Water (Aug 2018)

Assessment of Business Interruption of Flood-Affected Companies Using Random Forests

  • Zakia Sultana,
  • Tobias Sieg,
  • Patric Kellermann,
  • Meike Müller,
  • Heidi Kreibich

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 8
p. 1049


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Losses due to floods have dramatically increased over the past decades, and losses of companies, comprising direct and indirect losses, have a large share of the total economic losses. Thus, there is an urgent need to gain more quantitative knowledge about flood losses, particularly losses caused by business interruption, in order to mitigate the economic loss of companies. However, business interruption caused by floods is rarely assessed because of a lack of sufficiently detailed data. A survey was undertaken to explore processes influencing business interruption, which collected information on 557 companies affected by the severe flood in June 2013 in Germany. Based on this data set, the study aims to assess the business interruption of directly affected companies by means of a Random Forests model. Variables that influence the duration and costs of business interruption were identified by the variable importance measures of Random Forests. Additionally, Random Forest-based models were developed and tested for their capacity to estimate business interruption duration and associated costs. The water level was found to be the most important variable influencing the duration of business interruption. Other important variables, relating to the estimation of business interruption duration, are the warning time, perceived danger of flood recurrence and inundation duration. In contrast, the amount of business interruption costs is strongly influenced by the size of the company, as assessed by the number of employees, emergency measures undertaken by the company and the fraction of customers within a 50 km radius. These results provide useful information and methods for companies to mitigate their losses from business interruption. However, the heterogeneity of companies is relatively high, and sector-specific analyses were not possible due to the small sample size. Therefore, further sector-specific analyses on the basis of more flood loss data of companies are recommended.