit would be a system which groups zones to trigger preconfigured outputs or relays and system logic which can interpret leak scenarios and drive the desired outputs.

Sophisticated protocol – If you are looking for a high integrity system then you need to look for a system with a sophisticated protocol which uses dedicated two-wire cabling, designed to provide power and data over a single pair of cables. The protocol should be designed to provide a fast response to water leak conditions and be critically resilient to external interference. Importantly, any leak detected should take priority over any other data.

Tried and tested technology – Look for leak detection systems which utilise fire alarm technology in their design. The standards for fire alarm designs in the UK are of some of the highest and most stringent in the world. This will provide you with the same reliability and integrity attributed to BRE approved fire detection systems, meaning there should be no risk of failure, downtime and significantly fewer false alarms.

24 hour monitoring – Simply because water damage does not occur Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm it is vital any system installed protects your company’s building and assets 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is also advisable to look for a system which has the facility for 72-hour battery standby in the event of a power failure as a minimum.

Linear and point detection – Choosing a system which continuously monitors large areas is particularly important for corporate business. This is often achieved when the system uses a linear offering with flexible cabling, so that when even a small amount of water or moisture encounters the wire it will trigger an alarm. Point leak detection can then also be provided by detection probes, which are fixed to the floor at high-risk locations and adjusted to give the required detection level.  Both should be connected to the control panel via a junction box.

By taking preventative measures and having a plan in place for dealing with water damage, businesses can minimise the risk of insurance claims, the impact on productivity, loss of data and ensure a speedy recovery in the event of an emergency. Working with trusted and experienced installers and manufacturers who produce reliable and technologically advanced systems is also key to reducing the risk. Hochiki Europe are experts in life safety systems and devices including water damage detection.

LEAKalarm from Hochiki Europe is a fully addressable, intelligent, highly reliable water leak detection system, providing vast coverage and value for money. The LEAKalarm system is adaptable to a broad range of environments and applications. From small, to very large areas, the cables and probes can be designed to fit almost any environment. LEAKalarm provides reliable, high sensitivity, water, and leak detection in bespoke application specific installations.

To find out more about Hochiki’s Water Leak Detection System, LEAKalarm, visit:

This exclusive article was originally published in the June 2023 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox